Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Climate resilience: synergies between Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate-Smart Agriculture

Enabling Frameworks

Preparedness for disaster response and 'building back better' in a changing climate

Climate resilient rural livelihoods require that agricultural communities have the capacities to reduce the risk of climate-related disasters and their vulnerabilities to their impacts, and the capacities to cope with disasters and recover quickly when emergency situations cannot be avoided. As the impacts of climate change become more apparent, there are many difficult and urgent issues that need to be resolved to provide this comprehensive support to vulnerable communities. As noted in Chapter C5-3, having separate institutional and funding mechanisms for disaster risk management and climate change adaptation makes the responses to these challenges less effective than they could be. The same is true the divide that often exists between disaster risk reduction and disaster management. Rapid responses, which are needed to save lives, often do not provide enough space for considering, strategically planning and implementing actions and measures that can support immediate livelihood recovery and at the same time reduce future risks and vulnerability. The demand for better integration of risk reduction and response operations has led to more attention being paid to the concept of 'building back better' (Lebel et al., 2012). The strategic links between preparedness, emergency response, and recovery that the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and other disaster risk reduction initiatives have highlighted is another area where disaster risk reduction can support climate-smart agriculture. 

A major issue in practical operations on the ground is connecting humanitarian interventions with development programmes. Bridging this gap would allow a smooth transition from response, recovery and rehabilitation to sustainable development. The 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) highlighted the need for governments, as well as local responders, civil society, the private sector and the international community to overcome the “current fragmentation in managing risk” (WHS, 2016). The Secretary General’s report, One humanity: shared responsibility notes that “climate change continues to cause increased humanitarian stress as it exacerbates food insecurity, water scarcity, conflict, migration and other trends”. Referencing the joint objectives of the global agendas endorsed in 2015 and 2016, the report emphasizes that risk reduction is a cost-effective way of saving lives and that a sustainable approach is needed to deal with natural hazards and the impacts of climate change. 

There are a number of good practices on the ground that can contribute to smoothing the transitions between disaster risk reduction, emergency response and development. The rest of this chapter presents the most relevant examples.

Risk monitoring and early warning systems in agriculture

Early earning systems, which are well established and highly successful tools for disaster risk reduction, also have the capacity to bridge the gap between risk reduction and emergency response. Early warning systems are essential for proactive decision-making at all levels. They can be used to reduce the impacts of extreme weather events by alerting vulnerable communities of the urgent need to protect their assets and preparing them for evacuation if necessary. 

The FAO Agricultural Stress Index System (ASIS), which collects data on vegetation and land surface temperatures, contributes to essential early warning systems by monitoring vegetation indices and detecting hotspots where crops or livestock may be affected by drought. The analysis of meteorological data, together with information on plant development, soil and agricultural statistics, allows for the provision of near real-time information about the status of crops in terms of quality and quantity. Along with crop forecasting, ASIS also can provide early warning of possible emergencies, so that timely interventions can be planned and implemented. In many developing countries, warning systems for very sudden events, such as flash floods, landslides and storm surges are not yet readily available (FAO, 2016c). 

Agro-meteorological monitoring systems are becoming more readily available. Nevertheless, the timely and effective delivery of warnings and information to end-users remains a challenge. To promote early warning systems that translate into early action in the agriculture sectors, the information must be tailored to the needs of end-users, and outreach activities must be undertaken to ensure that the information reaches vulnerable agriculture-dependent communities in remote areas. Box C5.9 provides an example from the Philippines of an early warning system that is tailored to agriculture producers' needs and can prompt early action.

Box C5.9  Linking early warning systems with early action in agriculture in the Philippines

A partnership agreement between the Department of Agriculture and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration has led to the development of improved weather and climate services that interpret agricultural climate information at various temporal and spatial scales, and support and strengthen the implementation of good practices in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

In Bicol Region, regional and provincial seasonal climate advisories and farm weather bulletins have been produced and disseminated through electronic, print and broadcast media (Figure C5.9).

Further reading see: FAO, 2013b

Figure C5.9.  Agro-climate information in the Philippines 

Source: Philippine Department of Agriculture, 2015.

The recovery and rehabilitation periods after disasters when many reconstruction activities are carried out are also windows of opportunity for increasing preparedness towards future emergencies. This is especially important in light of climate change scenarios that suggest more intense and frequent weather extremes can be expected. The response to Typhoon Haiyan (Box C5.10) has increased efforts in the Philippines to integrate disaster risk reduction and longer-term support for sustainable development in agricultural communities in response to climate change.

