1. The Asia-Pacific Conference on Early Warning, Prevention, Preparedness and Management of Disasters in Food and Agriculture was convened by FAO from 12 to 15 June, 2001 at the Amari Rincome Hotel in Chiangmai, Thailand. Participants from eighteen member countries of FAO, and representatives form six international organizations and NGOs attended the Conference. The list of delegates is attached as Annex I.
2. Mr. Tongchai Petcharatana, Representative of the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand, delivered the opening address. The Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific presented the keynote statement. The opening address and keynote statement are attached as Annexes II and III respectively.
3. The Conference elected three participants with ministerial rank, namely, H.E. Mr. It Nody, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Cambodia; H.E. Mr. Sompal, Member of Planning Commission, India; and H.E. Mr. D.M. Jayaratne, Minister of Agriculture, Sri Lanka as co-chairpersons. The Conference also elected Mr. Samuel M. Contreras, Chief, Water Resources Management Division, Bureau of Soils and Water Management, Philippines as rapporteur.
4. The Conference adopted its agenda and timetable as attached in Annex IV. The list of documents is attached as Annex V.
5. The Conference considered agenda item 3 on Strengthening Early Warning Systems (EWS) for Food and Agriculture in Asia and the Pacific, based on Secretariat document APDC/01/2 (attached as Annex VI).
6. It discussed the role of EWS in preventing and mitigating disaster-induced food insecurity; basic elements of an effective EWS; and the guidance gleaned from the experiences of FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).
7. The Conference noted that the nature of food and agricultural emergencies has changed over the past 20 years. Man-made disasters such as war, civil strife, economic crisis, and the plunder of natural resources have become as worrisome as natural hazards that cause food insecurity. This shift from primarily supply-driven to both supply and demand-driven crises requires that EWS also change its structural and functional organization to remain effective.
8. It further observed that fortunately, new technologies have raised the state of the art significantly. In this regard, GIEWS methodologies, tools and technologies such as the country cereal balance sheet, the rapid assessment mission, the geographic information system, satellite imagery and the electronic news service that are integrated in the GIEWS Workstation were discussed. With the use of this system that is linked to a unique reference database, analysts can assess rainfall and vegetation, supply and utilization and other indicators to provide warnings of impending disasters. A suggestion was made that methodologies for assessing food availability and accessibility at the local level should be improved.
9. The Conference learnt that FAO's staple foods supply utilization accounts are updated on a continuous basis. Such accounts provide forecasts of up to one year on stocks, production, net trade and use.
10. An FAO GIEWS expert gave a demonstration on the Workstation's capabilities and products. He also distributed a CD Rom of Work Station data on 20 countries. It was learnt that, currently, an interactive website known as GeoWeb giving users access to GIEWS data bases and tools is being developed. The Conference expressed appreciation for this far-reaching FAO contribution to National Early Warning Systems (NEWS).
11. The Conference commended FAO on its work in crop and food supply assessment in many Asian countries. Evaluation and warning of impending food shortages in disaster-prone Asian countries would assist in mobilizing much-needed international food aid. In this context, it was noted that in seriously affected countries, such as DPR Korea, FAO usually undertakes two missions a year to update its assessments on a continuous basis.
12. The Conference reiterated the need for GIEWS' four basic ingredients for a strong EWS, namely, collaboration and cooperation, institutional capacity building, state-of-the-art technology and effective information-response linkage. These criteria would lay the foundation for neutral and objective assessment, partnership with multi-lateral and bilateral donors, close contact with major players and advocacy through the media.
13. Given the rising frequency and impact of food and agricultural disasters from natural hazards and man-made calamities, the Conference felt that it is timely for countries to review their NEWS with a view to making faster and more substantial improvements. FAO's work in establishing/strengthening NEWS in several South Asian countries was noted. The Conference called upon donors to support projects aimed at establishing and strengthening NEWS.
14. It further emphasized the growing effect of macro-economic factors such as interest and exchange rates, labour wages, general price levels, trade developments and other factors that impinge on food security. The poverty and hunger associated with the recent Asian financial crisis, civil unrest, border conflicts and structural adjustments and economic transitions are good examples. The Conference recommended that NEWS extend their coverage to give due attention to macro-economic factors and forces.
15. The Conference pointed out that natural hazards and economic crises are often regional in extent. Collective action in providing early warning would improve cost-effectiveness. It recommended that a Regional Technical Cooperation Network on EWS be set up to develop a regional strategy for EWS, a system for information exchange and a mechanism for joint capacity building.
16. It observed however that NEWS must first be effective in order for a regional network on EWS to work.
17. The Conference discussed agenda item 4 on Agro-meteorological Models and Remote Sensing for Crop Monitoring and Forecasting in Asia and the Pacific, based on Secretariat document APDC/01/3 (attached as Annex VII). It learnt that the year-to-year variability in crop yields is attributed to several factors, namely, trend; direct and indirect weather effects including pests, diseases and weeds; and on-farm management. The trend incorporates the results of technology, improved varieties, mechanisation, use of inputs, etc.
18. Depending on the level of aggregation of yield statistics and the level of development of the agricultural sector, the trend can account for a larger part of yield and production variability. It is frequently above 90 per cent, with only a minor part of the variability being left to direct and indirect weather effects. In many developing countries on the other hand, particularly in semi-arid areas, the trend's lowest level of aggregation, i.e., the technology component, is much less marked, and the weather effect on yield is still predominant. Susceptibility to the vagaries of weather may even increase as marginal and subsistence farmers pass through a transition phase towards more market-oriented farming.
19. The Conference also observed that at national and global levels, the total crop loss due to the micro-variability of weather (chronic losses) greatly exceeds loss arising from extreme and violent events. Although the latter may lead to intense human suffering, and sometimes complete crop loss, they usually occur within a limited area.
