FAO emergencies and resilience

©FAO/Mayak Akuot

Saving lives through stronger, more resilient livelihoods

FAO has a unique role to play in preventing and addressing acute hunger and supporting countries experiencing food crises to return to a path of growth and prosperity, given the Organization’s mandate to end hunger, long-standing permanent country presence, and substantial expertise and experience in both humanitarian and development contexts.  

Protecting livelihoods by providing emergency agricultural assistance from the onset of a crisis enables people to produce food and earn an income. Rapid and efficient response to agricultural threats and emergencies saves lives, promotes recovery and reduces the gap between dependency on food assistance and self-reliance. 

FAO plays a lead role in building the evidence around acute food insecurity levels, analysis of drivers and lasting solutions, including through its role as co-founder of the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) , co-lead of the Global Food Security Cluster, host of the Integrated Food Security Classification (IPC) global support unit and member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on Preventing Famine.

In humanitarian contexts, FAO

  • helps people to anticipate and prepare for crises
  • responds fast to crises
  • seeks to reduce risks and address vulnerabilities

FAO is accountable to the women, men, boys and girls whose lives it aims to improve, and places this responsibility at the core of its emergency response and resilience programmes.

Accountability and inclusion addresses issues such accountability to affected populations, protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, diversity and inclusion.

Focusing on the rights, responsibilities, dignity and safety of all segments of an affected community, accountability and inclusion identifies the capacities, aspirations, constraints and unique needs by gender, age and diversity groups as they evolve over time. In practice, it entails two-way communication channels, which are essential to provide information that enables affected people to make informed decisions about their own lives. It also includes encouraging, listening to and acting on their complaints and, adapting programmes based on their feedback.

Another important measure is guaranteeing affected populations have access to aid without fear of exploitation or abuse by any aid worker. Overall response efforts involve enabling people to report on or address sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment without fear of retaliation.

FAO fulfils its commitment to accountability and inclusion by ensuring a people-centred response through:

  • institutional commitment to integrate and mainstream accountability and inclusion across all emergency and resilience programming
  • partnerships and coordination with key stakeholders at all levels to maximize synergies and foster exchange of best practices
  • continuous awareness-raising and capacity development of staff and partners
  • ensuring participation and inclusion of affected populations in decisions that impact their lives

By being more accountable to affected populations, FAO achieves programmes of higher quality, with greater and more sustainable impact. 

Timely and accurate agriculture-related food security and risk analysis data is fundamental to support and trigger FAO’s evidence-based emergency and resilience programming. 

This entails:

  • Understanding vulnerability and food insecurity
  • Risk monitoring, triggers and early warning systems
  • Anticipating shocks and anticipatory action plans
  • Emergency needs assessments and response analysis
  • Post-disaster needs assessments and recovery analysis  

Key agriculture-related food security and risk analysis tools include:

FAO plays a critical role in strengthening countries’ preparedness and response capacity to reduce the impact of animal health emergencies that can threaten livelihoods and food security, particularly in lower income countries with vulnerable infrastructures. By building capacity to prevent, detect and respond to disease threat and helping to avoid national, regional and global spread, FAO animal health programmes are critical in protecting people and animals from animal disease threats. 

Through its Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD), FAO builds animal health capacity to prevent, detect and respond to zoonotic and non-zoonotic disease outbreaks at source. 

Through its Emergency Management Centre for Animal Health (EMC-AH), FAO has been leading global animal health emergency management since 2006 using a One Health approach. The Centre’s core functions are laid out under four pillars: preparedness, response, incident coordination, and collaboration and resource mobilization.

ECTAD and EMC-AH work hand in hand to increase resilience to future global threats and to protect the world against One Health and livestock crises.

FAO is forging a way for a faster, more effective humanitarian system by shifting from disaster response to anticipation.

Anticipatory action is changing the way we manage disasters. Acting ahead of crises means protecting people's lives and livelihoods with benefits that reach far into the future.

Disasters are predictable. Thanks to technological advances, early warning information is more accurate and readily available than ever before. The FAO anticipatory action approach uses risk analysis and forecasts to trigger interventions before a crisis escalates into a humanitarian emergency. This is particularly critical in the agriculture sector. For small-scale farmers, heeding early warning signals can make the difference between a shock and a crisis.

    Predicting crises is the future of assistance - why rebuild if we can protect?
    What is Anticipatory Action?

