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Annex XI



This paper provides an overview of storm-related disasters in the Asia and Pacific Region, introduces key concepts pertaining to agricultural vulnerability reduction, and explores how to strengthen disaster mitigation strategies using a farming systems approach. In particular, the paper addresses the following key questions: a) what are the major determinants of agricultural vulnerability to storm-related disasters in Asia and the Pacific? b) how can farming and livelihood systems approaches contribute to agricultural vulnerability reduction? c) what are the requisite steps for a strategic approach to reducing agricultural vulnerability? It is underscored that FAO's experience with agricultural vulnerability reduction in Asia and the Pacific points to the need to link national mitigation planning with awareness-raising, capacity-building and mitigation planning at community level. The paper then reviews how agricultural vulnerability to storms can be reduced using a farming systems approach and proposes agriculture-specific mitigation strategies at global, regional, national, sub-national, farming systems, farm/household, and crop/livestock levels.

1. Introduction

1. During the 1990s, the incidence of storm-related disasters increased in frequency and intensity. Windstorm and flood-related disasters1 combined accounted for 60 per cent of the total economic loss caused by natural disasters, according to the 2000 World Disaster Report of the International Federation of the Red Cross.2 Despite increased flood awareness and cyclone warning measures, the last 10 years have seen a 300 per cent rise in the number of individuals affected by floods and storms.

2. Storm-related disasters can severely undermine rural livelihoods. Apart from their immediate effects - death, injury, hunger and starvation - windstorms can wipe out the results of many years of infrastructure development through the destruction of roads, bridges, irrigation schemes and buildings, and seriously set back socio-economic progress. Islands are particularly vulnerable: a single storm may be sufficient to destroy an island's infrastructure and cripple its economy.3 Storm-related disasters pose a great challenge to the global objective of reducing poverty and hunger in developing countries.

3. As far as agricultural impact is concerned, tropical storms can destroy standing crops and food stores, kill or injure livestock, damage homes and deplete the asset base of rural families. Fishing communities suffer from storms through loss of life at sea, wrecked boats and damage to landing sites and equipment. Storm effects, such as increased soil salinity after a storm surge or land slides following flash floods may affect land quality and future land productivity.

4. Many Asian and Pacific countries, and particularly those with low-lying coastal areas and high population density, are especially vulnerable to storm-related disasters. Most of the tropical cyclones with the highest recorded mortality have occurred in Bangladesh (300,000 deaths in 1970; 11,000 deaths in 1985; 140,000 deaths in 1991) and India (20,000 deaths in 1977 and 10,000 deaths in 1999).4 Given the severe disruption stemming from natural disasters, many countries have formulated National Disaster Management Plans, covering various types of disasters, sectors and agencies. Within the framework of these plans, there is an urgent need to develop agriculture sector-specific as well as storm hazard-specific mitigation strategies.

5. Recognising the serious negative impact of natural disasters on food security, the 25th FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific urged member states to make disaster prevention and mitigation an integral component of sustainable agriculture and rural development. It also recommended that FAO intensify technical assistance in disaster management to the most affected countries.5 In response to individual country requests as well as to regional conference recommendations, FAO has been assisting affected countries through the various disaster management phases on an ad hoc basis.

6. FAO's Medium Term Plan (2002-2007) has introduced "Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Preparedness and Post-Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation" as a Priority Area for Inter-disciplinary Action (PAIA). As a contribution to this PAIA, a paper on "Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storm-related Disasters" was recently included as an agenda item of the 16th FAO Committee on Agriculture (COAG). The Committee unanimously endorsed a strategic framework for reducing agricultural vulnerability to storm-related disasters.

7. As part of these efforts, this paper provides an overview of storm-related disasters in the Asia and Pacific Region, introduces key concepts pertaining to agricultural vulnerability reduction, and explores how to strengthen disaster mitigation strategies using a farming systems approach. In particular, the paper addresses the following key questions:

2. Agricultural Vulnerability to Storm-Related Disasters in the Asia and Pacific Region

2.1 Risk, Hazard and Vulnerability

8. An in-depth understanding of the concepts of hazard and vulnerability is a prerequisite for designing strategies for reducing agricultural vulnerability to storm-related disasters. The term hazard refers to an extreme natural event, such as a windstorm. A hazard may or may not result in disasters, depending on the characteristics of the system that receives its impact.

9. Vulnerability refers to the propensity of a society to experience substantial damage, disruption and casualties as a result of a hazard. For example, a hurricane only turns into a disaster if it strikes an area with a vulnerable population and decimates its livelihood assets. Although natural disasters are triggered by the occurrence of hazardous events, human activities are often a major contributing factor in creating a disaster. Disaster risk is thus a product of the frequency and intensity of hazards and the vulnerability of a population and its livelihood systems, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1.
Components of Storm-related disasters

2.2 The Nature of Storms

Box 1
Phases of Tropical Cyclones

Tropical disturbance: a weather system which gives rise to a specific area of cloudiness with embedded showers and thunderstorms.
Tropical depression: definite counter-clockwise wind circulation with maximum sustained winds of less than 63 km/h.
Tropical storm: a tropical cyclone system, with maximum sustained surface winds greater than 63 km/h, but less than 119 km/h.
Hurricane: a tropical cyclone with wind speed greater than 119 km/h.

Source: FAO (2000): COAG 01/6, SDRN contribution.

10. "Storm" is a generic term used to describe a large variety of atmospheric disturbances ranging from ordinary rain showers and snowstorms to thunderstorms, wind and wind-related disturbances such as gales, tornadoes, tropical cyclones and sandstorms.6 This paper focuses on `tropical cyclones', which are defined as weather disturbances of tropical oceanic origin in which winds exceed 63 km/h, according to the World Meteorological Organization. When wind speed exceeds 119 km/h, the storm reaches hurricane strength (see Box 1). Tropical storms with very strong winds have different names depending on where they occur. In the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, they are known as hurricanes, in the Western Pacific (including the Philippines), as typhoons, in areas near Australia as Willy Willy and in the Indian Ocean as cyclones.

11. The most destructive force of tropical cyclones comes from the fierce winds. But these cause only part of the problem. Devastating floods from extremely heavy rainfall often accompany tropical cyclones. Flash floods of great volume and short duration may occur from a cyclone's rain, especially in hilly or mountainous areas. In many major tropical cyclone disasters, storm surge is frequently a key factor. As the cyclone approaches the coastal area, strong on-shore winds can cause a rise of several meters in sea level; the result is water crossing the coast and flooding large areas of the interior.

12. Cyclones are borne in the hot, humid, late summer environment of the tropics (November to April in the South Pacific; June to August in the Caribbean). Tropical cyclones form in the oceans between 5 to 30 degrees north and south of the equator and tropical storm tracks are shown in Figure 2. The life span of a tropical cyclone is, on average, about six to nine days until it enters land or enters into temperate latitudes, but this may vary from a few hours to as much as three to four weeks. It is important to note that no two tropical cyclones follow the same track. Some recurve, some do not; some loop; some slow to a standstill and some accelerate. The development and tracks of cyclones can be monitored before these dissipate over the ocean or approach land. Therefore, it is possible to warn people living in coastal areas of the risk that a cyclone may occur.7

Figure 2.
Tropical Storm Tracks

Source: Whitton, Disasters: The Anatomy of Environmental Hazards
Cited in: University of Wisconsin, About Natural Hazards: Causes and Effects.