20. Inadequate and unstable food supplies caused by unfavourable weather call for improved monitoring and forecasting of crop conditions. The Conference noted that agro-meteorological modelling technology, methods and tools have developed rapidly in recent years, driven by advances in communications, computers and modern sources of data (e.g., satellite imagery and weather radar). These developments have given rise to major tools for crop yield-weather simulation, namely, process-oriented models, GIS techniques, geostatistics and random weather generators (RWG).
21. The Conference studied process-oriented models such as CERES, WOFOST, EPIC, etc. that were developed in a research context for very small areas, for instance, on a single field. In the context of FAO's crop yield forecasting philosophy, their usefulness lies primarily in providing some value-added variables in classical yield functions (e.g. regression models) in combination with GIS techniques, geostatistics and RWG.
22. The use of vegetation indices as a variable in quantitative crop yield forecasting has been disappointing. However, satellite-derived vegetation indices and cloud information have proven their potential as auxiliary variables for stratification, zoning and area averaging of point data. There are also promising developments in satellite inputs such as radar to estimate moisture and direct satellite observations on crop stage, soil, surface temperature, etc. as inputs to simulation models.
23. The Conference concluded that available leading crop simulation models are very complex. They require considerable simplification for application in the context of crop monitoring and forecasting systems for food security. The Conference recommended that researchers focus on:
24. The Conference highlighted the need to improve the availability of standard and modern real-time data in crop monitoring and forecasting systems, including the estimation of cropped areas as well as those affected by disasters. It concurred that a modular design should be adopted for crop monitoring and forecasting systems, and there should be compatibility of tools. It recommended that as a first step, concerned workers harmonise data files and work towards achieving a universal self-documented format.
25. The Conference called for a wide and effective dissemination of crop monitoring and forecasting methodologies. It further urged regional collaboration to identify and exchange new agro-meteorological and remote sensing tools.
26. The Conference discussed agenda item 5 on River Basin Management for Flood and Drought Prevention and Mitigation in Asia and the Pacific, based on Secretariat document APDC/01/4 (attached as Annex VIII). It focused on the importance of river basin management strategies for flood and drought prevention and mitigation, and discussed the nature of floods and droughts in agriculture, current strategies, experiences, trends in approaches, techniques and practices, and lessons learnt.
27. The Conference agreed that it is important to establish or strengthen integrated water management institutions at the river basin level. This is to enable an integrated approach to the management of flood and drought problems within the river basin.
28. The Conference also agreed that local communities should be empowered to participate in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of river basin management. It recommended that governments pursue the devolution of natural resource management down to the community level.
29. The Conference observed that the management of hydrological risks is a complex exercise and its complexity is increasing. It is determined by climate variability, floods and low flows, day-to-day increment of flows, abstractions and releases and pollution loads. The efficient management of such intricacies requires the modernization of water institutions and distribution systems that provides farmers with more flexibility in responding to floods and droughts. In this regard, the Conference recommended that governments give priority to modernizing the following areas:
30.The Conference agreed that in order to achieve modernization, it is necessary for developing countries to review and improve the legal, institutional and policy framework governing water resources and their use.
31. In this context, the Conference raised the issue of water pricing. It agreed that raising the price of water in itself is not a solution. Along with appropriate pricing, improved cropping patterns and efficient water use are necessary. In other words, there should be comprehensive demand management of water resources.
32. In connection with the modernization thrust, the Conference underscored the persistent issue of water sharing among riparian countries. It called upon regional economic cooperation networks such as the Mekong Committee, SAARC and others to create conditions for the resolution of this controversial issue.
33. The Conference noted that developing integrated systems would take time. Developing countries may adopt short and medium term strategies to address urgent emerging problems such as over-exploitation of ground water in South and Southeast Asia.
34. The Conference emphasized that floods and droughts should be considered together in river basin management strategies. In other words, there should be an integrated package of preventive and mitigation measures for both floods and droughts at the river basin level.
35. The importance of scale was also raised. The Conference agreed that management strategies that worked for small areas might not be appropriate for large areas.
36. The Conference raised the problem of inadequate data for management, forecasting and modeling. It called upon governments to give high priority to developing, strengthening and sustaining hydrological, hydro-meteorological, agro-meteorological and ground water monitoring services. It further suggested that the dissemination of information be improved.
37. With regard to research and development (R&D), the Conference recommended that the following areas be earmarked for intensive work:
38. The Conference deliberated on agenda item 6 on Forest Fire Prevention and Preparedness in Asia and the Pacific, based on the background information provided by Secretariat document APDC/01/5 (attached as Annex IX).
39. It highlighted the susceptibility of large areas of savannah and mixed forest grasslands in North and Central Asia, and agricultural land and forests in the region's humid tropics to fires. Although not all fires end up as disasters, they can cause significant losses in agricultural production, assets and employment. However, there is limited information on the incidence, extent and damage caused in the food and agricultural sector. The Conference recommended that governments assess the magnitude of the fire problem comprehensively, taking into consideration direct and indirect losses, the short and long-term impact, and its seasonal and spatial distribution.
40. The Conference, in examining ways and means of protecting farmland, forests and livelihoods from fires, recognized the diversity of their causes and effects. Each disaster is socio-economically and ecologically unique. All of them must be studied for lessons to be learnt. It stressed the importance of the participatory approach that involves all stakeholders, i.e., the government, NGO, private enterprise and vulnerable communities in planning and implementing action plans.
41. A prerequisite for the successful protection of farming systems, natural resources and livelihoods, is a comprehensive, consistent and sound body of laws, and rules and regulations. Such a legal package must be based on the people's capacities and needs. It generally does not exist in developing countries. The Conference recommended that governments review and reinforce the laws, rules and regulations governing the prevention and fighting of fires in the agricultural and forestry sector.
