Sixteenth Session

Rome, 26-30 March 2001, Red Room


Item 6 of the Provisional Agenda

Table of Contents


1. Storm-related disasters have been increasing in frequency and intensity during the past decade. The high winds that accompany tropical storms and the resulting floods have a particularly devastating impact on agriculture. Although, on average, the intensities of hurricanes have hardly changed during the past three decades, their frequency appears to be on the increase. Further, the devastation caused by tropical storms rose enormously during the 1990s, due in part to the increase of population in storm-prone areas.

2. The most recent World Disaster Report of the International Federation of the Red Cross shows that during 1990-1999 wind storms and flood-related disasters together accounted for 60% of the total economic loss caused by natural disasters (see chart).1 A significant percentage of disaster casualties, in terms of deaths, injuries and people displaced from their homes and livelihoods, is also attributable to storms and floods.

3. Despite improved flood awareness and cyclone warning measures, the last 10 years have seen a 300 % rise in the number of individuals affected by floods and storms. Between 1973 and 1997 hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, storms and tornadoes claimed, on average, each year an estimated 11,000 lives and made more than more 1.1 million people homeless.2 In Bangladesh alone three storms, four floods, one tsunami and two cyclones killed more than 400,000 people and affected another 42 million during this period.3

4. The World Watch Institute estimated that during the first 11 months of 1998, weather-related disasters caused more than $89 billion in economic losses (compared to $55 billion during the 1980s), resulted in 32,000 deaths and displaced 300 million people from their homes and livelihood systems.4 Most of the disasters in 1998, including record floods in China and Bangladesh and Hurricane Mitch in Central America, were attributed to the El Niño or La Niña phenomena. Although no aggregate quantitative estimates are available, the economic cost of storm-related disasters in 1999 and 2000 was also considerable. For example, the direct and indirect economic cost of the floods in Mozambique caused by Tropical Storms Elyne and Gloria in February and March 2000 is estimated at US$1 billion, compared with the country’s export earning of only US$300 million in 1999. Geographic location, size, and weak economies render Small Island Developing States (SIDS) particularly susceptible to the calamity of weather because when damages occurs, it is quickly transformed to a national scale. The adverse impact of storm-related disaster on economic activities and on land and natural resources is felt more so than in other countries.

5. The paper reviews the impact of tropical storm disasters in developing countries and puts forward a strategy for reducing agricultural vulnerability to such disasters. Within the overall framework of the strategy, the paper also puts forward, for the consideration of COAG, recommendations for adopting and implementing such a strategy in storm and flood-prone countries, indicating actions to be undertaken by the countries concerned, FAO, and the international community.


A.  Nature of Storms

6. 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. In meteorology, a tropical storm is restricted to a cyclone with a strong low-pressure centre, strong winds accompanied by heavy precipitation, and at times lightning and thunder. 5

7. The World Meteorological Organization uses the term ‘tropical cyclones’ to define weather disturbances of tropical oceanic origin in which winds exceed 63 km/h. Tropical cyclones/storms are preceded by tropical disturbances and tropical depressions having lower wind speeds. 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.


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 63km/h.

Tropical storm: a tropical cyclone system, with maximum sustained surface winds greater than 63 km/h, but less than 119km/h.

Hurricane: a tropical cyclone with wind speed greater than 119km/h.

Source; SDRN contribution to COAG paper, October 2000.


B.  Areas Vulnerable to Tropical Storms and Recent Storm Events


8. The seven tropical cyclone basins. There are seven tropical cyclone "basins" where storms occur on a regular basis: 6

  1. Atlantic basin (including the North Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea) - Recent examples of storms include:
  1. Northeast Pacific basin (from Mexico to about the dateline) – The tropical storms occur mainly in the Ocean. Recent examples include:
  1. Northwest Pacific basin (from the dateline to Asia including the South China Sea) -Recent storm and flood incidences include:
  1. North Indian basin (including the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea) - Recent storms and floods include:
  1. Southwest Indian basin (from Africa to about 100°East) - The storm situation has been relatively calm in recent years with the exception of the major floods in southern Africa in 1998. Recent storms and floods include:
  1. Southeast Indian/Australian basin (100°East to 142°East) - Recent storm and flood incidences include the cyclone Steve in February 2000 and cyclone Tessi in April 2000.

