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Waste Premiums for the landless farmers is an affordable and equitable risk transfer policy model to integrate the most marginalized groups



There are millions of people living in abject poverty, for whom the periphery of planning do not stretch beyond the  next meal. And naturally so. If they're uncertain about the next meal, why would they give a damn to the issues like climate change adaptation or risk transfers for that matter? If the money they earn is not sufficient even for the bare minimum needs, wouldn't it be imprudent to expect that they part a portion of their earnings for premiums of risk transfer policies? However, the irony is that, they are the ones who need the benefits of these schemes the most. 

This proposal attempts to design and equitable and affordable risk transfer model for people in extreme poverty. In this case, the special focus is on landless farmers, often stuck in endless debt traps as they lose their crop in extreme weather events, year by year. 

The proposal integrates a robust solid waste management system with the risk transfer schemes to help the landless farmers generate resources for premiums from waste. While they recycle to pollute less they are also more resilient to cope better with climate risks. 

What actions do you propose?

Problem Analysis

Drastic times requires drastic measures. Climate Change  is already here and challenging not only the sustainable development growth but also the survival of human race, unless timely and appropriate actions are taken collectively. For developing countries like India, the Climate Change threats are more real and alarming. India has already seen the worst, in forms of glacial melt, falshfloods, floods, cyclones, heat waves and widespread droughts. Global Climate Risk Index, 2017 puts India as the 4th most affected country in the world by climate change. In terms of number of fatalities It ranks 2nd. The 2017 monsoon floods alone claimed 943 lives in India. 

The livelihood sectors including agriculture and fisheries are worst affected, making the marginalised food producers in river basins and low lying coastal area most vulnerable.  India is already reeling under the agrarian crisis. Alarmingly, 150,000 farmers have succumbed to the pressure and committed suicide. Crop failure and debt burden had been the leading reasons for these suicides. As per the Center for Study of Developing Societies (2014) 76% of farmers want to give up farming and every day country loses 2035 farmers to other sectors.

The current projections of climate change impact on agriculture is even more depressing.  The Economic Survey of India 2017 -18 estimates that, in medium term, due to one degree rise in temperature, farmers in unirrigated areas could lose as much as 25% of their annual income. That takes away Rs 3600 from a farming household surviving on a meager Rs14,400 a year.

On top of it, advertently or inadvertently Government policies and actions plans have shown profound indifference towards the most marginalised occupational groups. To illustrate this more specifically, the National and federal relief fund guidelines in India have set relief entitlements on the basis of the ownership of assets. Most of the risk transfer schemes are also based on the similar flawed principle that the losses needs to be compensated based on the ownership of assets. 

This has kept many landless farmers outside the purview of the benefits of the risk transfer schemes or relief entitlements. This has a severe impact as under the leased farming land schemes these groups make heavy investments often by taking debts but in the event of crop loss. all compensation goes to the land owners. Sans external support and social protection, these groups are not able to cope better. Basic needs during emergencies forces them to resort to negative coping strategies which has a long term adverse impact. The negative coping  strategies include selling of assets, decline in food intake, debt at exorbitant interest rates from informal institutions, drudgery and in many cases trafficking. 


This proposal attempts to provide solutions to the above problem, with specific focus on the landless farmers. The proposal suggests a two pronged approach of ensuring equity and affordability in all climate risk transfer policies and schemes with an objective to bring the most marginalised segments under the scheme. In order to actualise this, proposal will emphasise both on influencing and innovation. 

Equity: Recognizing equity as the precondition for all reforms in the risk transfers policies, the project proposes to highlight the existing gaps in the policies and its impact on the left out sections. The research will include, review of existing risk transfer schemes and the national and federal relief funds guidelines, from the perspective of how inclusive it is for the landless farmers in India. The study will also collect evidences from field measuring the outreach of the risk transfer schemes in its current form in the recent disasters in the country. National schemes such as "Prime Minster's Crop Insurance Scheme" will be reviewed." The study will further analyse the the existing ad-hoc solutions adopted by selected state Government including Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal to propose a feasible model which can be adopted at the national level. The study will be shared with National, state and regional actors through various state and regional consultations. Recommendations for a more equitable and inclusive relief/risk transfer policies will be shared with key stakeholders at relevant platforms. 

