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Increase the resilience of livelihoods to disasters

Each year, millions of people who depend on the production, marketing and consumption of crops, livestock, fish, forests and other natural resources are confronted by disasters and crises. They can strike suddenly - like an earthquake or a violent coup d’état - or unfold slowly - like drought-flood cycles. They can occur as a single event, one can trigger another,or multiple events can converge and interact simultaneously with cascading and magnified effects. These emergencies threaten the production of, and access to, food at local, national and, at times, regional and global levels.

Threats and crises may be categorized as:

  • natural disasters;
  • emergencies in the food chain (e.g. transboundary plant, forest, animal, aquatic and zoonotic pests and diseases, food safety events, radiological and nuclear emergencies, dam failures, industrial pollution, oil spills, and the like);
  • socio-economic crises (such as the 2008 global food price crisis and recent financial shocks);
  • violent conflicts (civil unrest, regime change, interstate conflicts, civil wars, etc.);
  • protracted crises i.e complex, prolonged emergencies combining two or more of the above.

The nature, frequency, intensity, combination and duration of disasters and crises influence the type and scale of impacts on different groups, and fragile ecosystems. The impacts of disaster and crises are also strongly shaped by factors such as gender, age, educational and knowledge levels, socio-economic status, culture, institutional capacity and other factors that govern risks and access to resources.

Countries in protracted crisis require special attention, given the exceptional role that agriculture, natural resources and the rural economy play in people’s survival as well as the damage to food and agriculture systems caused by such crises.

The poor in rural and urban areas are disproportionately affected, and the inability of families, communities and institutions to anticipate, absorb, accommodate or recover and adapt from crises and disasters in a timely, efficient and sustainable manner is at the crux of FAO’s work in this area. Weakness in resilience triggers a downward spiral - household livelihoods and national development gains that have taken years to build are compromised or at times shattered.

Building resilience

FAO’s work focuses on developing, protecting and restoring sustainable livelihoods so that the integrity of societies that depend on farming, livestock, fish, forests and other natural resources is not threatened by crises. It uses a “twin-track” approach,  on the one hand taking immediate steps to protect and support agriculture, food and nutrition, and on the other addressing in the longer term the underlying factors driving risks, disasters and crises. Enhancing resilience also needs political will, investment, coordination, technical expertise capacities, innovation, and shared responsibility for disaster risk reduction and crisis management by countries, local authorities, communities, civil society, the private sector, and the international community. Four main complementary and multi-sector components are essential at global, regional, national and local levels:

  1. Enable the environment: the capacities of countries for risk and crisis management or “risk governance “for agriculture, food and nutrition (ie. prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response, recovery and rehabilitation) need to be strengthened.
  2. Watch to safeguard: continued improvements are needed in information management, early warning, risk analysis and surveillance systems of multi hazard risks for agriculture, food and nutrition (including food security and food safety) so as to provide more timely, accurate and actionable alerts.
  3. Apply DRR measures: while hazards are unavoidable, they need not become disasters. Disasters can be prevented and mitigated by systematically applying Disaster Risk Reduction good practices before, during and after crisis for agriculture, food and nutrition..
  4. Prepare and respond: when people’s capacities are overwhelmed by crises, they need to be able to count on effective local, national and international emergency responses. These include preparedness and humanitarian assistance including livelihoods protection, rebuilding of assets and other forms of social protection adapted to aid ‘at risk’populations.

Resilience requires greater coherence and integration of humanitarian, development investment and policy interventions to support local and national institutions and communities, backed up by an effective global system of coordinated actors.