42. This major thrust could be followed by a stock taking of current policies, programmes and practices with a view to their improvement. The Conference recommended that governments institute a comprehensive policy package and set up an agenda for technology transfer within the framework of TCDC.
43. With regard to the basic elements of a national strategy and action plan, the Conference stressed the following:
44. The Conference noted the possible linkage of drought with forest and agricultural fires. It learnt that in South East Asia, plantation fires often occur during long periods of drought. The Conference suggested that attention be paid to this linkage for better risk management.
45. It observed that not all fires are bad. There are also good fires. These include controlled fires for new planting and replanting of various crops. In this context, the issue of slash and burn agriculture was raised. The Conference agreed that the solution lies in providing improved and/or alternative livelihood systems to the concerned communities. This strategy includes among other measures, the following provisions:
46. The Conference recognized that forest fires could conserve bio-diversity. It called for more research in this area.
47. The Conference considered agenda item 7 on Pastoral Risk Management for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness in Central Asia with Special reference to the case of Mongolia, based on Secretariat document APDC/01/6 (attached as Annex X). It covered concepts and institutional approaches to pastoral risk management. Discussions were supported by findings from FAO's fieldwork in Mongolia, China and Kyrgyzstan since 1995.
48. The Conference learnt that most Central Asian countries paid more attention to post-disaster relief than to risk reduction and the prevention of disasters. It agreed that the balance should shift in favour of preparedness and mitigation.
49. The Conference also learnt that governments have tended to decrease support for managing risks of herders who are experiencing an on-going economic transition. It agreed that the government's role in establishing and enforcing legal and policy regimes, as well as technical and funding support for improving preparedness should be strengthened.
50. The Conference noted that research in Central Asia underscored the overwhelming importance of institutional capacity and organization. Collaboration and coordination within and between all levels of administration should be strengthened. Furthermore, cooperation among government, NGOs and CSOs should be encouraged. Practical modalities for sharing responsibilities and benefits, the participatory approach and capacity building are critical in pastoral risk management. The Conference urged governments to be cognizant of the need for appropriate institutions and effective organizations.
51. The Conference realized that the on-going economic transition has placed increasing responsibility for preparedness on individual households. At the same time, customary herder practices for mutual assistance in disasters are weakening. The Conference recommended that governments support traditional institutions, arrangements and mechanisms that promote collective self-reliance in disasters.
52. In discussing risks, the Conference underscored the importance of paying due attention to the carrying capacity of the land. The numbers of animals must be monitored, planned and controlled to avoid overgrazing. In this regard, the Conference identified poverty, decreasing mobility of pastoralists and the declining quantity and quality of pastures as major risk increasing factors. These should be taken into account in risk management strategies.
53. In the area of risk management planning, the Conference noted that pastoral risk management could be conceptualized in three phases, namely, risk preparedness, responding to disasters and recovering from disasters.
54. To improve pastoral risk preparedness, the Conference advocated:
55. The Conference also stressed the importance of annual planning for risk preparedness. In this regard, it called for better winter preparation by herders, annual storage of fodder, pasture allocation by season and early warning.
56. In the discussion on responding to disasters in pastoral areas, the Conference agreed on the need for more and better coordination of emergency management; herder mobility; access to emergency fodder and grazing reserves; labour inputs; and emergency food distribution.
57. On recovering from disasters in pastoral areas, the Conference urged governments to pay special attention to developing credit facilities for animal re-stocking and alternative livelihood opportunities for impoverished herders; and short-term consumption assistance programmes.
58. In connection with sustainable recovery, the Conference urged more R&D in:
59. The Conference noted that, so far, "risks" have been used with different meanings in various papers and contexts. It suggested that this term be clearly defined.
60. The Conference exchanged views on agenda item 8 on Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storms with Special Reference to Farming Systems and Methods, based on Secretariat document APDC/01/7 (attached as Annex XI). The exchange covered storm incidence and impact, concepts pertaining to agricultural vulnerability, and strategy for reducing agricultural vulnerability to storms.
61. The Conference observed that storm-related disasters have increased in frequency and intensity. The last 10 years experienced a 300 per cent rise in the number of persons affected by storms and floods. Windstorm and flood-related disasters accounted for 60 per cent of total economic loss caused by natural disasters worldwide in 2000. This loss seriously affected the agricultural, forestry and fisheries sectors. More effective agriculture/fisheries-specific preparedness and mitigation measures for storms are urgently needed.
62. The Conference examined the broad spectrum of FAO's experiences in disaster work and agreed that the participatory approach that reaches the local community is essential for success. In other words, national action plans must be based on community plans for awareness and capacity building and mitigation measures.
63. In endeavoring to reduce agricultural vulnerability to storms, the Conference stressed the importance of adopting a farming and livelihood systems approach. Only with such a systems approach can livelihood vulnerability analysis comprehensively cover farm and non-farm resources, and all sources of income and gender aspects.
64. As an entry point, the Conference suggested that farming systems vulnerability maps be developed by overlaying farming systems maps with hazard risk maps. This would show which farming systems were vulnerable to what disasters and where.
65. With regard to mitigation strategies, the Conference emphasized that actions need to be taken at different levels, i.e., at the global, regional, national, sub-national, farm, farm household and crop/livestock level. These actions should be consistent and clearly specified for every level. For example, improved land preparation methods at the crop enterprise level should be supported by R&D at the farming systems level, land-use planning at the sub-national level, and so on.
66. The Conference observed that fiscal and monetary incentives could change farming systems and alter the patterns of vulnerability. Macro-economic policies must enhance resilience to storms and storm-related disasters. It recommended that concerned countries should begin by making sure the policies encourage investment in storm resistant infrastructure, production patterns and other activities and, simultaneously discourage unsuitable agriculture, production intensification and logging in storm-swept areas.
