Nearly a quarter of damages wrought by natural disasters on the developing world are borne by the agricultural sector, according to a FAO study, ‘The Impact of Natural Hazards and Disasters on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security’ released in Sendai, Japan today at the UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The Organisation also announced the launch of a special facility aimed at helping countries better equip their food production sectors to reduce risk exposure, limit impacts, and be better prepared to cope with disasters.
About 22 percent of all damages inflicted by natural hazards such as droughts, floods, storms or tsunamis are registered within the agriculture sector, FAO’s analysis of 78 post-disaster needs assessments in 48 developing countries spanning the 2003-2013 period shows.
These damages and losses are often incurred by poor rural and semi-rural communities without insurance and lacking the financial resources needed to regain lost livelihoods. Yet only 4.5 percent of post-disaster humanitarian aid in the period targeted agriculture.
FAO’s 22 percent figure represents only damages reported via post-disaster risk assessments, so while indicative of scale, the actual impact is likely even higher. To arrive at a closer estimate of the true financial cost of disasters to developing world agriculture, FAO compared decreases in yields during and after disasters with yield trends in 67 countries affected by medium- to larger-scale events between 2003 and 2013.
During the period, there were, US $70 billion in damages to crops and livestock over that 10 year period.
Asia was the most affected region, with estimated losses adding up to US $28 billion, followed by Africa at US $26 billion.
"Agriculture and all that it encompasses is not only critical for our food supply, it also remains a main source of livelihoods across the planet. While it is a sector at risk, agriculture also can be the foundation upon which we build societies that are more resilient and better equipped to deal with disasters," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at the release of the study.
New facility for disaster risk reduction in agriculture
To help countries better prepare for and respond to disasters affecting agriculture, FAO today launched a new facility aimed at channelling technical support to where it is most needed. The facility will work to mainstream disaster risk reduction in agriculture at all levels through diverse activities.
"With this new effort, we are aiming to limit people’s exposure to risks, avoid or reduce impacts where possible, and enhance preparedness to respond quickly when disasters occur," said Graziano da Silva.
Studies have shown that for every one dollar spent on disaster risk reduction, as much as four dollars are returned in terms of avoided or diminished impacts, he noted.
The work of the new facility will be guided by FAO’s Framework Programme on Disaster Risk Reduction for Food and Nutrition Security.
Agriculture remains a key sector
Worldwide, the livelihoods of 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture. These small-scale farmers, herders, fishers and forest-dependent communities generate more than half of global agricultural production and are particularly at risk from disasters that destroy or damage harvests, equipment, supplies, livestock, seeds, crops and stored food.