Affordability: However, mere policy reforms will not address all challenges. As earlier emphasized, the large section of this group is under abject poverty and will never prioritize availing the benefits of the scheme unless it is very affordable. This is where the USP of the project lies - Technical and systemic Innovation to bring landmark change in risk transfer practices amongst the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in India. 

Innovation: The project proposes to integrate Solid Waste Management System to risk transfer schemes. It works on a very simple idea of generating resources from recyclable waste which in turn will make premiums affordable for people living under extreme poverty. 

The model will work as follows:- 

The model will bring together, key stakeholders including the Government (Municipal Corporations), National Risk Insurance companies, Market based actors including shopkeepers, wholesalers and retailers and the end beneficiaries. 

Institutional collaboration will allow shopkeepers to charge nominal prices extra for recyclable waste (eg plastic bottles). Buyers will get this money refunded once they return the bottles for recycling at the kiosk for waste collection. They will also get additional money from the resources saved from recycling of bottles. Beneficiaries will get a choice to link the money raised to a series of social protection and risk transfer schemes which will directly get credited to the beneficiaries account from the kiosk the moment bottles are returned. Risk transfer companies will provide these benefits to the beneficiaries. The money to risk transfer companies will be reimbursed from the shopkeepers and the recycling company. Government will provide tax benefits to all stakeholders who collaborate on this scheme. Thus it will be a win win situation for all.

The model will also alternatively address a very serious waste management issue in the country. So while on one one hand the proposal will contribute towards better copying capacity of marginalised groups on the other hand it will also help to combat climate change through Solid Waste Management, recycling and pollution control. Please refer to the model framework and illustration below :-   

Who will take these actions?

Key stakeholders will include the Government the Municipal Corporations or departments concerned for waste management , National Risk Insurance companies, Market based actors including shopkeepers, wholesalers and retailers and the end beneficiaries. In the very initial pilot phase, rag pickers will also be included in the project implementation both as a service provider and as end beneficiary.  Landless farmers and other marginalised groups will be engaged in the second phase of the project when the structures for waste management and recycling is already strengthened at a widespread scale. 

The research and advocacy component on equitable policies will involve multiple stakeholders, Government being the pivot of all actions. 

Where will these actions be taken?

Considering the budget size (40,000 euros), a pilot project can be implemented with an integrated component on replication and scale-up for a widespread impact. The project implementation can focus at each level of the supply chain structures for one livelihood group. For example, 1000 farmers landless farmers, in a rural cluster, the market area on which they are dependent both for selling and buying commodities and related Governments and local and federal levels. An area with characteristics of rural and urban habitat catering to a comparatively smaller population and with active governance will be very suitable for pilot. For example, Sikkim or Bhubaneswar city which has nice combination of peri-urban, and rural population affected by disasters. Smaller countries like Bhutan can also be useful pilot area.    

What are other key benefits?

The model will also alternatively address a very serious waste management issue in the country.

It will expand the outreach of risk transfer schemes covering the most marginalised sections, while at the same time, it will also allow all other sections to avail benefits of the scheme. 

What are the proposal’s costs?

Time line

Proposed actions will be spread over 3 years. While the focus of year one will be on research and development, year two and three will emphasise on field testing. Sharing of learning for replication and scale up will follow the field testing in the year three. 

In 5 to 15 years, the project aims to develop risk transfer models for the poorest communities while integrating it to newer sources for revenue and easy premiums. Target groups will be expanded to all vulnerable livelihood groups

In 15 to 50 years, all disaster prone communities will equitable and affordable risk transfer schemes. 

In 50 to 100 years, Governments and communities will have the technological capacity to deal with new forms of emergencies of any catastrophical levels. Loss of assets are minimised through sufficient adaptation and mitigation efforts coupled with technological advancements. 

Related proposals

Agricultural insurances against floods in plantain producing communities  


Economic Survey of India (2018); Department of Economic Affairs,Ministry of Finance, Government of India