13. Human action may play a role in increasing the intensity and frequency of storms. It has been widely argued that climatic change is likely to lead to an increase in hydro-meteorological hazards world-wide.8 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), however, has concluded that there is no clear evidence that sustained or worldwide changes in the frequency of such events have taken place in recent decades.9 Changes in global cyclone frequency may be small in comparison to their natural variability.10 However, despite uncertainty about the specific and local effects of climate change, climatologists anticipate regional increases in the frequency of heavy precipitation events, leading to increased flooding.11

2.3 Storm Impact and Vulnerability in Asia and the Pacific

14. During the 1990s, Asia experienced 332, that is 40 per cent, of 821 windstorms reported globally, according to the World Disaster Report of the International Federation of the Red Cross.12 However, 80 per cent (185 million) of the number of people affected by windstorms globally during this period (232 million) were living in Asia. Further, the number of people killed in Asia is estimated at 185,000 or 91 per cent of the global total of 201,790. These figures illustrate the comparatively high vulnerability of Asia to storms.

15. Figure 3 shows the distribution of natural disasters in Asia by type of phenomena over the last quarter century. Red indicates the number of windstorm-related disasters and blue indicates the number of floods. The relative importance of each type of disaster can be deducted from the share in the pie chart, in conjunction with the overall size of the circle. In countries such as Bangladesh, India, the Philippines and China, windstorms and related floods pose the biggest threat of all natural disasters.

Figure 3.
Distribution of natural disasters, by country and type of phenomena, in Asia (1975-1999)

EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database
(; email: [email protected])

16. The occurrence of storm-related disasters has been described, to some extent, as an "accident" of geography, as some areas, and in particular developing countries, are more prone to storms that others.13 Countries most vulnerable to storm surges are those that experience the more severe tropical cyclones and have low-lying land along the closed and/or semi-enclosed bays facing the ocean. In the Asia and Pacific region, such countries include Bangladesh, China, India, Japan and Australia.

Figure 4.
Cyclones in Bangladesh

Source Ericksen et. al. 1993, cited in hz.htm#Cyclones

17. The case of Bangladesh illustrates how geographic location and characteristics are important factors of storm impact. Severe cyclone and tidal surges are common in the country's 710 km long coastal belt and cause severe damage to life and property. Bangladesh is also the most flood-prone country in the world. In April 1991, flooding due to tidal surges caused by cyclones in the Bay of Bengal resulted in the death of 140,000 people and damaged several thousand hectares of crop and property. Figure 4 shows areas of Bangladesh exposed to storm surge and affected by cyclones. The impact of the 1991 cyclone covered an area similar to that shown as "occasionally affected" on the map in Figure 2. In August-September 1998, three major floods occurred in Bangladesh resulting in th death of 3,000 people and the loss of 10 per cent of rice production. Heavy floods also hit the country in August-September 2000.

18. The effect of cyclones is a function not only of physical characteristics such as strength, location, and timing, but equally of people's vulnerability. The Bangladesh experience illustrates how socio-economic factors determine storm impact. With increasing population pressure and economic marginalisation, rural poor people are increasingly living in cyclone prone areas and may not be reached with warning messages early enough to be evacuated.14

19. The concept of vulnerability can be applied across various levels. As far as the national level is concerned, storm-related disasters tend to be more severe in those countries which do not have the wealth, infrastructure and institutional capacity to protect their people against tropical storms. They may face resource constraints to investing in mitigation and preparedness measures, such as scientific forecasting, safer buildings, land use regulation, emergency management systems and/or insurance cover.

20. According to FAO's Global Information and Early Warning Service (GIEWS), there has been a noticeable increase in the occurrence of typhoons and floods in the last five years. The damage in 2000 has been particularly widespread. A brief summary of examples of recent major storm-related disasters and their impact at national level can be found in Box 2.

Box 2
Examples of Recent Major Storm-related Disasters

In Korea DPR in 1996, widespread floods resulted in the loss of 300,000 tonnes of rice and maize. Cereal losses were equivalent to 8 per cent of average annual production. Overall, flood damage compounded by structural problems in the agriculture sector resulted in a deficit for 1996/1997 estimated at 1.83 million tonnes.

In Bangladesh in 1998, three major floods resulted in 50 per cent of the country going under water for periods of up to 67 days, at depths of up to three metres. Some 3,000 people died. Rice loss was put at one million hectares or 2.2 million tonnes, equivalent to about 10 per cent of average annual production. The overall rice deficit was put at 3.6 million tonnes.

In Cambodia in 2000, the worst flooding in 70 years resulted in about 270,000 hectares of rice being damaged or destroyed. A state of emergency was declared in several provinces. The area damaged was equivalent to 13 per cent of the total area planted to rice.

In China in 1998, extensive flooding in the central, south-eastern and north-eastern parts of the country resulted in 22 million hectares being affected, of which 4.8 million hectares were lost. The overall grain stock situation in country remained satisfactory due to bumper harvests in preceding years. However, emergency food aid to 5.8 million people was delivered over a period of four months.

In India in 1999, the worst cyclone in almost 30 years along the North Eastern state of Orissa, coupled with a second cyclone, killed 9,465 people and injured 2,260. Some 1,225,000 hectares of cropland were destroyed, 90-100 per cent of crop loss occurred in affected areas, and at least 355,000 cattle were killed. About 15 million persons were affected and 3 million homes were damaged (1.5 million of which were completely destroyed). Thousands of families lost their livelihoods as a result of the loss of livestock, agricultural land, and fishing boats.

In Laos in 1996, a series of typhoons caused widespread flooding in major rice producing areas in the lowlands of Central and Southern region. Six provinces were significantly affected, accounting for nearly 94 per cent of losses in rice. Total loss in rice was estimated at some 76,000 hectares of paddy, equivalent to some 12 per cent of the annual average plantings. A rice deficit of 154,000 tonnes necessitated food aid.

In the Philippines, an average of 20 tropical cyclones pass through each year. No other country experiences as large a number of tropical cyclone passages. In November 1991, typhoon Thelma caused the death of about 6,000 people.

In Vietnam in 1997, typhoon Linda caused 4,000 deaths.

Source: FAO Global Information and Early Warning System for Food and Agriculture (GIEWS/ESCG).

21. At community/household level, it is the poor segments of society which suffer most from storm and flood-related disasters, since economic pressures generally force them to live in dangerous areas, such as flood plains and unstable hillsides. In addition, once the disasters take place, they have no financial or other means to protect themselves against the impact of the disasters and recover quickly. This is illustrated in an example from India in Box 3.

