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To defeat hunger, protecting agriculture from climate-related shocks must be central to disaster risk reduction measures in Asia and the Pacific

04/07/2018 Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Governments and other stakeholders must place sustainable and productive agriculture front and centre in their attempts to reduce the impact of disasters and climate-related shocks in the world’s most disaster-prone region, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

The warning was made on the sidelines of the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, underway this week in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar. The AMCDRR is a Ministerial-level follow up to the regional implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. The conference is co-organized by the Government of Mongolia and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

While there are many important aspects to the Sendai Framework, FAO is calling for greater attention to be paid to safeguarding agriculture, including forests and natural resources like fresh water in Asia and the Pacific.

“When we talk about disasters and our responses to mitigate their effects, it’s important to remember one of the victims is agriculture,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. “At FAO, our priority is to support resilient, low carbon and sustainable agriculture and land sectors, which provide food and nutrition security and sustainable livelihoods, especially for the vulnerable and smallholders.”

Reducing the disaster called hunger

“Hunger is on the rise again in Asia and the Pacific. Climate-related shocks, natural disasters, human conflicts, irresponsible use of our natural resources – including our forests and our water supplies – are converging at the worst possible time,” Kadiresan told participants at a side event organized by the Government of Mongolia. “If we don’t act decisively – if we don’t work collectively as a team, if we don’t push this agenda forward, then this region will surely miss the SDG target of Zero Hunger.”

The Asia-Pacific region is home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s undernourished – nearly half-a-billion people. Kadiresan pointed out that protecting, regenerating and better managing water resources and forests in the region must be linked to the fight against hunger. She noted that, going forward, and in order to reach the zero hunger target by 2030, some 107,000 people would need to be lifted out of hunger and malnutrition each day. “Addressing disaster and climate risks, and the interconnections between them, is key in this regard,” she added.

The way forward to reduce risks to agriculture – and feed ten billion by 2030

To address the challenges of feeding a hungry world in the face of climate-related shocks and disasters, several steps were offered.

One step is to accelerate risk assessments and identify vulnerabilities and disaster damage and loss in the agricultural sectors and management of water resources. This knowledge would be critical for anticipating future risks and losses, particularly in forestry and fisheries where disaster loss is, so far, under-accounted. Another step would be to strengthen institutional coordination and collaboration between key ministries and with other stakeholders. This has been deemed critical in order to build a shared understanding of risks and translate this understanding into coherent and integrated action on disaster risk reduction.

To safeguard water, a recent report by FAO and partners called for minimizing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, establishing buffer zones along watercourses and farm boundaries, and improving drainage control schemes. Another approach, is integrated pest management, which combines the strategic use of pest-resistant crop varieties with crop rotation and the introduction of natural predators of common pests.

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