67. In this regard, the Conference highlighted the importance of land-use planning in countries susceptible to storms. It urged capacity building, better coordination and collaboration among concerned institutions and participatory action on the ground in this task.
68. The Conference, in addressing responses to the agricultural sector, pointed out that the information required for farming systems-based mitigation plans is highly complex and location-specific. Therefore, traditional knowledge was highlighted as a key source for developing agricultural vulnerability reduction strategies.
69. The Conference emphasized that there is a need for a comprehensive and in-depth study of local farming systems and methods that increase resilience to storm disasters. It also called for an increase in the R&D of appropriate plant varieties and animal species, cropping patterns and mixes, agronomic practices and conservation measures. Decision-making processes at farm and household levels in the face of disaster should also be examined.
70. The Conference conferred on agenda item 9 on Long-range Climate Forecasts for Agriculture and Food Security Planning and Management in Asia and the Pacific, based on the background information provided by Secretariat documents APDC/01/8 and APDC/01/Info. 4 (attached as Annexes XII and XX) prepared by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre. It discussed the evolution of long-term forecasts; recent advances in El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) predictions; and opportunities and constraints for using ENSO index-based forecasts for the management of agriculture and food security.
71. The Conference noted that climate associated uncertainties inherent in agricultural systems underline the need for advance information on climate behaviour to facilitate risk management. Recent advances in climate prediction show much promise. However, the 1997-98 El Niño experiences revealed that a large gap exists between the potential value of forecast information and the actual utilization of such information for managing agricultural systems. Applications of climate predictions have so far been of limited benefit to societies. For example, an observation was made that long-term climate forecasts have been of limited use in India due to the large number of microclimate zones. There is a need to take concerted action to benefit from the progress made in climate prediction.
72. The Conference recognized that climate forecasts have some limitations. Skillful forecasts are available only for some seasons and regions. For example, while in some areas there are clear relationships between ENSO indices and local climate variables, other areas do not exhibit linear relationships. It would take some time to obtain climate forecasts with greater geographic resolution that cover all factors governing climate variability. It is therefore necessary to delimit specific climate zones highly sensitive to ENSO indices; and also where specific relationships exist between ENSO indices and local climatic variability. The Conference called for delimitation of climate sensitive zones, sectors and seasons to facilitate the application of forecast information at the local level.
73. In this regard, the Conference noted that long-term climate forecasting is difficult in middle latitudes. It has been relatively easier in low latitude countries. For example, Java, Mindanao, and parts of Vietnam are relatively more sensitive to ENSO developments. The Conference stressed the importance of medium-term climate forecasting in less sensitive countries.
74. The Conference observed that a commonly recognized problem in the application of climate forecasts in the agricultural community is that currently available seasonal forecasts are at too large a scale to be useful for site level planning. Both spatial and temporal scales need to be refined for agricultural management applications. There is a need to downscale the global ENSO index based forecast into local level climate outlook products. These climate outlook products need to be further downscaled, keeping in view the specific vulnerabilities at the local level with reference to different seasons and different cropping systems. The Conference suggested that concerned international technical agencies assist national research organizations translate ENSO forecast information into applicable format for specific uses at the end user level.
75. The Conference realized that most research efforts have been directed from the climate and agro-ecological communities. They tend to involve a top-down approach, wherein users are sought for available forecast information. However, a bottom-up approach is more appropriate. In this approach, each situation is examined to identify niches and needs for climate forecasts. The Conference stressed the importance of articulating users' needs.
76. The Conference further recognized that the communication of forecast information has been a major constraint. It suggested that countries accord high priority to improving the communications systems, keeping in mind the socio-cultural peculiarities of communities for whom the forecasts are intended to benefit.
77. The Conference agreed that even when reliable climate forecasts were communicated effectively, farmers, on many occasions, did not take the necessary preparatory actions. This has been attributed to the lack of resources, technology and motivation on their part, and shortcomings in policies and programmes on the part of governments. The Conference called upon governments of disaster prone countries to eliminate resource, technology and policy/programme constraints that hamper effective response to climate forecasts.
78. The Conference agreed that a long-term forecast would provide an indication of the behaviour of rainfall during the course of a season. However, there could be meso-scale intra-seasonal oscillations that might result in long dry/wet spells/cyclones and storms. Farmers could encounter such disturbances in the course of a cropping season. A long-term climate forecast system integrated with a short-range weather monitoring system would ensure a flow of practical, effective and user-friendly information.
79. The Conference stressed the importance of the systems approach to climate forecast and application. The application of climate prediction information requires a detailed consideration of the roles and interactions among the climatic, ecological and social factors involved. This includes climate observation systems; choice of climate prediction tools; design of climate forecast products to suit user needs; communication of the forecast products; crop climate models; and institutional constraints and social settings in which the decisions are made. The Conference called for the institutionalization of cooperative action among producers of climate information, concerned R&D agencies, policy makers and end users.
80. The Conference urged specialized agencies and regional organizations to help build capacity for translating global ENSO index based forecast information into locally applicable information for decision-making. It further recommended that concerned technical agencies help to close the gap between climate forecast information generation and the beneficial utilization of such information.
81. The Conference discussed agenda item 10 on Asia FIVIMS for Disaster Preparedness, based on Secretariat document APDC/01/9 (attached as Annex XIII). It recalled that the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Mapping System (FIVIMS) was conceived and recommended by the World Food Summit in 1996. The aim was to set up an integrated information system to show the extent (who, where and why) of undernourishment from the highest to the lowest levels in order to propose effective solutions. It learnt that to support this initiative, the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) implemented the project entitled Asia FIVIMS with trust funds provided by the government of Japan.