Box 3
Socio-economic Determinants of Vulnerability to Storm-related Disasters: The Differential Impact of Cyclones in the State of Andra Pradesh, India

A case study on the relative impact of a cyclone on a wealthy and a poor household situated 100 meters apart near the coast of Andra Pradesh in southern India showed that the impact was more severe on the poor household. The wealthy household had a brick house, six cattle, more than a hectare of land, and owned a small grain business and a truck. The poor household had a thatch and a pole house, an ox and a calf, and less than half a hectare of poor land. When the cyclone occurred, the wealthy householder had received a radio warning and left the area with his family and valuables in the truck. The storm surge partly destroyed his house and the roof was blown away by the wind. Three of his cattle drowned, his fields were flooded and his crops destroyed. The poor household lost the youngest child who drowned in the flood. The house was destroyed, both the animals drowned, the field was flooded and the crops were ruined. The wealthy household used its savings to rebuild the house within a week. The cattle was replaced and fields were ploughed and replanted. The poor household had no savings and had to borrow from a local money lender at exorbitant rates of interest. The household managed to buy a calf but could only plough the field late because of the problem it faced in hiring bullocks which were in short supply. The poor household had to go through a hungry period of eight months after the cyclone.

Source: Natural Disasters and the Third World. The UK National Co-ordination Committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, Oxford Centre for Disaster Studies, page 4, cited in FAO (2000): Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storm-related Disasters, COAG 01/6.

22. It is important to note that vulnerability is likely to change over time. High population density, economic pressures and inequity in land-tenure systems may force people to live in risk-prone areas that wee formerly not populated. The expansion of agriculture and settlements into risk-prone areas is one factor that can increase vulnerability. FAO studies from Asia indicate that some countries have reached a limit in terms of available agricultural land, a fact which completely modified the vulnerability profiles.15

23. In summary, storm-related disasters need to be analysed in the context of the probability, frequency and intensity of storm hazards occurring as well as a system's vulnerability, i.e. its propensity to experience substantial impact. Hazard risk mapping is an entry point for a more comprehensive vulnerability analysis, addressing agro-ecological, economic, social and political factors of vulnerability. Vulnerability reduction requires aspects of preparedness, such as early warning systems and contingency plans as well as measures that increase resilience of existing systems.

3. FAO's Approach to Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storm-Related Disasters

3.1. A Strategy for Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability

24. Due to a growing international recognition that greater attention needs to be paid on preventing disasters and mitigating their effects, FAO revised the Terms of Reference of its Emergency Co-ordination Group (ECG) in 1999. The major task of the ECG is now to "ensure coherent preventive action and systematic response from all the concerned units within FAO, through enhanced collaboration at all stages in the emergency, entailing both normative elements (establishing clear and practical guidelines and procedures) and operational elements (ensuring high levels of synergy between field operations at each stage)".116

25. Pro-active prevention has been defined as those development activities that address the underlying causes of natural disasters and human-made emergencies, according to the ECG ad hoc working group on prevention and preparedness.17 This includes support activities ranging from sound watershed management to community development, and from construction of flood control dams to nutrition education. Disaster prevention and mitigation need to be an essential component of agricultural development work in disaster prone areas and need to be systematically integrated into field projects and normative work through a concerted effort among FAO and its partners in member countries.

26. The Priority Area for Inter-disciplinary Action (PAIA) on "Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Preparedness and Post-Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation", which was established in FAO's MTP 2002-2007, follows up on earlier efforts by the ad hoc working group on prevention and preparedness with a new, integrated approach to natural disaster mitigation. The PAIA was established to give due attention to co-operation across departments, concerned technical units and associated regional teams. It is a response to an increasing demand from donors and countries to work on prevention and preparedness of disasters.

27. The COAG paper on "Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storm-related Disasters" 18 mentioned in Section 1 proposes that each vulnerable country or region needs a strategy which: a) integrates long-term measures for reducing agricultural vulnerability to storm-related disasters within the overall development programme of the storm and flood-prone areas, and within the country as a whole, b) strengthens early warning and storm forecasting systems; and c) provides for preparedness plans for relief and rehabilitation in the event of disasters, linked, where possible, to long-term programmes through a relief/development continuum approach. The following strategy objectives are proposed:

  1. avoiding or minimising the risk of death, injury and suffering from lack of shelter and shortage of food;
  2. avoiding the risk of poor households getting poorer through the loss of property and sources of livelihood;
  3. avoiding or minimising the need for large-scale relief and rehabilitation expenditures;
  4. avoiding or minimising the risk of disruption of the development process through diversion of resources to relief and rehabilitation;
  5. ensuring a sustainable development process with effective poverty eradication programmes to reduce vulnerability of communities to storm disasters.

28. FAO's approach to disaster management is embedded in the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), entitled "A Safer World in the 21st Century: Risk and Disaster Reduction" 19. The main objectives of the ISDR disaster reduction strategy are to:

29. The following points should be borne in mind concerning the overall strategy for reducing agricultural vulnerability to storm-disasters:

3.2 FAO's Experience with Agricultural Vulnerability Reduction

30. FAO has been engaged in agricultural vulnerability reduction as part of its development programme for many years. A wide range of guidelines exists on preparedness for food emergencies, covering the establishment of early warning and food security information systems, management of food security reserves and targeting and distribution policies and procedures for food aid. Guidelines on agricultural preparedness procedures for use in droughts, floods, hurricanes, cyclones, as well as water-logging of soils have also been prepared or are under preparation. An expert consultation has been held on seed security, and proposals have been made for a programme of activities in this area.22

31. A number of recent or on-going field projects address different aspects of vulnerability reduction. Below are some examples of field projects from different regions focusing on preparedness planning and vulnerability reduction:

32. Eastern Caribbean, TCP/RLA/6616: Hurricane Action Plan for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sectors in the Eastern Caribbean (September 1997 to October 1999): The main objective of this project was to assist the eastern Caribbean states of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago in developing details of national and regional hurricane disaster preparedness and impact mitigation strategies for the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sub-sectors. The Action Plan developed under the project assists officials and decision-makers of the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors to establish and co-ordinate sector-specific preparedness and mitigation activities. It is based on the presumption that sound sector planning needs to be pro-active in mobilising and integrating resources, government and non-government, to reduce potential hurricane-related impacts and losses. The project also examined the role of "Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Enhancement for Hurricane Preparedness and Impact Mitigation in the Agriculture Sector".

33. Fiji, OSRO/FIJ/901/FIN: Strengthening National Capacity for Emergency Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation in Agriculture (started June 1999; ongoing): The purpose of this project is to reduce the vulnerability of rural communities to hazards through training and awareness raising that focuses on better preparedness measures, improved food security and self-reliance. The project aims at strengthening the existing disaster management structures by:

34. Lessons learned from Fiji point to the need to extend disaster planning from national to community level. While a system for national disaster management is more or less in place, a recent FAO backstopping report highlights that, despite those plans, discussions with agricultural extension officers, farmers and welfare workers revealed a lack of knowledge among villagers on the following aspects:

  1. long-term measures to mitigate the impact of a disaster;
  2. action needed when an alert of an impending hazard is given; and
  3. how to act within the framework of individual and collective self-reliance in the village.23

35. The project builds up information resources for each specific area and link these to a national data structure for response planning and mitigation plans. The emphasis is on developing training materials to reinforce community coping capacity in agriculture to minimise the impact of natural disasters.