  2. Australian/Southwest Pacific basin (142°East to about 120°West) – The tropical storms mainly occurred in the Ocean.

9. An analysis of statistical data shows that there is a correlation between tropical storm activity and El Niño-La Niña events. In the Atlantic, during El Niño events, (El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) - warm phase) atmospheric conditions inhibit tropical cyclone genesis and intensification, while during la Niña events (ENSO cold phase), tropical storm activity is enhanced. During El Niño (warm ENSO) events, the Australian/Southwest Pacific shows a pronounced shift of tropical cyclone activity with fewer tropical cyclones between 145° and 165°East and more from 165°East eastward across the South Pacific. There is also a slight tendency for tropical cyclones to originate a bit farther from the equator. The opposite is true during La Niña (cold ENSO) events.

10. As the recent trends in the incidence of storms are likely to continue, the greatest challenge remains to prevent and/or minimise the enormous economic losses and human suffering in the countries that are vulnerable to storms and floods. A study undertaken by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the UN University, the World Meteorological Organization and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, together with the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research indicates that developing countries will continue to experience thousands of human casualties and the loss of tens of billions of dollars every two to seven years unless more investment is made in better forecasting and preparation for the El Niño weather phenomenon. The study focused on 16 El Niño affected countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. 7

C.  Causes of Vulnerability to Tropical Storm Disasters

11. The concept of vulnerability is central to the definition of a storm-related disaster. Vulnerability concerns the susceptibility of a society to substantial damage, disruption and casualties as a result of a hazardous event8. Many natural hazard events do not result in disasters. For example, a hurricane only turns into a disaster if it strikes a populated area with infrastructure, crops and forests. Although natural disasters are triggered by the occurrence of hazardous events, human activities are often a major contributing factor in creating a disaster.

12. A community which has adapted to cope with storms through reinforced buildings, food production systems which can cope with storms, water control technology and systems to warn the population to stay indoors may be inconvenienced by a storm but is unlikely to experience substantial damage or casualties. Thus some communities and countries that are exposed to tropical storms are more vulnerable to their effects than others.

13. Most storm-related disasters occur in developing countries, which often do not have the wealth, infrastructure and institutional capacity to protect their people against tropical storms. Within the developing countries it is the poor who 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, and, once the disasters take place, they have no financial or other means to protect themselves against the impact of the disasters or recover from them quickly. (see Box 2).

14. Apart from the immediate results - death, injury, hunger and starvation - disasters make the poor even poorer by destroying the few assets that they may possess. Storms also destroy expensive long-term development projects such as communication infrastructure, irrigation and other farming infrastructure, as well as sources of energy. Storm-related disasters thus lead to a set-back in development efforts of countries, both by destroying systems and sources of livelihood of households and infrastructure, and by causing development resources to be diverted to deal with the consequences of the disasters.

15. Developing countries, and especially the most densely populated regions, suffer the brunt of storm and flood-related disasters as well as all forms of natural disasters. These countries lack the wealth and the necessary institutional and physical infrastructures, and cannot afford to provide their people with the same level of protection against disasters as the developed countries, which have invested in a wide range of preparedness and mitigation measures including scientific forecasting, regulations on the use of land, extensive emergency management systems and insurance cover. Thus when natural emergencies such as storms and floods occur in the developing countries the scale and magnitude of the disaster is far higher. Between 1990 and 1998, 97% of all natural disaster-related deaths were in developing countries.

16. Several studies show that the increase in the scale of disasters is largely attributable to an increase in people's vulnerability to disasters owing to economic, social, population and environmental pressures. Because of increasing population pressures and lack of alternative employment and income opportunities, more and more people are forced to live and obtain their livelihood through farming and fishing in vulnerable and dangerous areas such as flood plains, coastal areas and unstable hillsides. In such areas, substantial clearance by local populations of forests, which can be a major natural defence against storms, increases the severity of the damage. The removal of mangroves, for example to make way for hotels or commercial prawn farms, is rendering many coastal communities more vulnerable to storms.

