Oxfam America

Fellowship Number: 
Field Location: 
Dakar, Senegal
Policy Location: 
Washington, DC
General Scope of Work: 
Weather-based insurance for small-scale farmers
Description of Organization: 

Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice. Oxfam America is a member of the Oxfam Confederation, a group of 17 organizations networked together in 92 countries as part of a global movement for change to build a future free from the injustice of poverty.

Oxfam believes that addressing poverty, hunger and injustice requires working at multiple levels. We achieve significant and lasting changes in people’s lives through influencing global and national institutions, policies, and practices. We combine this with work at local levels to change power relations that are at the root of human rights denial, exclusion, and poverty.

In addition to our Boston-based headquarters, Oxfam America maintains a Policy and Campaigns office in Washington, DC. The main areas of our current policy work include agriculture, trade, climate change, humanitarian assistance, extractive industries and aid effectiveness.

Oxfam America has seven regional offices: West Africa, Central Africa, Horn of Africa, Central America, South America, East Asia and the United States (with programs in the Gulf Coast and Southeast part of the country). We employ a rights-based approach to community-led development and also provide humanitarian assistance in crisis and disaster affected countries. In both our humanitarian and development programs, Oxfam America relies on the financial support of philanthropic organizations and private citizens. We do not receive money from the US government or multilateral development institutions.

Project Description: 

Oxfam America and the United Nations World Food Program have partnered to implement the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative in Senegal. The initiative builds on the initial success of a holistic risk management framework developed by Oxfam America to enable poor farmers in Ethiopia to strengthen their food and income security through innovative risk management strategies.

In Senegal the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative will develop a set of tools including improved resource natural resource management and conservation (risk reduction), microcredit (prudent risk taking), insurance (risk transfer), and savings (risk reserves) to help reduce vulnerability and improve resilience for smallholder farmers. Risk reduction (e.g. Disaster Risk Reduction activities) and risk transfer (e.g. micro-insurance) work in conjunction to decrease and offset challenges faced by food-insecure families. Training and labor-for-insurance allow the poorest of the poor to afford these vital protections. Once protected, participants will have the opportunity to save money in safe and secure deposit programs, what is referred to as building risk reserves. These risk-management strategies will unlock credit for participants, allowing them to take prudent and productive risks, such as borrowing from program-approved, local micro-finance institutions (MFIs), to finance better inputs. These four components together will allow many participants to graduate from labor-for-insurance programs and start paying for risk-management tools with cash, building a self-reinforcing cycle for economic progress and market development. 

Field Placement: 

The Leland Fellow will serve as a policy advisor to the R4 Rural Resilience team in Senegal. In this role, the fellow will lead efforts to implement a policy and advocacy agenda designed to establish a facilitating environment for the tools, products and services that the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative utilizes and that can be delivered through government service provision (e.g. safety nets) and as part of market-based solutions to assist small-holder food producers (e.g. risk management and micro-insurance). This work combines action-oriented research, policy development communications, grassroots engagement, alliance-building and education.

Policy and advocacy efforts at the national, regional and international levels are core components of the way in which Oxfam approaches development. Oxfam’s rights-based approach to development seeks to build the capacity and support the efforts of local communities to claim their rights. Oxfam also works to ensure governments and other actors recognize and respect their responsibility to protect and preserve human rights. Policy and advocacy is one stream of work intended to achieve these objectives. In the context of the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, the fellow’s work will contribute to greater respect in Senegal for the right to food and social protection, broadly speaking.

The fellow will provide critical support that will link our program efforts to improve agriculture, reduce poverty and strengthen food security and nutrition with our policy and advocacy efforts. This linkage will occur both within andacross the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative and other campaigns including Oxfam’s GROW campaign which is our campaign to fix the broken global food system.

Policy Placement: 

The fellow’s field experience will bridge to the policy year in Washington, DC where the fellow will serve as a Rural Resilience Policy Advisor based in Washington, DC and linked with Oxfam America’s GROW Campaign. It is anticipated that approximately 80 percent of duties and responsibilities will be directly related to R4 with the remainder contributing to and supporting the GROW Campaign.

As with country specific work, the goal of the initiative’s global policy and advocacy is to establish an environment that recognizes and values the contributions of smallholder food producers to achieving their own food security and that provides them with the needed tools and resources to sustainably escape hunger and poverty. This effort and our broader work on risk management is seeking to build an evidence base for this approach and use data and analysis to promote sustained, predictable assistance for agriculture and food security that improves the lives of smallholder farmers.

The policy agenda developed to complement Oxfam’s rural livelihoods program activities contributes to and is supported by the GROW campaign, which is focused on a broad range of related policy issues. The GROW campaign has specific policy pillars on investing in smallholder farmers and avoiding and responding to food price volatility, and it is anticipated that the policy and program experience developed by the Fellow will support these policy pillars. 

Education/Experience Required: 
  • Academic background in international development, economics or political science.
  • Specific demonstrable knowledge of key policy issues relating to: climate change/adaptation; food security; micro-finance for the rural poor; or agricultural resilience and livelihoods.
  • Field experience in a developing country, preferably in French speaking Africa.
  • Strong knowledge of agriculture, food security and poverty reduction issues and financial services for the poor.
  • Demonstrated ability to write for varied audiences, including policy makers, funders, program implementers, and the general public.
  • Excellent skills in both English and French, written and spoken.


  • Experience working in an advocacy environment and/or using advocacy as a tool for policy change.
  • Should be a self-starter willing to take initiative and a strong team player able to work with a variety of partners including grassroots organizations, private sector actors, NGOs, academics, government officials and donor agencies.
  • Ability to formulate program-related issues as policy concerns and translate complex issues into meaningful information understandable by civil society, private sector actors, governments and donors.
  • Strong knowledge of Microsoft Office and internet-based research.