36. In particular the project aims to prepare the following Fiji-specific training materials:

Box 4
Example of Components for a Long-term Cyclone Mitigation Plan in Fiji

  • Vulnerability, risk and impact assessments in fisheries and agriculture, emphasising strengths and weaknesses of existing production systems.
  • Storm-resistant agricultural crops and practices, including the introduction of new crops, windbreaks and land protection measures.
  • Storm-resistant measures in the fisheries sector, such as stronger buildings and facilities, the installation of storm warning systems, supply of life-saving appliances, boat improvement, and more effective search and rescue capability.
  • Community actions, including food relief activities, tasks to be undertaken and procedures to enter into force in the event of storms and cyclones.
  • Source: List of Training Materials to be prepared under TCP/Fij/901/Fin, BTOR T.C. Ti, Senior Food Systems Economist, FAO RAP, March 2000.

37. India, TCP/IND/6712: Training in Sea Safety Development Programmes to Reduce the Loss of Life Amongst Fisherfolk During Cyclones (May 1997 to April 1999): FAO's fisheries department has considerable experience with community level contingency planning in India. In the framework of TCP/IND/6712, training in sea safety development to reduce the loss of life amongst fisherfolk during cyclones was carried out. The project had facilitated the development of community contingency plans in 30 villages covering pre-, during- and post-cyclone phases. The development and operation of these plans by the community created a strong sense of ownership and was central to their sustainability. The importance of this work being tied in to development work in the villages was stressed. The project had tried from the outset to obtain at least 50 per cent participation of women both amongst the 20 extension officers recruited and trained as well as amongst the 750 volunteers of the 30 Storm Safety Action Groups (SSAGs) in the pilot villages. While this was not achieved, the extension officer teams (they worked in pairs), which included women, showed a clear advantage in encouraging the active participation of women in the village groups and gender issues in the plans. The poor level of literacy and education in the fishing communities combined with the style and terminology of the cyclone warnings was seen as a key factor in the lack of preparedness amongst such communities. Specific and significant improvements in these two areas coupled with the development of sound Storm Safety Action Groups reaped significant reductions in vulnerability.

Key lessons learned from the project include the following:

38. In summary, FAO's experience highlights the need to link national mitigation planning with awareness-raising, capacity-building and mitigation planning at community level.

4. Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storms Using a Farming Systems Approach

4.1 Farming Systems and Risk Reduction Strategies at the Farm/household Level

39. For the purpose of this paper, farming systems are defined as categories of farms that have broadly similar resource patterns, enterprise patterns, household livelihoods and constraints, for which similar strategies for agricultural vulnerability reduction are appropriate. The farming systems approach considers agricultural production activities at the farm level, but places increased emphasis also on farm level activities not directly related to agricultural production, on community functions, support services and environmental factors.25

40. Farming systems-specific vulnerability maps, drawn by overlaying regional, national or local farming systems maps with hazard risk maps, could serve as an entry point to developing agriculture and storm-disaster specific disaster mitigation strategies. Vulnerability maps need to take into account a range of factors influencing system vulnerability to external shocks, such as variability of agricultural yields and prices, input supply, human labour availability, and the level and character of agricultural technologies in place.26

41. An important characteristic of a farming system is the degree of crop/livestock integration. In many parts of the world, livestock serves as an insurance mechanism to crop failure. Thus, it is important to determine how this traditional safety mechanism functions when rapid onset disasters, such as windstorms, strike and how traditional coping mechanisms are affected by crop-biased relief measures, such as cereal distribution for food and seed.

42. A farming systems-based development of mitigation strategies requires a diagnostic framework, which includes livelihood analysis as well as in-depth vulnerability and risk assessment (see Section 2). Production-based approaches to mitigation need to be broadened to encompass agricultural systems- and client-oriented approaches which take into account how men and women obtain their livelihoods. Vulnerability reduction strategies require policies and programmes that address the human factor of production, as well as the livelihood systems and assets of the producers, inclusive of their vulnerability to storms and other natural disasters. Gender-differentiated coping strategies also need to be considered in mitigation planning (see Box 5).

Box 5
Gender-Differentiated Local Coping Strategies: Bangladesh

Trees play a vital role in the coping strategies of the rural poor. While there is always the risk that a tree itself will be knocked down, a grove of trees near the home both acts as a wind barrier and provides something sturdy with which people can tie themselves to during a storm. This is particularly important for women in view of the norm in Bangladesh that women stay at home (to protect family assets from damage and/or thieves) as long as possible during the approach of a storm. As such they may have to rely on nearby trees for emergency protection. Women also tend to stay in the home due to the purdah, whereby a woman is discouraged from moving freely in public, and thus going to a cyclone shelter unaccompanied by her husband.

Source: Nick Haan (1999): The Role of WFP in Mitigating Natural Disasters, A Case Study of Constraints and Opportunities in Bangladesh, p. 10.

43.FAO (1992) differentiates between two basic approaches to strategies aimed at reducing weather-related risk in agriculture: a) maximising profit; and b) stabilising production (see Box 6).27 According to Gommes (1998), risk reduction strategies can be defined based on the degree of subsistence- or market-orientation of a farm household (see Table 1)28, and depend on the level of development, comparative advantages defined by agricultural policy, as well as the type and probability of disaster.29

Box 6
Agricultural Strategies to Reduce Weather-related Risk

Strategy A
Maximising profit combined with protection against risk: This option is characterised by high infrastructure cost to contain climate risk for the construction of embankments, polders, dams, advanced storage and processing systems, disaster warning and monitoring systems, insurance against weather-related risk, etc.

Strategy B
Stabilising production through time-tested methods, such as crop diversification, mixed cropping, choice of crops (e.g. root versus cereal crops, off-season crops, short-cycled varieties).

Source: FAO (1992): The Role of Agro-meteorology in the Alleviation of Natural Disasters.

44. Gommes' analysis of risk reduction strategies in Table 1 does not differentiate by gender. However, given the diverse roles of men and women in food and cash crop production, gender aspects are likely to be a critical factor in the choice of risk reduction strategies, and should therefore be integrated in future work on this topic.

45. There are likely to be many gradients between `maximising profit' and `stabilising production' strategies as presented in Table 1. In its initial stages, the commercialisation of agriculture may limit the diversity of farming systems and may thus lead to increased vulnerability, until structural and non-structural measures are established to substitute for the built-in resilience of traditional cropping systems.

Table 1.
Risk Reduction Strategies in Subsistence and Market-oriented
Agricultural Production Systems


Subsistence-Oriented Farmer

Market-oriented Farmer


Stabilise production

Maximise income

Maximum loss

Life and out-migration

Debt and cessation of activity

Source of risk


Weather, markets and policies

Non-structural risk avoidance mechanisms

Virtually non-existent

Insurance, credit, legislation


Very low, with little and slow evolving technology component

Very significant; fast evolving (varieties, mechanisation, pesticides etc.)

Assets base



Price of food crops

Local: depends mostly on local markets and production. Very steep spatial gradients of prices can be observed in the same country; prices are often government controlled.