17. Unless efforts are undertaken to integrate disaster-prevention measures into development programmes in storm-prone countries, there is a high risk of a continuing cyclical cause-and-effect relationship between poverty and disasters in such countries. The vulnerability of countries and societies to disasters thus poses a great challenge to the global objective of reducing poverty and undernourishement in the developing countries.


Box 2. Vulnerability of the poor to storm-related disasters

Flood Victims in the Mekong Delta
A recent study, by the Red Cross of Vietnam, of flood victims in the Mekong Delta showed that wealthier households were able to withstand floods because they could afford to raise the foundations of their houses above the usual flood levels. The wealthier households did not depend on a daily wage, and could carry on their normal activities for obtaining their livelihoods once the flood waters receded. The landless poor, on the other hand, were unable to protect their houses and their livelihoods, were seriously affected in, having been disrupted from working as daily labourers, from cutting firewood and collecting wild vegetables.

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 who lived 100 meters apart near the coast of Andra Pradesh in southern India, also 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 warning on his radio 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 were drowned and his fields were flooded and his crops destroyed. The poor household lost their youngest child drowned in the flood, their house was destroyed, both of their animals drowned, their field flooded and the crops ruined. The wealthy household used their savings to rebuild their house within a week. They replaced the cattle and plough and replanted their field. The poor household had no savings and had to borrow from a local money lender at exorbitant rate of interest. The household managed to buy a calf but could only plough their field late because of the problem they faced to hire 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.




18. Forecasting has to range from early warnings of storms expected in less than one hour, to months or years when estimating the probability of occurrence of a given number of cyclones. Forecasting the track and intensity of a cyclone must cover hours to days. Prediction of smaller hazards such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms requires early detection and near-instantaneous indication and assessment of the threat, and rapid dissemination of warnings to the population. Forecasting such hazards requires continuously updated observational information on storm movement, rainfall intensity and/or river levels from real-time radar, satellite, rain and stream-gauge networks.

19. Over the past 20 years, improvements in hurricane computer modelling, observational instrumentation, and better training for forecasters have greatly increased the accuracy of forecasts. New data systems give forecasters a greater understanding of tropical cyclones and provide better and more timely input for the computer models used to predict hurricane behaviour. Despite these advances, the many complex interactions that occur within the atmosphere are not yet fully understood.

20. The greatest difficulty in providing effective early warning of the smaller scale hazards is the short lead-time involved. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many vulnerable countries and regions do not yet possess advanced technology.

21. At the international level, the technological progress that has been made in the accuracy and timeliness of early warnings and forecasting of storm hazards is impressive, though the extent to which storm-prone developing countries benefit from such advances is not known. The use of satellites to provide advance information about timing and location of tropical cyclones, for example, has doubled the warning time, from 24 hours in 1990 to 48 hours in 1999, while the warning time for tornadoes improved from around 8 or 9 minutes to 17 minutes. Although the forecasting of tornadoes gives little lead-time to take short-term action, the early warning on tropical cyclones appears to have significantly improved in terms of providing lead-time to move people and property from areas to be affected. The value of such technological improvements for providing advance information for avoiding or minimising possible disasters should not be underestimated. This is particularly important in saving farmers and labourers working in vulnerable coastlines and fishermen who go far into deep oceans to fish. With better information and understanding of natural phenomena, engineers have also been able to improve building norms and standards in many parts of the world.


A.  Immediate Impacts

22. Cyclone-related disasters are classified as cataclysmic - a large-scale, rapid-onset event causing extensive damage and destruction. Following such an event, there may be a tremendous amount of suffering and chaos, and secondary disasters such as landslides. The sudden damage in geographically-concentrated areas has great visual and emotional effects.