82. The Conference was informed that Asia's FIVIMS is being implemented in collaboration with the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). This enabled it to geo-reference the CRED Emergency Events Database (EMDAT) of 12,000 mass natural and technological disasters worldwide from 1900 up to the present. The project has, so far, geo-referenced 992 disaster events or 2,422 cumulative provincial units covering the 1990-99 period. This result will be used to draw up disaster frequency maps; assess vulnerability to natural hazards; and assist in the estimation of impact on vulnerable peoples.
83. The Conference further noted that the Asia-FIVIMS findings would be disseminated through an internet-based tool known as the Asia Key Indicators Data System (KIDS).
84. It was informed that with the use of this methodology as well as available local knowledge and information on natural disasters, geo-referencing could be extended down to the second or third administrative levels, i.e., the districts or communes.
85. The Conference agreed that more effort is needed to understand the linkages between frequency of natural disasters and chronic food insecurity. To support this effort, it recommended that governments establish and make operational their national FIVIMS.
86. It also suggested that in setting up national FIVIMS, governments may wish to take the critical path of awareness building, identification of focal points, networking, assessing user needs, evaluating existing national information systems, preparing a strategy and action plan, getting political commitment and linking up with the global FIVIMS. These crucial steps are contained in the "Guidelines for National FIVIMS: Background and Principle" published by the Inter-agency Working Group on FIVIMS.
87. In making this recommendation, the Conference stressed that care should be taken to ensure that there is close collaboration with all domestic and international players. This would help mobilize efforts for a common cause, promote technical cooperation and cultivate best practices.
88. In this connection, the Conference recognized the overwhelming importance of rice in the food security of the Asia and Pacific region. Rice based livelihoods, in fact, determine the household food security of the majority of peoples in this region. The Conference suggested that improvements of rice-based livelihoods, raising productivity and generating employment and incomes should be accorded high priority in national development plans. Other commodity-based livelihoods may also be prioritized in accordance with local cropping patterns.
89. The Conference welcomed the forthcoming East and Southeast Asian study on rice production, consumption, stocking and trade in rice.
90. The Conference recognized with appreciation the support of the government of Japan for the Asia-FIVIMS project and the FAO Special Programme on Food Security (SPFS) in selected low-income food-deficit countries in Asia and the Pacific.
91. The Conference discussed agenda item 11 on Developing Farming Systems and Best Practices for Drought-Prone Areas, based on the background information provided by Secretariat document APDC/01/10 (attached as Annex XIV). In the discussions, it covered causes, frequency and impact of droughts, current farming systems, strategy and new approaches and methods.
92. The Conference learnt that drought-prone countries in the region experience wide annual fluctuations in productivity and output. The prevalence of subsistence agriculture in these countries exacerbates the vulnerability of farming systems and livelihoods.
93. The Conference also learnt that the frequency and impact of droughts have increased over the years. This is attributed to the movement of people to marginal lands, agricultural intensification, growing water scarcity and climate change. It agreed that drought-related disasters would worsen unless drastic interventions are taken immediately.
94. The Conference observed that the urgency of drought combating action, at the outset, varies in time and with the country and area. Also, many public and private agencies deal with the problem. In such circumstances, efforts are often sporadic and fragmented and they lead to nowhere. The importance of continuous integrated actions was emphasized. The Conference called for the establishment of task forces/partnerships/consortia of all public and private stakeholders to solve the drought problem.
95. The Conference recognized that existing response programmes for drought-prone areas tend to be limited in scope and depth. They typically focus on immediate needs such as drinking water, food, crop and livestock loss prevention, and short-term employment. The assistance given is generally inadequate and understandably, limited to accessible peoples and areas. The Conference urged new approaches, strategies and methods to protect farming systems, resources and livelihoods in drought-prone areas.
96. In considering recent drought-fighting measures for agriculture, the Conference highlighted the importance of prioritizing areas and peoples for resource allocation. Otherwise, resources would be spread too thinly to be effective. The Conference recommended that vulnerable areas should be prioritized on the basis of agro-ecological zones. Within the selected areas, issues for R&D and drought-combating actions should also be prioritized.
97. The Conference agreed that from the economic perspective, integrated watershed management coupled with enterprise diversification based on carrying capacity and product value addition should be the main thrust. This line of action would ensure optimum resource-use, sustainability and income maximization. The Conference recommended that governments give high priority to watershed management, water harvesting and conservation, crop and livestock diversification, agro-forestry and agro-industry development.
98. The Conference underscored the importance of farmer participation in R&D. Only when farmers, scientists and extension workers operate as a team could new technologies suitable for local conditions emerge in drought-prone areas. The Conference recommended that R&D institutions undertake more on-farm research, with the full participation of farmers in indigenous knowledge assessment and adoption, resource appraisal, problem identification and programme implementation.
99. On farming systems and best practices, the Conference considered old and newly emerging technologies for drought preparedness and mitigation. It covered contingency crop planning, in-situ rain water harvesting, village and farm ponds, underground cisterns, crops, varieties and cropping systems, crop combinations, weed management, planting density, soil and crop management, integrated nutrient management, alternative land-use systems and others. The Conference recommended that governments and concerned institutions accord high priority to R&D of drought-resistant technologies and practices.
100. The Conference recognized that early warning, continuous monitoring and decision support systems are integral components of a programme to protect farmers' livelihoods. Only if these components are effective, can farming adjustments and corrections be made in time; and optimal decisions taken to maximize returns/minimize losses, especially with mid-season and terminal droughts. The Conference suggested that special attention be paid to the establishment of a national early warning system for drought management, and a decision support system based on crop growth models, drought mitigation technologies, market forecasts and resource information.
101. The Conference also realized that appropriate R&D strategy and action plans are critical for sustainable development of arid areas. To support sound planning, it recommended that the action plans be applied to selected areas based on the same watershed, or having similar farming or other key characteristics. It further suggested that R&D plans be divided into short, medium and long-term activities.