Global: they depend on national and international markets and production, and on government policies

Price of industrial crops

Global to some extent, but government agencies or other buyers are often in a position to pay farmers less than the actual values of their crops

As above, but with much less interference of policies

Role of cattle

Banking system, i.e. cash reserve, source of animal products for direct consumption, but mostly from small cattle and poultry

Cash production

Source: Adapted from Gommes, René (1998): Climate-related Risk in Agriculture. A Note Prepared for the IPCC Expert Meeting on Risk Management Methods, Toronto, AES, Environment, p. 11.

46. An example from the Pacific Islands illustrates how agricultural production systems can change as a result of macro-economic incentives, and considerably alter the patterns of vulnerability to storm-related disasters. When in 1998 kava30 prices reached unprecedented heights throughout the Pacific, the four kava exporting countries Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa all experienced huge increases in the value of kava exports.

47. Traditionally, kava was planted as part of a multi-crop food garden (see Box 7) at 600 to 1,000 plants per ha to minimise the dangers of disease and wind damage - the two greatest risks to this crop. In Vanuatu, which is currently the main kava producing area, young farmers are now planting kava, at a very high density (10,000 plants per ha), which will be harvested over a period of 5 years. At prevailing prices, these production methods generate high returns to both land and labour. However, there are also drawbacks. Wage labour has to be hired and household labour needs to be diverted from self-sufficiency. Given the high frequency of cyclones in Vanuatu and Fiji, there is a reasonable probability that one will affect an intensive kava plantation once in a five-year production cycle. The most damaging times would be years 3 and 4, when half of the crop remains to be harvested and the crops are sufficiently large to be completely lost to a severe cyclone. If torrential rain accompanies the cyclone, the long-term loss from soil erosion could be even greater. The sustainability of this intensive kava production system thus remains to be seen.31

Box 7
The Resilience of Traditional Agricultural
Production Systems in the Pacific Islands

Most Pacific island countries retain strong traditional agricultural production systems. Traditional disaster mitigation has been based on multi-crop food gardens protected by forest. Gardens are planted to a variety of crops, often inter-planted as single plants or with patches of one crop. The soft yams are planted first and take pride of place where the garden offers the best conditions for their cultivation. Other crops follow: sugar cane, island cabbage, naviso, pineapple, pawpaw, water melon, tomato, chinese cabbage, sweet potato, manioc, bananas, taro, and kava. A single garden will generally contain many varieties of yam or taro and several other crops.

The resilience of Pacific island smallholder agriculture hinges on this integrated system - the system being stronger than the sum of its components. The systems are adjusted for resource endowments, seasonal factors, and occasional disasters caused by cyclones, drought and volcanic eruptions. This remains the basis of disaster mitigation strategies throughout the region.

Source: Adjusted from: McGregor, Andrew (1999): Linking Market Development to Farming Systems in the Pacific Islands. FAO-SAPA Publication 1999/2.

48. Agricultural officers frequently hold a vision of an export-oriented, commercialised agricultural system modelled on those of industrialised countries rather than favouring diverse gardens as described in Box 732. The economic value of traditional food production systems tends to be unrecognised by agricultural and national planners and is usually under-estimated in national accounts.33 And yet any alteration to an agricultural system can reduce or enhance vulnerability to storm disasters.

49. When introducing improved agricultural practices, trade-offs between yield and susceptibility to natural hazards have to be borne in mind and need to feature in cost-benefit analyses. High yielding varieties, which may do well in a stable environment may be more susceptible to the risks of natural hazards.34 However, they may allow for changes in cropping patterns so that critical stages in crop development no longer coincide with periods of elevated cyclone risk. Policy makers need to be aware of how macro-economic conditions influence decisions at farm-household level that affect the resilience of agricultural systems. The interrelationships between ecological and economic factors also need to be reflected in land use planning.

50. There are ample participatory methodologies and tools for land resource planning and management that have been developed and adapted at country level. These provide opportunities for working with planning bodies to improve their capacities to take appropriate actions (from warning to response) to reduce agricultural vulnerability to storms.35 Designing short- and long-term strategies to natural disaster mitigation is one of the critical issues that can be addressed following the principles put forth by the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). The CSD highlights the importance of addressing land planning and management through a holistic approach, such as ecosystem management.36

4.2 Micro-Macro Linkages in Agricultural Vulnerability Reduction Strategies

51. The case of kava in the Pacific Islands presented in Section 4.1 above illustrates the need to create strong micro-macro linkages when designing agricultural and disaster mitigation policies. Similarly, the lessons learned from FAO field projects (Section 3) point to the need to complement the preparation of national disaster mitigation plans with community plans and awareness-raising activities. Micro-macro linkages are particularly important for the agriculture-specific components of disaster mitigation plans. Farming systems analysis is a suitable approach with which to draw upon such linkages.

52. Farming systems are embedded in a hierarchy of interdependent levels, ranging from international systems to crop/livestock systems, as indicated in Table 2. Following a farming systems approach, agriculture-specific mitigation strategies can be attributed to different levels used in farming systems analysis. This illustrates that for agricultural vulnerability reduction to be effective, action should be specified for each level of the system. Measures implemented at higher levels (e.g. policy level) need to be consistent with the action and desired outcomes at lower levels (e.g. farm-household level) of the system. Examples of measures to be taken at different levels are provided in Table 2.

Table 2.
Farming Systems and Resilience to Storm-Related Disasters

Systems Hierarchy

Examples of Action Areas for Storm Mitigation

Global Level

  • address climate change;
  • cyclone early warning.

Regional Level

  • hazard risk mapping and farming systems vulnerability mapping;
  • regional watershed management;
  • regional mitigation policies;
  • networks for exchange of lessons and best practices.

National Level

  • effective networking among relevant government units and NGOs with regard to mitigation planning;
  • integration of disaster mitigation in agricultural policies;
  • addressing policy constraints to mitigation (land tenure, gender issues);
  • identification of vulnerable areas, communities, households;
  • specification of building codes and standards;
  • mitigation awareness creation.

Sub-national Level

  • decentralised watershed management;
  • participatory land use planning;
  • risk and vulnerability analysis;
  • mitigation planning and capacity building.

Farming Systems Level

  • systematise traditional knowledge on farming practices;
  • identify and analyse farmer innovation;
  • define agricultural research and extension strategies.

Farm/Household Level

  • diversify livelihood sources;
  • diversify agricultural production with a view to increase resilience;
  • improve construction and create storm shelters;
  • improved storage, preservation and processing of crops and food, particularly before the cyclone season.

Crop/Livestock System Level

  • apply appropriate land preparation methods;
  • select storm resistant crops and varieties.

53. There is a need to further develop the framework provided in Table 2. This could be undertaken in the context of projects aimed at developing agriculture-specific mitigation-strategies. The framework is also suitable as a tool for creating awareness among policy-makers on the importance of micro-macro linkages in disaster mitigation and could be used in workshops that involve both farmers and policy-makers from local and national levels.