Box C5.10 Typhoon Haiyan emergency and livelihoods recovery programme 

In the Philippines, the FAO Haiyan emergency and livelihoods recovery programme supported more than 230 000 farming and fishing families in three regions. From the start, relief efforts were linked to the government's medium- and long-term development objectives. The goal was not simply to return to the pre-typhoon conditions but to 'build back better' and strengthen the resilience of the affected populations. 

The first interventions focused on providing affected people with the means (e.g. seeds, tools, fertilizer, household farming kits, pumps) to plant rice and corn, or the tools (e.g fishing gear and aquaculture kits) to catch or raise fish. Soon after, other activities were carried out to adapt and improve farming and fishing practices, and make them more resilient and sustainable. Because typhoons will certainly strike again in the future, it was important to make sure the population was better prepared and less vulnerable than before. This was done by improving storage facilities for crops and seeds, and designing better, more durable boats and training boat builders. Support was also provided to protect marine areas as fish sanctuaries and rehabilitate mangrove forests. 

More than two years after the typhoon, the farmers and fishers who survived the disaster are well on the road to recovery. Most of them have been able to rebuild their lives and have learned new techniques to make their production more sustainable and new ways to protect themselves and their environment. 

Source: FAO in Emergencies website, 2016

The example of the Philippines (see Box C5.3, Box C5.9, Box C5.10) demonstrate that countries highly exposed to recurring weather extremes require holistic approaches that link disaster risk reduction, emergency response and climate-smart agriculture. Climate-smart agriculture can be a useful approach in supporting recovery interventions by promoting agriculture practices that add value to disaster risk reduction with a long-term objective of promoting sustainable production intensification and climate change adaptation in tandem.

Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation based on ost-disaster needs assessments

Systematized post-disaster needs assessments are another disaster risk reduction measure that is being increasingly used in recovery planning. Conducted directly after disasters, these cross-sectoral assessments quantify damage and losses, and estimate the investment needs for recovery. Post-disaster needs assessments and risk assessment methodologies can be combined to inform development programmes. These combined assessments support sound spatial planning and retro-fitting that can enable infrastructure, including agricultural infrastructure (e.g. silos, seed storage facilities, or irrigation systems) to be built back better.

Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy, in partnership with government agencies and other international organizations, undertook a rapid multi-hazard analysis to map the risk of floods, wind, tsunamis, landslides and earthquakes in affected areas. The results have been used to guide the safe positioning of transitional shelters and support long-term recovery efforts. To date the integration of risk assessments and vulnerability mapping with post-disaster needs assessments has not been widely used to mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation in post-disaster reconstruction and recovery. However, the Paris Agreement, which identifies early warning systems, emergency preparedness  and risk insurance  mechanisms as areas for cooperation, marks a major step forward in this regard (FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1 Article 7 and 8).

Linking social protection schemes with disaster risk reduction

Social protection can also play an important role in supporting and integrating disaster risk reduction and climate-smart agriculture. Disaster risk reduction and social protection are closely connected. The increased frequency and intensity of extreme climate events will certainly have repercussions on the ability to reduce poverty, which is what social protection is intended to accomplish. Limited assets or the absence of social protection can cause households and communities to adopt negative coping mechanisms that increase their vulnerability to risks (HLPE, 2012). The value of scaling up cash-based programming and risk-informed, shock-responsive social protection systems is becoming more widely appreciated by organizations working the field of humanitarian assistance and sustainable development. 

Table C5.1.  Key components of a risk-informed and shock-responsive social protection system 


  • risk-informed strategies that consider economic, environmental and conflict-sensitive factors, and target poor and chronically food-insecure households in food-insecure or disaster-prone areas 
  • the provision of direct transfers to households to smooth consumption and avoid the distress selling of asset in the face of recurrent risks, such as climatic shocks 
  • public work interventions that can promote sustainable agriculture by creating or rehabilitating infrastructure


  • a contingency funding mechanism that enables the rapid scaling up and response to unexpected transitory emergencies (e.g. food price peaks, loss of assets) 
  • comprehensive early warning systems on food security, nutrition and climate that can trigger contingency mechanisms within broader humanitarian response structures 
  • strong subnational and community-based institutions and coalitions that deal with  health, sustainable economic an social development, community care and agricultural extension

Source: FAO, 2016d 

In post-disaster situations, cash-for-work programmes are a mechanism that can promote climate-smart agriculture and reduce the risk of disasters and climate-smart practices. For example, they can be used to support the building and improving of hazard-proofed agricultural infrastructure and carrying out other activities, such as soil and water conservation, reforestation and afforestation. See module C7 on social protection and decent rural employment for a climate-smart agriculture.