102. In this regard, the Conference went on to identify gaps in research and technology development. It recommended additional work for a number of areas on a priority basis in the Asia-Pacific Region, namely, identification of research subjects/issues in each agro-ecological zone; early warning and decision support systems; soil quality enhancement; agro-bio-diversity issues; farming systems; participatory technology development; and technology assessment and refinement in drought management.
103. The Conference discussed agenda item 12 on Developing Farming Systems and Best Practices for Flood-prone areas in Asia and the Pacific, based on Secretariat document APDC/01/11 (attached as Annex XV).
104.The Conference noted that an estimated 13 million ha of agricultural, flood-prone land in South and Southeast Asia are located mostly in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. They are flood-prone as a result of rainwater accumulation, river discharge and tidal movements.
105. The Conference observed that traditionally vulnerable peoples have developed unique livelihood systems to cope with floods. This usually involves complex farming systems of crops, livestock and fisheries. Recent interventions with water control structures and farming technologies have led to significant improvements in productivity, employment and incomes. But there are also some negative results. To ensure sustainable improvements in peoples' livelihoods and to protect natural resources, the Conference agreed that it is vital to combine advanced technologies with indigenous knowledge systems. The Conference recommended the participatory approach in developing farming systems and best practices in flood-prone agriculture.
106. The Conference agreed that flood control structures have not eliminated floods. They can only change the conditions and circumstances of floods. Since large agricultural populations live in flood-prone areas, governments should give high priority to the R&D of farming systems and best practices. In this regard, the Conference urged more funding of this neglected sub-sector.
107. The Conference concurred that there are two basic approaches to raising productivity in flood-prone areas. One is the engineering approach using embankments, dykes, and sluices and other structures. The other is the agronomic approach that focuses on high yields and flood pre-empting methods. The general practice is to combine the two. Improvements should be considered in this light.
108. Looking at possible improvements, the Conference highlighted the importance of post-monsoon drainage in areas such as Northeast Bangladesh, Cambodia and parts of Vietnam. If excess water can be drained quickly by January, a high-yielding rice crop of short-duration can be transplanted and harvested by the end of April each year. There would be no loss of growing time and the danger of flash floods would be minimized.
109. To avoid flood damage, the Conference pointed to the need for high yielding rice varieties that mature early. It added that the introduction of cold tolerance through breeding would help to reduce the growing period.
110. In this regard, the Conference underscored the importance of genetic conservation. Genes for flood and other stress tolerance should be conserved in gene banks as well as in-situ. The high priority given to bio-diversity and gene conservation would pay huge dividends in future breeding programmes for disaster-prone areas.
111. The Conference observed that for flood-prone areas, more advanced technologies are available for rice in the dry season than in the wet season. For example, limited advances have been made on deepwater rice cultivation.
112. In the search for productive and environmentally friendly farming systems and best practices in flood-prone areas, the Conference recommended that the following merited intensified R&D:
113. The Conference agreed that the engineering approach has provided improved conditions for agriculture in flood-prone areas. Farming systems and practices must make the best use of the improved conditions for higher productivity, incomes and food security. They must, at the same time, be environmentally friendly and protect natural resources. To realize this dual objective, the Conference recommended that governments, concerned R&D agencies, NGOs and international aid organizations collaborate to:
114. The Conference considered agenda item 13 on Disaster Risk Management Strategies for Animal Health, based on Secretariat document APDC/01/12 (attached as Annex XVI). It observed that in the past 15 years, animal disease emergencies, especially infectious and vector-borne animal diseases, have increased in frequency and impact. Even developed countries have become more vulnerable.
115. The Conference agreed that the worsening situation could be attributed to livestock production intensification; diminishing animal health support services; livestock movements; and climate change. Population growth, socio-political instability, migration and increasing trade have also aggravated the problems. Earlier dependence on isolation for limiting the spread of diseases is no longer workable.
116. The Conference concurred that a new perspective on animal disease outbreaks is necessary. It called for integrated systems for prediction, early detection and risk-based surveillance for early warning. This would lead to structured responses to contain disease outbreaks.
117. FAO established the EMPRESS livestock programme to support the development of such integrated systems. The vision is to promote the effective containment and control of the most serious epidemic livestock diseases, as well as newly emerging diseases, by progressive elimination on a regional and global basis, through international cooperation involving early warning, early and rapid reaction, enabling research and coordination. The Conference recommended that governments establish and/or reinforce integrated livestock disease surveillance and response systems.
118. In this task, the Conference urged that governments pay special attention to developing a national outbreak response plan to deal with known and emerging communicable livestock diseases, including zoonoses. The national outbreak response plan should have a focal authority for the declaration of outbreaks, a standing task force, a field network of trained personnel, an information dissemination system and a mechanism for cooperation between human and animal health services.
119. The Conference also called upon countries to follow the EMPRESS code of conduct in dealing with emergencies referred to as Good Emergency Management Practice (GEMP). GEMP is the sum total of structures, procedures and management practices leading to early detection, prediction of likely spread, prompt limitation, targeted control and elimination, with subsequent re-establishment of verifiable "freedom from infection" in accordance with the International Animal Health Code.
120. The Conference earmarked the following areas for concerted intensive study:
121. The Conference deliberated on agenda item 14 on Managing the Continuum of Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Recovery Activities Following Disasters in Food and Agriculture, based on the background information provided by Secretariat document APDC/01/13 (attached as Annex XVII). It considered the nature and scope of disasters, the emergency cycle, tasks and emerging issues.