54. As indicated in Table 2, vulnerability reduction measures include agricultural diversification, use of hazard-resistant agricultural practices (soil conservation, wind breaks, cropping systems), siting of highly vulnerable agricultural infrastructure in low-risk zones, and the design and construction of hazard-resistant and protective structures/infrastructure. In the fisheries sector, storm-resistant measures can include stronger buildings and facilities, supply of life-saving devices and boat improvement. Protective measures in forestry can include windbreaks, tree selection, etc. Insurance schemes for crops, livestock, fisheries or forests can also be classified as vulnerability reduction measures.37

55. The above examples can be expanded to a whole range of agricultural, forestry and fisheries practices which increase the resilience of farming, forestry and fisheries systems and reduce susceptibility to storm damage, if applied in the appropriate context. Some further examples for mitigation through the introduction of changes in agricultural systems include:

At crop/livestock system level:

At farm/household level:

At community level:

56. Crop diversification plays a key role in increasing the resilience of agricultural systems. However, crop diversification, as well as other practical measures listed above require a suitable policy framework to strengthen the resilience of agricultural systems. Therefore the consistency and compatibility of measures taken at various level is of critical importance for effective disaster mitigation in agriculture.

57. The information required for farming systems-based mitigation plans is highly complex and location-specific and, in addition to information on livelihood strategies, includes environmental information, such as factors determining the length of the growing season (climate, land and soil types, hydrology) as well as modifications to these factors (irrigation, drainage terracing). Equally important is land use formation, such as existing vegetation and cropping patterns, agricultural management practices, inputs available, and market information. This can provide a basis for suitability assessments of crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry practices. An example of detailed land, soil and crop specific precautionary and rehabilitation measures in case of flood or cyclones in Bangladesh can be found in Brammer's analysis of agricultural disaster management in Bangladesh.39

58. The lack of specific environmental and land use information may be one important constraint for governments in formulating agriculture-specific mitigation plans.40 However, while government officials at national level may not be aware of location-specific land use information, farmers living in a particular area of local council members may well be aware. What is therefore needed is to systematise farmers' traditional knowledge and the inclusion of farmers and community members in the preparation of local mitigation and preparedness plans.

59. FAO, UNEP and other institutions are collaborating in collecting information and developing specific databases, guidelines, maps, indicators, information systems and other tools and networks (e.g. agro-ecological zoning (AEZ), digital soil maps, etc.) to support national, regional and international planning and management of land resources. Considerable progress has been made in developing databases and information systems (including GIS) on land resources and use. However, efforts are still needed for land use analysis at national levels to collect existing knowledge and local, national and international experiences in a more systematic and detailed manner.41

60. National Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS) may be able to provide an umbrella for the systematic integration of agro-ecological and socio-economic information required for disaster prevention and mitigation. The FIVIMS initiative draws on existing information systems, such as crop forecasting and early warning systems, household food security and nutritional information systems, and vulnerability assessment and mapping systems. Farming systems vulnerability mapping, i.e. blending agro-ecological information, socio-economic information with storm hazard risks may well have a place in national and sub-national FIVIMS efforts. A separate agenda item will deal with related issues more in-depth.42

61. In summary, many agricultural development projects and programmes in risk-prone environments must be designed in such a way as to help reduce farmer vulnerability to losses from cyclones, floods, and other natural hazards. In fact, in natural hazard mitigation, the vast majority of disaster management activities is related to development programmes; only a small portion is related to emergency response.43 FAO and member governments should intensify efforts to mainstream disaster mitigation principles in agricultural and rural development programmes and support field level approaches for agricultural vulnerability reduction through appropriate agricultural policies.

5. Conclusions and Recommendations

1. Storm-related disasters need to be analysed in the context of the probability, frequency and intensity of storm hazards as well as system vulnerability, i. e. its propensity to experience substantial impact. Therefore, hazard mapping and early warning as well as vulnerability analysis and long-term mitigation planning are important components for reducing agricultural vulnerability to storm-related disasters. Farming systems vulnerability mapping, i.e. overlaying maps of areas prone to storms with farming systems maps could be an entry point to analysing farming systems-specific vulnerability factors and to develop corresponding mitigation and rehabilitation measures.

2. Reducing agricultural vulnerability to storm-related disasters requires action prior, during and after disasters occur. Emphasis should be laid on pre-disaster mitigation through strengthening the resilience of agricultural systems and the awareness and preparedness of risk-prone rural communities. Agriculture-specific mitigation measures prior to storm disasters need to enhance the resilience of agricultural systems. Post-cyclone measures must focus on limiting storm damage, for example, by harvesting and conserving damaged food crops or timber.

3. Given that areas prone to storm-related disasters are frequently also susceptible to other disasters (e.g. drought), mitigation measures for storm-related disasters need to be planned jointly with measures addressing the potential effects of other area-specific disaster types. This implies that the resilience of farming systems needs to be strengthened in such a way as to factor the various hazard types that may strike a particular area. Disaster management and mitigation plans for storm-related disasters therefore need be integrated in overall disaster management plans.

4. FAO's experience has shown that storm mitigation planning at national level needs to be coupled with community awareness and training programmes and with the preparation of community level action plans. Participatory planning processes and integrated approaches that address biophysical as well as human dimensions are essential for the effective involvement of all socio-economic groups and for negotiation among different interest groups to resolve conflicts and build consensus.

5. Agriculture-specific mitigation responses require an analysis of which and how cropping and animal husbandry systems and practices may help to increase the resilience of agricultural systems, as well as how men and women obtain their livelihoods. Production-based approaches to mitigation planning therefore need to be broadened to encompass agricultural systems- and client-based approaches. Vulnerability reduction strategies require policies and programmes that address the human factor of production, as well as the livelihood systems and assets of the producers, differentiated by gender.

6. Given that information on farming systems-based mitigation plans is highly complex and location specific, traditional knowledge is a key source for the development of agricultural vulnerability reduction strategies to storm-related disasters. Men and women farmers should be active participants in the preparation of agriculture-specific mitigation plans.

7. Mitigation strategies need to be consistent across the various levels used in farming systems analysis (such as crop/livestock, farm/household, farming systems, agro-ecological regions). Global level action comprises measures related to climate change and variability. Regional level action needs to focus on cyclone early warning, regional watershed management plans, and on mediation of competition for natural resources. National level action should focus on the integration of mitigation aspects in national agricultural policies and planning and promote awareness-building among policy-makers, planners, technical specialists and rural communities. Farming/household systems level action should address agricultural and livelihood diversification and risk management. Storm mitigation measures at the farm/household and crop/livestock systems level need to be developed specific to each location, based on local knowledge and practices. Monitoring and feedback are needed to ensure that actions and mechanisms at higher system levels reinforce interventions at lower levels.

8. Livelihood, land use and environmental information is critical for appropriate mitigation planning. The lack of information on land use and land use management practices at local and sub-national levels may pose a constraint to adequate mitigation strategies for the agricultural sector. While considerable progress has been made in developing databases and information systems on land resources and use, efforts are still needed for land use analysis at local levels. National Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS) may be able to provide an umbrella for the systematic integration of agro-ecological and socio-economic information required for disaster prevention and mitigation.