23. The most immediate and visible impact of storms on agriculture is the damage to standing crops, livestock, household property, production assets and physical infrastructure. This may result in food supply shortages at household, community, and sometimes national levels and almost always causes a reduction in livelihood security and related problems of access to food for poor households.

24. The extent to which storm-related disasters are of local or national significance depends on the intensity of the storm, the area affected, the stage of crops at the time of the storm, the level of preparedness and the size of the country.

25. Because of their small size and location in cyclone-prone areas, small island states in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean are particularly vulnerable. While the agricultural impact of storm-related disasters at the national level may be limited, the implications for livelihoods in damaged areas can be far-reaching, thus affecting national food security.

26. In Asia, severe floods recur during the monsoon and rainy seasons, often with disastrous consequences. Crop losses are generally severe in affected areas but the overall impact at the national level varies among countries. The major cause of the most destructive phenomena is a storm surge - a rapid rise of sea level resulting from strong winds driving the water ashore and causing flooding in low-lying coastal areas. In India, storm surges account for more than 90% of loss of life and property.9 Low-lying coastal areas elsewhere, as in Central America, Venezuela, Mozambique and Madagascar, have also been devastated by storm and flood-related disasters in recent years.

27. By contrast, in West Africa storm-related floods have been localised, mainly occurring in low-lying areas or along the Niger or Senegal rivers. In the Sahelian countries, floods are generally associated with good harvest prospects for the main cereal crops, despite damage to the directly affected areas. Floods along river courses are also favourable for recession crops or off-season cultivation.

B.  Impact on the Production Potential of Land

28. In addition to destroying crops and affecting food supply, storms can also affect land quality and production potential. Storm surges can flood coastal areas with saline water, resulting in salinity of agricultural land. If the surge occurs after the main rainy season, effects on cropping and yields are greater as the salt is not quickly diluted. Coastal and estuarine plains in cyclone paths are generally vulnerable to this phenomenon.

29. Deposition by floods of a layer of alluvium on cultivated land may bury crops and change soil quality. This process may actually improve soil quality and yields in subsequent years. But the crop production potential may be lowered if the deposits are rather infertile and drought-prone sandy matter, or silts which may initially be saturated and inhospitable to plant roots and soil organisms. In some areas, good topsoil may be washed away, exposing less cultivable soil layers.

30. The impact of a storm on the soil depends on the preceding climatic conditions (soil moisture, water level). It is also affected by factors such as topography and soil type, including soil depth, moisture holding and drainage capacity. Impacts also depend on land-use and farming practices that influence the organic matter content and permeability of the soil. The richer and more permeable the soil, the less likely it is to be washed away during a storm. Practices such as levelling, terracing, puddling, drainage and irrigation help to manage water flow and hold soil in place during storms and floods. Deep-rooting plants such as trees and shrubs may also be planted to provide more stability.

C.  Impact on Forestry

31. Tropical storms, hurricanes and ice storms can all affect forest resources, directly through the impact of high winds and ice, which destroy trees, or indirectly through flood damage or mud slides which affect forest health and growth. Flood-stressed trees are prime targets for attack by secondary organisms including certain root and collar-rot diseases favoured by waterlogged, oxygen-deficient soil conditions, in conjunction with mould fungi, Phytophthora spp. and Pythium spp. Severe storms can influence fuel wood availability.

32. Although little information is available on specific cases, forests play a role in mitigating storm impact through various means including windbreaks, buffer zones, agro-forestry systems, mangroves, and other coastal forests.

33. It is generally believed that deforestation was a contributing factor to the extensive damage from the recent hurricanes in Central America and the Caribbean. In Honduras, sites with vegetative countour bunding, rock walls and trees, withstood the storm quite well, while sites, that did not have these, were devastated by massive landslides. More tree windbreaks surrounding and within plantations would have substantially reduced the damage and economic loss. A major concern is that the extensive destruction of housing by the recent hurricanes may result in the cutting down of large numbers of trees, making additional areas vulnerable to future storms.

