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Report provides new insights on managing droughts to safeguard food security


New Delhi – 11 September Shifting from reactive to proactive drought management is essential to protecting both people and the environment from the impacts of this slow-onset disaster. This is one of the main messages of a report presented today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization at the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP 14) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification Conference (UNCCD), taking place in New Delhi, India.

Proactive approaches to drought preparedness explores various policy approaches that can be used to support drought-stricken populations and drought-affected activities, reduce vulnerability, and strengthen resilience.

“Climate shocks such as floods and drought, combined with poverty and vulnerability, can leave millions trapped in poverty and hunger,” said Eduardo Mansur, Director of FAO's Land and Water Division.

For example in Somalia this year sporadic rainfall in April and May  --- coupled with the lasting effects of recurrent droughts in recent years -- have resulted in significant declines in crop and livestock production, according a recent FAO’ country analysis. Around 2.2 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure.

Through the world, desertification, land degradation and drought are damaging food production. This year's edition of FAO's State of Food Insecurity in the World report indicates that the number of undernourished people in drought-sensitive countries has increased by 45.6 percent since 2012, and that overall, hunger is on the rise -- particularly in drought-prone areas.

“It is time to change drought approaches from crisis to risk management, based on prediction, planning and preparedness”, Mansur stressed.

At the Drought Preparedness Day that happened parallel to the UN desertification Conference, countries and agencies discuss the ongoing efforts that were kicked-off in 2013 at the High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policies, at which FAO, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Secretariat of the UNCCD established a proactive drought policy based on three pillars: i) monitoring, forecasting and early warning; ii) vulnerability and impact assessment; and iii) preparedness, mitigation and response.

“Planning for drought must be a sustained responsibility of governments and other stakeholders, and this should include strategies to reduce future vulnerability as well as mechanisms for climate-smart, effective responses," said. Mansur. 

The new study also highlights how practices that preserve ecosystems can also benefit drought preparedness. Sustainable land, soil and water management help increase resilience to droughts. Such practices also have other benefits such as capturing carbon, increasing water supply and protecting biodiversity.

Many countries are already adopting good practices, such as establishing integrated production systems that combine forestry and agriculture, or agroforestry-livestock systems that contribute to land use sustainability and increase drought resilience.

The publication was developed by FAO in collaboration with UNCCD, WMO, Global Water Partnership and the Integrated Drought Management Programme as contribution to the Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture (WASAG.)

Download the white paper

FAO at UNCCD COP 14