9. Macro-economic incentives can change agricultural production systems considerably and alter the patterns of vulnerability to storm-related disasters. It is important that are evaluated in terms of how they influence the resilience of agricultural systems. Trade-offs between agricultural output and susceptibility to natural hazards need to feature in cost-benefit analyses. Agricultural and economic policies need to enhance the competitiveness of agricultural practices that increase the resilience of agricultural systems to disaster shocks. Agricultural policies also need to address policy constraints to sound mitigation strategies (land tenure, policies encouraging the conversion of forests to other land use, agricultural intensification in floodplains and coastal areas, etc.).

10. The economic value of traditional food production systems and the potential trade-offs between land and labour productivity and disaster resilience tend to be largely unrecognised by agricultural officers and national planners. Therefore policy makers, provincial and district planners, extension officers and rural communities need to be made aware of how economic incentives influence farm-household decisions and the resilience of agricultural systems to storm-disasters.

11. Governments need to introduce disaster preparedness, response and mitigation into their land resources policy and planning processes and into their agricultural and environmental strategies and action plans through capacity building of planning and technical staff from national to local levels. Moreover, as a complex multidisciplinary issue, disaster management requires strengthened co-ordination between concerned institutions and the diverse sectors involved (natural resources, health, transport, etc.).


Blaikie, Piers, Terry Cannon and Ben Wisner (1994): At Risk: National Hazards, People's Vulnerability, and Disasters.

Brammer, Hugh (1999), Agricultural Disaster Management in Bangladesh.

FAO (2001): Global Farming Systems Study: Challenges and Priorities to 2030, Synthesis and Global Overview.

FAO (2000): Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storm-related Disasters. COAG/01/6.

FAO (2000): Twenty-fifth FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, Yokohama, Japan, 28 August to 1 September 2000. Conference Report.

FAO (2000): Strengthening FAO's Capacity to Prepare for and Respond to Emergencies. Internal Report.

FAO (1992): The Role of Agrometeorology in the Alleviation of Natural Disasters. FAO Agrometeorology Series Working Paper prepared by Gommes, Rene and Th. Nègre, Number 2.

Gommes, René (1998): Climate-related Risk in Agriculture. A Note Prepared for the IPCC Expert Meeting on Risk Management Methods, Toronto, AES, Environment Canada.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2001): A Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Summary for Policymakers.

McGregor, Andrew (1999): Linking Market Development to Farming Systems in the Pacific Islands. FAO-SAPA Publication 1999/2.

OECD (1994): Guidelines on Disaster Mitigation.

Paulson, Deborah D. and Steve Rogers (1997): Maintaining Subsistence Security in Western Samoa, Geoforum, Vol. 28, pp. 173-187.

SPC/UNDP/AusAID/FAO Pacific Island Forests and Trees Support Programme (1999): Proceedings of a Regional Workshop on the Management of Cyclone Damage to Forests and Trees in South Pacific Island Countries, 20-24 October 1997. RAS/97/330 Field Document No. 2 October 1999.

UN Samoa (2001): Combating the Effects of Cyclones on Food Security. Theme Group on Rural Development and Food Security of the United Nations in Samoa. Edited by Lance Polu.

University of Wisconsin: About Natural Hazards: Causes and Effects.

USAID (1999): Watershed Management for Hurricane Reconstruction and Natural Disaster Vulnerability Reduction, USAID Contribution to the Discussion of Ecological and Social Vulnerability Consultative Group for the Reconstruction and Transformation of Central America, Stockholm, Sweden, May 25, 1999.

WFP (1998): Prevention and Preparedness: Mitigating the Effects of Natural Disasters. Paper prepared by Robin Jackson, Strategy and Policy Division, WFP.

World Bank (2000): World Development Report 2000/2001. Chapter 9: Managing Crisis. and Natural Disasters.

WHO/WMO/UNEP (1996): Climate Change and Human Health. An Assessment Prepared by a Task Group of the World Health Organisation, the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme. Editors: McMichael, A.J.; A. Haines, R. Sloof, and S. Kovats.


Alert: Notice issued indicating the probability or proximity of a dangerous event.

Contingency planning: a series of assessments and evaluations followed by the development of proposed plans of action in anticipation of a natural or human-made disaster. This involves:

  1. identification of the potential threat;
  2. identification of likely impact of disaster, e.g. number of people potentially affected, disruption of food or water supply, transportation system, or communication channels, damage to property, roads, health facilities, duration of disaster and itseffects;
  3. anticipating and developing optimum response to such a threat, e.g., educate/alert population to potential risk, develop notification and evacuation plans, provide means of transporting people, food and medical supplies;
  4. identification of existing resources, e.g. areas where shelters could be established, sources of food, water and medical supplies, communication and transportation systems, location of reconstruction equipment.

Cyclone: a large-scale closed circulation system in the earth's atmosphere with relatively low barometric pressure and winds that blow counter-clockwise around the centre in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. Called "cyclone" in Indian Ocean and South Pacific; "hurricane" in Western Atlantic and Eastern Pacific; "typhoon" in Western Pacific.

Disaster: occurrence of widespread severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property, with which a community cannot cope and during which the affected society undergoes severe disruption.

Eye (of the storm): the calm centre of a tropical cyclone.

Flash flood: a sudden and extreme volume of water that flows rapidly and causes inundation of land areas. It can result in heavy loss of life and destruction of property.

Hazard: physical forces (hurricane, flood, volcano, etc.) that, when in proximity to populations, may cause disasters.

Hazard maps: maps that identify types and degrees of hazards, and natural phenomena of areas that may be affected by disasters.

Landslide: a rapid or marginally rapid downhill movement of soil and rock.

Mitigation: Measures taken to reduce the damage, disruption and casualties caused by disasters. Mitigation is therefore a broad notion that incorporates two other terms which are often used in the literature, namely disaster prevention, and disaster preparedness. Mitigation includes long-term measures taken to reduce the effects of disaster through alteration of the physical environment, such as floodplain zoning and control, afforestation, land terracing, torrent control, sand dune stabilization, and planting of shelterbelts or windbreaks.

Prevention: Measures aimed at impeding the occurrence of a hazard event and/or preventing such an event causing damage, disruption and casualties.

Preparedness: Measures taken in advance of an emergency that develop operational capabilities to respond rapidly to disasters and reduce to the minimum level possible the loss of human lives and other damage. Preparedness is concerned with understanding the threat, forecasting and warning; educating and training officials and the population; establishing organization for and management of disaster situations, including preparation of operational plans, training relief groups, stockpiling supplies, and earmarking necessary funds.

Relief: Immediate action taken with the objective to save lives, alleviate suffering and reduce economic losses. This includes the search, rescue and provision of shelter, water, food and medical care.

Rehabilitation: Short-term recovery of basic services and initiation of repair of basic services as well as of physical, social and economic damages.

Reconstruction: The medium and long-term repair of physical, social and economic damage and the return of affected structures to a condition equal to/or better than before the disaster.

Risk Assessment: an assessment of the chance of loss or adverse consequences when physical and social elements are exposed to potentially harmful natural hazards. The consequences include: damage, loss of economic value, loss of function, loss of natural resources, loss of ecological systems, environmental impact, deterioration of health, mortality, and morbidity. Risk assessments integrate hazard assessments with the vulnerability of the exposed elements at risk to seek reliable answers to the following questions: 1. What can happen? 2. How likely are each of the possible outcomes? 3. When the possible outcomes happen, what are the likely consequences and losses?