122. The Conference noted that natural and man-made disasters have increased in recent years. It acknowledged that the people most severely affected by them are often those living in rural areas, and it is generally the resource poor that is the most vulnerable. Pre and post-relief interventions are becoming increasingly important. In this regard, the difficulty of intervening in disaster situations when governments' capacities have been weakened was raised. The Conference learnt that even in such chaotic circumstances, FAO has been able to undertake disaster preparedness, mitigation and recovery activities. In Afghanistan, for example, the Organization worked with local communities in seed multiplication, livestock development and support to animal health and other sustainable agricultural enterprises.
123. The Conference acknowledged that interventions in emergencies could be described as a sequence of events with distinct phases including early warning, prevention, preparedness, impact assessment, relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and sustainable recovery. This sequence has sometimes been referred to as the disaster cycle. The Conference agreed that the continuity of these events, one merging into another, i.e., the relief-development continuum means that development objectives cannot be pushed aside during emergencies. The linkage of relief and rehabilitation/reconstruction/recovery activities is important. It offers a way to return to a situation where food and agricultural development can take place.
124. The Conference agreed that there is an urgent need to strengthen the management of disaster cycle interventions. It stressed that governments must allocate sufficient resources for this purpose. This prerequisite is critical in order to reduce dependence on aid, adopt a self-reliant approach and ensure swift agricultural recovery. Specifically, the Conference agreed to support FAO's plans to enhance preparedness and response to emergencies by:
125. The Conference also agreed that the groundwork on disaster prevention could help to strengthen disaster management. Improvements in forecasting techniques and the reduction of vulnerability could minimize the impact and complexity of disasters. In this regard, the Conference called upon FAO and other concerned international agencies to support prevention activities at the country level.
126. In discussing how to strengthen disaster management, the Conference stressed that it is important to adopt an approach that addresses the root causes of disasters rather than the consequences. This would not only cause a higher priority to be given to resource allocation; but also place short-term activities in the context of medium and long term development programmes.
127. The Conference emphasized the importance of paying more attention to the following, when adopting an approach that addresses the root causes of disasters:
128. The Conference agreed that a comprehensive policy package that integrates to all possible extents, disaster intervention, natural resource conservation and sustainable agriculture and rural development policies, is essential for cost-effective disaster management. It called upon governments to give high priority to formulating such integrated policy regimes.
129. The Conference reiterated that the participatory approach is necessary to ensure effective disaster management. It urged governments and NGOs to decentralize and empower local institutions and communities to assess needs, support coping mechanisms and draw up rehabilitation/reconstruction/recovery activities suitable for local conditions.
130. The quality of the original assessment of needs is critical. It sets the tone for mitigation, rehabilitation and sustainable recovery activities. Therefore it is vital to incorporate local participation.
31. The Conference agreed that the participatory approach requires capacity building at the local level. Individuals in the community, especially women, must be trained in new technologies, as well as be involved in the mobilization of local traditional knowledge for disaster management. The Conference recommended that countries develop disaster management training programmes within the framework of TCDC.
132. The Conference observed that fragmentation, duplication and independence characterize many disaster management programmes at national and international levels. It highlighted the need for improved coordination and collaboration among disaster workers. In this regard, it recommended that countries establish or strengthen interagency capacities for disaster management and coordination.
133. The Conference emphasized that access to information improves the management of disasters. Knowledge of the nature of specific disasters, their impacts, past responses and results and new technical developments would help to avoid mistakes and pitfalls and promote innovations. The sharing and dissemination of information and know-how in the field of agricultural disasters should be encouraged. In this regard, the Conference suggested that governments set up/strengthen information networks on disasters to build awareness and raise capacity for disaster handling.
134. The Conference noted that disaster assistance to countries in all eight phases of the disaster cycle, namely, early warning, prevention, preparedness, impact and needs assessment, relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and sustainable recovery is an integral part of FAO's mandate. In this work, FAO's thrusts have been to raise vulnerable peoples' resilience and capacity to cope with disasters, and foster the transition from relief to recovery in agricultural livelihood systems. The Conference recommended that member governments collaborate in these activities within the framework of the WFS Commitments and the FAO Strategic Framework and Medium Term Plan.
135. The Conference considered agenda item 15 on Leveraging Support for Disaster Management with Special Reference to Food and Nutrition Assistance and Women, based on Secretariat documents APDC/01/14/A and APDC/01/14/B (attached as Annexes XVIII and XIX).
136. The Conference discussed the impact of disasters on household food security and nutrition, and the incorporation of nutrition considerations in disaster management.
137. The Conference noted that disasters affect household food security and nutrition by their negative impact on people's access to food and health care. In a disaster situation, there is hunger, malnutrition, morbidity and mortality. These, together with the breakdown of the local economy, lead to disruptions in livelihood systems. It is therefore important that nutrition intervention be regarded as an integral component of disaster management programmes.
138. The Conference agreed that such interventions must be based on the damages caused by disasters to household food security and nutrition systems. Typically, there is displacement from homes, loss of productive assets, decline in labour capacity, destruction of agricultural infrastructure, reduction in food availability, disruption of health services and increased risks of diseases, food contamination, mental health problems and diminished care for children and other vulnerable groups among others. The result is malnutrition and deficiency disorders in many forms including protein-energy malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency, anemia, scurvy, pellegra, beriberi and others.
139. To address these problems, it is important to gain a good understanding of livelihood systems in the areas exposed to such risk. In this regard, the Conference agreed that special attention should be paid to identifying the key factors that influence the nutritional status of those affected in previous disasters, and the impact of emergency relief and rehabilitation programmes on them. It underscored the importance of interaction among major players such as the FAO, WFP and UNICEF.
140. The Conference was aware of the coping strategies adopted by households during emergencies. These include consumption of immature crops, "wild" foods, seed stocks and contaminated foods, emigration of adults in search of work, sending away of children and other survival measures. The Conference drew attention to the need for study, selection and promotion of appropriate coping mechanisms. They are derived from local culture and can contribute to the formulation of alternative strategies.