    FAO’s cash and voucher programmes provide people with life-saving means to immediately cope with crises, while protecting their livelihoods and strengthening their resilience to future shocks. In humanitarian contexts, cash and vouchers provide dignity, choice and flexibility – recipients decide for themselves how, when and where to spend the cash to access the goods and services they most need in local markets.  

    Cash transfers have the potential to bridge humanitarian and development assistance. Predictable, multi-year, monthly humanitarian cash assistance can be used to strengthen or complement nascent or existing social assistance programmes and systems. Supporting people beyond seasonal needs by addressing vulnerabilities provides a sustainable long-term approach that breaks the circle of dependency.

    Vouchers allow FAO to provide farmers and pastoralists with access to the locally available essential inputs, equipment and services they need to maintain and improve their livelihoods. 

    FAO’s cash and voucher assistance includes  

    • cash+ 
    • unconditional cash transfers   
    • conditional cash transfers  
    • cash for work  
    • agricultural input vouchers   
    • nutrition vouchers    
    • seed and input trade fairs  

    Cash+ is widely used as it allows beneficiaries to address immediate basic needs while additional livelihoods assistance helps bolster livelihoods and resilience.  Cash for work also provides opportunities for communities to rehabilitate and/or build essential infrastructure (water management, soil conservation, market access, etc.) to improve the sustainability of their livelihoods when threatened by climate change and/or conflict.  

    A growing number of cash and voucher programmes are delivered using electronic means, such as electronic vouchers and mobile money, including through IDEA (Identification, Delivery, Empowerment Applications), a system developed by FAO for the management of beneficiary data and the delivery and tracking of assistance.

    Actions to make agriculture sustainable are among the most effective measures to help nations adapt to and mitigate climate change. 

    FAO helps crisis-affected and at-risk populations to withstand future shocks by embedding resilience-building within humanitarian activities. This means addressing underlying vulnerabilities and reducing the risks faced by rural communities, for example through promoting and spreading disaster risk reduction and climate resilient production practices.

    Building on decades of global experience and expertise, FAO is further integrating climate action into every facet of its work to support countries in facing these impacts. More-resilient farmers, foresters, herders and fishers can deliver transformative change that enhances their livelihoods and shields them from the negative impacts of climate change.

    Worldwide, 80 percent of the extreme poor live in rural areas. Of these, 76 percent work in agriculture, and a great share of them relies on subsistence farming.

    Shocks and stresses can affect the stability of agri-food systems and push vulnerable groups reliant on agriculture into destitution and hunger, as too often they lack the means to manage risks. This calls for inclusive risk management approaches that meet the immediate needs of shock-affected populations, while addressing the root causes of risk and vulnerability to create resilient and peaceful communities. 

    Social protection comprises a set of policies and programmes addressing economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities to food insecurity and poverty through preventive, protective, promotive and transformative effects for its beneficiaries.

    Social protection interventions are channelled through a wide range of instruments commonly categorized under three pillars:

    • social assistance
    • social insurance
    • labour market interventions

    Social protection plays a key role in reducing extreme poverty and enhancing food security, while also building household’s resilience in times of shocks, and stimulating rural households to invest in agricultural production. 

      Social protection: bridging the gap
      Related links

       Social protection


      Conflict is a major driver of food crises, followed by weather extremes and economic shocks. Violent conflict is also a primary drivers of forced displacement, another factor contributing to heightened food insecurity.

      Through it’s Corporate Framework to Support Sustainable Peace in the Context of Agenda 2030, and various strategic partnerships, FAO is fully committed to being conflict-sensitive and peace-responsive. FAO’s approach is in line with the Secretary-General’s request for the whole UN to regard sustaining peace as an important goal to which their work can contribute, and to integrate that approach into their strategic plans and country support. A suite of guidance has been developed to operationalize this at the country level, and to inform programme development and monitoring.

      Opportunities exist to contribute to conflict prevention and sustaining peace, by supporting inclusive natural resource management, food security and resilient agricultural livelihoods, in order to address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict. FAO also works with displaced people and host communities to protect and rebuild their livelihoods, enhance their self-reliance and foster inclusion and social cohesion at the community level.

      Particularly in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, understanding the local context, including conflict and peace dynamics, is foundational to conflict-sensitive programming. Contextual understanding is also key to achieving broader objectives on food security and improved agricultural production, and to inform interventions across the humanitarian-development-peace (HDP) nexus.

      Analysis of conflicts over natural resources

      Analysis of conflicts over transhumance

      Visualizing the P in the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus
      Conflict-sensitive programming: what is it and why is it important?