D.  Impact on Fisheries

34. While some concern is expressed about the damage caused by "ghost fishing" (where lost fishing gear continues to catch fish), marine life and their habitats are not seriously affected by storms. Fish production can resume almost without delay provided that boats and fishing gear have not been lost.

35. The most serious impact of storms in the fishery sector is the risk to the lives of the fishermen and/or destruction of their capital such as boats and fishing gear. For example, in November 1996, following a severe cyclone, approximately 1,435 fisherfolk were reported dead or missing in the State of Andra Pradesh on the east coast of India. Of these, 569 were reported to have been lost at sea while fishing in mechanised boats, as a result of the high winds and heavy seas, while 830 were lost while carrying out shrimp-seed collection and other shore-based activities in areas remote from their villages, as a result of the storm surge.

36. Storm-related damage to capital assets, including boats and fishing gear, means the loss of income and livelihood, especially for poor fishing households. These may not have adequate saving to replace their capital assets, and are likely to face food insecurity unless these are replaced immediately through public support. The disruption of fishing activities by such households could also affect the livelihood and food security of others, for instance, small traders who buy and sell fish in small local retail markets.


A.  Need for a Strategy for Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Tropical Storms

37. Storm-related disasters should not be seen solely in terms of their immediate and visible impact but also in terms of their implications for the long-term development process and national and international goals to eradicate poverty and to reduce undernourishment. A storm-related disaster can wipe out the results of many years of infrastructure development through destruction of roads, bridges, irrigation schemes and buildings, and seriously undermine socio-economic progress. For instance, the economic cost of the damage, in terms of crops and infrastructure destroyed by floods in Central America in 1998, was estimated at US$8.5 billion and that in Mozambique (February-March 2000) at US$1billion, reflecting a substantial dent on the GDP of the countries affected. Disasters make the poor even poorer and increase the magnitude of financial and other resources that may be needed to tackle poverty.

38. Development is slowed down, both by setbacks in terms of loss of past investment and lower standard of living of affected communities, and by diversion of resources from development programmes to relief and rehabilitation. Disasters are thus one of the major contributors to underdevelopment, which in turn dramatically increases vulnerability of communities and countries to disasters.

39. Although storms cannot be prevented, storm-related disasters can be prevented or mitigated through appropriate human intervention. In order to reduce agricultural vulnerability and break out of the cyclical trap of disaster and response, it is important to design a strategy intimately linking disaster-management schemes with long-term development programmes. This is illustrated in the chart below.10

The Disaster Cycle versus the Relief to Development Spiral

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B.  Major Components of a Disaster Management Strategy for Tropical Storms

40. Each vulnerable country or region needs a strategy which effectively incorporates long-term measures for reducing vulnerability as part of the development programme. This should be combined with a preparedness plan comprising early warning and storm forecasting and short-term measures to respond rapidly to tropical storm disasters.

The objectives of such a strategy may include:

To achieve these objectives, the strategy should include the following components:

C.  Long-term Developmental Measures for Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Tropical Storms

41. A long-term programme aimed at preventing and minimising storm-related disasters should form the basis of the strategy. Such a programme would also minimise the need for large-scale relief and rehabilitation expenditures, should storms occur. The preparedness programme, comprising of short-term measures to respond rapidly to disasters through relief and rehabilitation, should reinforce the long-term programme. Rehabilitation, in particular, needs to be well integrated with the long-term programme. Such an integrated approach could significantly contribute to ensuring a sustainable development process with minimum diversion of resources if and when storm and flood disasters take place. Above all it may also help to avoid the risk of communities suffering a setback in living standards when a hazardous event occurs. In addition, a long-term development programme to reduce agricultural vulnerability through proper land-management practices including re-forestation may also help to reduce climatic changes and the resultant environmental damage induced by deforestation and other forms of land-use practices which threaten sustainability. Innovative environmentally-motivated financing of sustainable agriculture tied to carbon trading -such as that proposed under the Clean Development Mechanism associated with the Kyoto Protocol- could also contribute to efforts to reduce storm and flood damage (see also COAG/01/5 on climate change). At the country level, governments may take such an approach into account when designing strategies for sustainable agriculture and for disaster prevention.

