Pictures of starving children in Africa are often used to help generate relief for poor, sub-Saharan nations stricken by drought. But a fascinating new plan being proposed by the U.N. World Food Programme would allow financial traders to actually insure these countries against future food shortages. According to Planet Ark, energy and other companies in the U.S. and Europe now trade something called weather derivatives that limit their risk from unforseen changes in weather. Using a similar scheme, countries like Ethiopia and Mali could be hedged against drought with contracts that would pay out as soon as rainfall data suggested widespread food shortages. An intriguing and hopeful plan, to say the least.

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