141. The Conference highlighted another much-neglected component of disaster management, namely, risk-aversion. In traditional farming systems, mixed farming, diversity of crops and farm animals, home vegetable gardening, multiple cropping and other subsistence-oriented practices provide some protection against natural hazards. They are more resilient in aberrant weather conditions and provide more diversified and balanced diets. With increasing commercialization in agriculture, mixed farming is replaced by cash cropping and mono cropping. This trend should be reversed. The Conference recommended that R&D in mixed farming systems for risk-minimization in disaster-prone areas be given high priority.
142. Following an examination of specific food security and nutrition enhancing activities at the household level, the Conference underscored the importance of food processing. Besides, preserving food for a rainy day, dried, smoked, fermented and canned fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, roots, tubers, etc. can raise household incomes, improve diets and provide work especially for women. The Conference urged more government technical and funding support for research and extension in food processing and preservation at the farm household level.
143. To strengthen disaster management through nutrition support, community-based organizations providing health care services should be reinforced. This would make possible continuous dissemination of information and counseling on food sources, nutrition guidance, employment opportunities, availability of food, health and welfare assistance, etc. The Conference called upon governments to give high priority to the decentralization of health care and other services.
144. The Conference recognized that emergency food assistance, and the provision of water, shelter and medical treatment are crucial in the immediate aftermath of disasters. Failure to deliver quickly, comprehensively and effectively is common among developing countries. The Conference recommended that governments set up or strengthen emergency relief systems including stand-by relief units, rules of procedure, physical facilities and transport infrastructure for pre-positioned food stocks and medical supplies, and local leadership contacts.
145. The Conference advocated the strengthening of Food-for-Work (FFW) programmes to help disaster victims secure access to food and assist their return to sustainable livelihoods. In this regard, it suggested a participatory approach, the adoption of a shelf of FFW projects ready for implementation, and focus on activities that are agriculturally productive. The Conference also noted the need for strengthening other disaster alleviating services such as public food distribution systems, health and education.
146. Nutrition information cannot be covered by one-time assessments in the immediate aftermath of disasters. In reality, nutrition information is most needed several months after the occurrence of disasters, as households try to cope either with or without success. Information is needed to alert areas suffering from malnutrition, vulnerable households that are affected and to plan for assistance. But such attention has moved elsewhere. The Conference recommended that governments set up food and nutrition surveillance systems in disaster-prone areas.
147. In addition to nutrition surveillance, the Conference highlighted the need for nutrition education among vulnerable peoples. Such training and extension would build awareness of the value of traditional foods, as well as their balanced and healthy consumption among vulnerable peoples. In this regard, the Conference learnt that FAO has initiated a food composition network to promote the development and adoption of balanced diets especially in developing countries.
148. The Conference discussed ways and means of improving disaster management through gender positive policy and programme interventions. It noted that gendered development processes, roles and social milieus following disasters differ in their impact on women and men, with women bearing the heavier burden. The Conference emphasized the need for a shift in approach and substance in disaster preparedness and management, so as to reflect the critical role of women in emergency situations.
149. The Conference stressed the importance of distinguishing sex and gender in considering ways and means of mainstreaming the role of women in disaster management.
150. After considering from a social viewpoint, the vulnerabilities and capacities of women and men in disasters, the Conference called for changes to redress imbalances. They include those that deny or limit women's access to capital, support services, facilities, movements and other rights that preclude or constrain them from assuming a more responsible and active role. This task requires changes in concepts and tools, institutions, legal systems, social values and attitudes, and support services and infrastructure.
151. The Conference agreed that conceptually, the socially accepted role of woman as a subordinate partner in disaster management should be challenged. It advocated mainstreaming gender through gender analysis and the use of gender statistics.
152. The Conference highlighted the importance of legal considerations in re-balancing the roles of women and men in disaster management. It called for action to incorporate gender perspectives into legal formulations and administrative directives in disaster management.
153. The Conference concurred on the need to change social values and attitudes regarding gendered constructions of masculinity and femininity. More androgynous personalities, reciprocity in gender relations, sharing of responsibilities and diffusion of roles would provide an improved cost-effective environment in disaster management.
154. The Conference realized that in many countries, purely technocratic paradigms of disaster management, emphasis on relief operations and top-down gender-blind approach that treated victims as passive subjects are the norm. An institutional shift towards vulnerability and capacity analysis, the participatory approach and gender planning and analysis to obtain the best out of the community are needed to leverage disaster management.
155. The Conference also recognized that an integral component of the package of measures to mainstream women in disaster management is to improve access to support services and facilities. In this regard, special consideration is needed for poor households, especially women-headed households. The Conference urged governments and NGOs to recognize and stress the role of women as prime movers in household disaster management in their delivery programmes and mechanisms. These should also include increased female participation and training of both men and women.
156. In making the conceptual, attitudinal, legal, institutional and servicing changes, the Conference stressed that all players including the government, NGOs, CSOs, religious bodies, business, and the general public must be aware of the crucial need for collective action.
157. The Conference was informed of the work currently undertaken by FAO in cooperation with WFP to prepare guidelines for mainstreaming gender in responding to disasters.
158. The Conference was briefed by H.E. Mr. It Nody, Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Cambodia; H.E. Mr. Sompal, Member of the Planning Commission, India; and H.E. Mr. D.M. Jayaratne, Minister of Agriculture, Sri Lanka. The briefings covered the situation and prospects of disaster early warning, prevention, preparedness and management in their respective countries.
159. The Conference noted the following priorities of the three countries:
160. The Conference urged FAO to assist disaster-prone countries in developing programmes and projects in disaster early warning, prevention, preparedness and agricultural relief and rehabilitation after this Conference. As a start, it requested FAO to document and disseminate country experiences in disaster management, highlighting successes and failures.