42. A long-term development programme for reducing agricultural vulnerability to storm- related disasters should be developed on the basis of land-use evaluations, vulnerability and risk assessments, inventory of traditional community land-management practices and local coping strategies, as well as an assessment and identification of crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry practices and farming systems suitable for vulnerable areas.

43. There are many examples of land-use planning, agricultural, forestry and fisheries practices that increase resilience and reduce susceptibility to storm damage, if applied in an appropriate context. Insurance schemes for crops, livestock, fisheries or forests could also be included among vulnerability reduction measures.11 Examples of storm disaster mitigation through the introduction of changes in agricultural systems include:

    Agricultural communities in storm and flood-prone areas can also be protected through greater use of the following measures:

44. Any alteration to an agricultural system can reduce or enhance vulnerability. High yielding varieties, which may do well in a stable environment may be more susceptible to the risks of natural hazards. The traditional ‘aman’ rice in Bangladesh, for example, can grow up to 10 cm a day when flood levels increase, a characteristic that high-yielding varieties do not have. This underlines the need for effective involvement of farmers in developing new agronomic technologies and practices that build on their traditional know-how and coping mechanisms. A key entry point for disaster mitigation is an analysis of local coping strategies. Cultural norms and the different roles of men and women need to be considered when promoting agricultural and rural development innovation including those for disaster prevention and mitigation, (see Box 3).


Box 3. Importance of Local Coping Strategies for Tropical Storms

Diversified Cropping System in Belize
Nicholas Beizder, a 72-year-old farmer living in Bermuda Landings, a village about 200 yards from the steadily rising Belize River, said that Hurricane Keith destroyed his corn crop. But he remains hopeful that the plantain, banana and rice crops will not spoil. "There's no food here in the stores. My wife and I plan to boil plantains until the flood waters are gone and food trucks can come again," he said.

Gender-Differentiated Use of Tree Shelters in 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 acts as a wind barrier and provides something sturdy which people can tie themselves to during the storm. This is particularly important for women because the cultural gender norm in Bangladesh is that the woman will stay in the house (to protect the family assets from damage and/or thieves) as long as possible during the approach of a storm. She is therefore vulnerable through not leaving to a safer place early enough, and may have to rely on the nearby trees for emergency protection. Women also tend to stay in the home due to the cultural/religious practice of purdah, whereby a woman is discouraged from moving freely in public, and thus going to a cyclone shelter unaccompanied by her husband is a cultural barrier.

Hurricane Keith Leaves Lingering Effects in Belize, Stephanie Kriner, Staff Writer,, and Olga Bellido de Luna, Special to Disaster Relief org, Posted on Wed, 11 Oct 2000 12:52:07 GMT. The Role of WFP in Mitigating Natural Disasters: A Case Study of Constraints and Opportunities in Bangladesh, Nick Hahn, p. 10.



45. As a partner in the international endeavour in tackling disasters, FAO plays a key role in disaster prevention, mitigation, and preparedness, as well as in post-emergency and relief, and rehabilitation. The FAO Strategic Framework puts this activity as one of the important strategies to address Member Nations’ needs within the context of contributing to the eradication of food insecurity and rural poverty. The Medium Term Plan of the Organization has articulated the activities to be undertaken within the context of the strategy, during the Plan period.

46. In seeking to reduce the vulnerability of agricultural production systems to disasters, FAO provides technical assistance to its Member Nations to strengthen their capacity to prevent or mitigate the impact of windstorms, hurricanes, cyclones, floods, landslides, and other natural disasters. Technical assistance includes establishment of shelter-belt plantations, forestation and forest management, watershed management, control of soil erosion, crop diversification and construction of drainage systems and flood-control dikes.