Vulnerability: the extent to which a country, area, community or structure risks being damaged by a disaster.

* Researched and prepared by Günter Hemrich, FAO Consultant, ESAF. The comments and contributions of Barbara Huddleston and Amde Gebre-Michael, ESAF; Jacques Antoine, Sally Bunning and Freddy Nachtergaele, AGLL; John Dixon, AGSD; T.C. Ti, FAO RAP; Heiko Bamann, FAO SAPA; and Michele Bernardi, SDRN are highly appreciated.

1 While floods may occur for other reasons (rapid snowmelt, tidal waves), most are caused either directly or indirectly by storms resulting in waters to rise.

2 IFRC (2000): World Disaster Report, cited from the OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database - - Université Catholique de Louvain , Brussels, Belgium.

3 FAO/TCOR Web page;

4 WHO/WMO/UNEP (1996): Climate Change and Human Health. An Assessment Prepared by a Task Group of the World Health Organisation, the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme. Editors: McMichael, A.J.; A. Haines, R. Sloof, and S. Kovats, p. 125.

5 FAO (2000): Twenty-fifth FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, Yokahoma, Japan, 28 August to 1 September 2000). Conference Report, p. 7.

6 FAO (2000): Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storm-related Disasters. COAG/01/6, p. 2.

7 University of Wisconsin, Disaster Management Center: About Natural Hazards: Causes and Effects;

8 Building on a decade of success: Creating a culture of prevention;

9 WHO/WMO/UNEP (1996): Climate Change and Human Health. An Assessment Prepared by a Task Group of the World Health Organisation, the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme. Editors: McMichael, A.J.; A. Haines, R. Sloof, and S. Kovats, p. 124. For further information see also: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2001): A Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Summary for Policymakers at

10 ibid., p. 35.

11 ibid., p. xvi.

12 IFRC (2000): World Disaster Report, cited from the OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database - - Université Catholique de Louvain , Brussels, Belgium.

13 John Twigg. Disasters, Development and Vulnerability;

14 Personal communication: Jacques Antoine, FAO, AGLL, April 2001.

15 Gommes, René (1998): Climate-related Risk in Agriculture. A Note Prepared for the IPCC Expert Meeting on Risk Management Methods, Toronto, AES, Environment Canada, p. 5.

16 Director General's Bulletin 99/16,

17 FAO (2000): Strengthening FAO's Capacity to Prepare for and Respond to Emergencies. Internal Report.

18 FAO (2000): Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storm-related Disasters. COAG/01/6.


20 Disaster mitigation and preparedness activities also play an important role in the relief and rehabilitation stage, by strengthening the resilience of agricultural systems and rural communities against future disasters through appropriate rehabilitation measures. However, the time pressures in a post-disaster situation increases the danger that activities will not be adequately planned or co-ordinated. Further, the interest in disaster mitigation in the period after a disaster may lead to approaches which are not sustainable in the long-run. These aspects need to be considered when deciding the appropriate placement of disaster interventions, see OECD (1994): Disaster Mitigation Guidelines, p. 16.

21 The Rapid Agricultural Disaster Assessment Routine (RADAR) is being further developed by SDRN.

22 FAO (2000): Strengthening FAO's Capacity to Prepare for and Respond to Emergencies. Internal Report.

23 Ti, T.C. (2000): Strengthening of National Capacity for Emergency Preparedness and Mitigation in Agriculture (OSRO/FIJ/901/FIN). First Technical Backstopping Mission Report. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

24 Calvert, Paul (1999): Training in Sea Safety Development programmes to Reduce Loss of Life amongst Fisherfolks During Cyclones. Draft Technical Report.

25 FAO (2001): Global Farming Systems Study: Challenges and Priorities to 2030, Synthesis and Global Overview, pp. 4-5.

26 Personal communication, John Dixon, Senior Farming Systems Officer, AGDP, 13 March 2001.

27 FAO (1992): The Role of Agro-meteorology in the Alleviation of Natural Disasters. Paper prepared by Gommes, Rene and Th. Nègre (1992), FAO Agrometeorology Series Working Paper, Number 2, p. 10.

2828 Gommes, René (1998): Climate-related Risk in Agriculture. A Note Prepared for the IPCC Expert Meeting on Risk Management Methods, Toronto, AES, Environment Canada.

29 FAO (1992), op. cit.

30 Piper methysticum (kava kava) is a perennial plant native to the Pacific Island region, and has been used ceremonially for thousands of years. Its active substances, a series of kavalactones, are concentrated in the rootstock and roots. Islanders ingest these psychoactive chemicals by drinking cold-water infusions of chewed, ground, pounded, or otherwise macerated kava stumps and roots. In the Pacific today, although some Islanders have abandoned its use, its traditional functions are being maintained and it is being developed into an important cash crop.

31 For more details see: McGregor, Andrew (1999): Linking Market Development to Farming Systems in the Pacific Islands. FAO-SAPA Publication 1999/2, pp. 21-23.

32 Paulson, Deborah D. and Steve Rogers (1997): Maintaining Subsistence Security in Western Samoa, Geoforum, Vol. 28, p. 182.

33 See McGregor, Andrew (1999): Linking Market Development to Farming Systems in the Pacific Islands. FAO-SAPA Publication 1999/2, p. 9.

34 The traditional `aman' rice in Bangladesh for example, has the capacity to grow up to 10 cm a day when flood levels increase, which is a characteristic that high yielding varieties do not have.

35 Personal communication, Sally Bunning, Land Resources Officer, Land and Water Division, FAO, April 2001.

36 Progress in Implementing Integrated Approaches to the Planning and Management of Land Resources. Overview of the Task Manager's Report to CSD-8.

37 FAO (1999): Geographic Information System Enhancement for Hurricane Preparedness and Impact Mitigation. Prepared by Cassandra T. Rogers for TCP/RLA/6616.

38 Mangrove areas protect coastal villages and crops on low lying lands (e.g. swamp taro gardens) from cyclone induced high seas/swells. Mangrove areas are not only threatened by increasing demand for lagoon areas for aquaculture purposes (e.g. fish, crab and shrimp farming) but also by extended land claims for the construction of houses and roads. In April 2001, Tonga and Samoa experienced high waves created by Cyclone "Sose" which hit Vanuatu and then travelled South towards New Caledonia. These high swells created by the tropical storm coincided with an extremely high tide and washed away houses in low lying areas in Tonga, damaged the Eua fresh produce market, the wharf and destroyed crops (Personal communication: Heiko Bamann, Farming Systems Development & Marketing Officer, FAOSAPA, 17 April 2001).

39 Brammer, Hugh (1999), Agricultural Disaster Management in Bangladesh, pp. 265-271.

40 Ibid., p. 388.

41 Progress in Implementing Integrated Approaches to the Planning and Management of Land Resources. Overview of the Task Manager's Report to CSD-8.

42 For more details see the conference document: Asia FIVIMS for Disaster Preparedness, APDC/01/9.


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