47. FAO also provides assistance to enhance Member Nations’ land and water databases and information systems, and their capacities to plan and manage land and water resources. This includes the development and continuous updating of methodologies and tools that take into account biological resources and ensure sustainability of fragile ecosystems. Such tools can be used to identify and map vulnerable areas and assess risks in physical and socio-economic terms, for decision-making regarding human settlement and land-use in storm or flood-prone areas. Use of participatory approaches, that allow people living in vulnerable areas to articulate their own needs and concerns, is encouraged and supported, and community-based contingency planning is growing in importance, with an increased recognition that the most important actors in disaster mitigation are those most at risk.

48. FAO is increasingly requested to provide assistance for developing disaster-prevention programmes and preparedness plans in the aftermath of storm-related disasters. Recent examples include the Caribbean islands, Fiji, and Andra Pradesh. The assistance includes introduction of many of the disaster management measures mentioned in section V above, together with the development of institutional frameworks at regional, national and local levels for managing risk and coping with emergencies. Support is also given to building up Rapid Agricultural Disaster Assessment capacities, and to advance planning for moving affected persons to safety, containing the effects of the storm as far as possible, and mobilising and distributing emergency food and other humanitarian relief in the aftermath of a storm-related disaster. FAO mobilises international support through its Global Early Warning and Information System (GIEWS), which provides early warning and crop and food supply assessments before and during emergencies. In the aftermath of a disaster, FAO, through its Special Relief Operations Unit, provides agricultural inputs and other support to rehabilitate and restore production systems.


49. The impact of storm-related disasters goes beyond the most immediate and visible consequences of death, injury, destruction of livelihood systems and property, food shortages and food insecurity at local and/or national level. Storm-related disasters could also affect land quality and future land productivity. They often result in making the poor even poorer. Storms also destroy expensive long-term development projects and lead to a setback in development. The vulnerability of countries and societies to storm-related disasters thus poses a great challenge to the global objective of reducing poverty and under-nourishment in the developing countries. This calls for an effective strategy incorporating a long-term programme to reduce vulnerability to storm and flood-related disasters together with a preparedness programme to be brought into action in the event of disasters.

50. The implementation of the strategy requires a sound coordination of policies and programmes at national and local level and coordination of international assistance in support of such strategies. The following recommendations for promoting an effective strategy to reduce agricultural vulnerability to storm-related disasters are put forward for the Committee’s consideration.

A.  For Member Nations Vulnerable to Storm-related Disasters

51. To develop a long-term strategy to prevent and/or mitigate the consequences of storm-related disasters for vulnerable agricultural systems (including forestry and fisheries).

52. To carry out a risk-assessment study to characterise the nature of storm-related risks in vulnerable zones, and identify measures that could mitigate the adverse effects of storms on vulnerable populations, including:

53. To integrate the disaster management strategy into the overall development programme at local and national levels, with proper budgetary and other resource allocations needed for implementation.

54. To mainstream storm and flood-related disaster issues and concerns:

55. To develop preparedness plans for mitigating the impact of severe weather events:

B.  For the FAO Secretariat

56. To promote general awareness of FAO’s emergency-prevention activities related to all kinds of natural disasters, including storms, by:

57. To develop baseline information for disaster prevention, by:

58. To strengthen national and local capacity for disaster preparedness and management, by:

C.  For the International Community

59. To support national and local efforts to reduce vulnerability to storm-related disasters, by:


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

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

3.  World Bank (2000): Managing Economic Crisis and Natural Disasters. In: World Development Report 2000/2001. Washington.

4.  A/54/135 'International co-operation to reduce the impact of the EL Niño phenomenon'

5.  Definition taken from Encyclopedia Britannica.

6.  EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database. - Université Catholique de Louvain - Brussels – Belgium.

7.  UNU release -

8.  OECD/DAC, 1994. Disaster Mitigation Guidelines. Paris.

9.  This Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) cited in the FIIT contribution.

10.  the chart is taken from "Hurricane Action Plan for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sectors in the Eastern Caribbean" Draft Report, Section2, page 1

11. FAO (1999): Geographic Information System Enhancement for Hurricane Preparedness and Impact Mitigation