Land & Water

Drought and Agriculture

Drought, a devastating natural hazard, affects a significant proportion of the global population, particularly those living in semi-arid and arid regions. The percentage of the planet affected by drought has more than doubled in the last 40 years and in the same timespan droughts have affected more people worldwide than any other natural hazard. Climate change is indeed exacerbating drought in many parts of the world, increasing its frequency, severity and duration.

Severe drought episodes have a dire impact on the socio-economic sector and the environment and can lead to massive famines and migration, natural resource degradation, and weak economic performance. Drought can also exacerbate social tensions and fuel civil unrest.

Agriculture bears much of the impact, and in developing countries it is the most affected sector, absorbing up to 80 percent of all direct impacts, with multiple effects on water availability, agricultural production, food security and rural livelihoods. With nearly 1.3 billion people – 40 percent of the world – relying on agriculture as the main source of income, drought is putting the livelihood of many at risk, often halting and reversing gains in food security and poverty reduction and hampering efforts to reach SDG1 and SDG2.

Drought cannot be stopped, but due to the growing availability of technological innovations it can be forecasted – in some cases up to a month in advance. Likewise, when appropriate policy instruments are in place, the  impacts of drought can be substancially mitigated and reduced. 

Experience shows that proactive, risk-based management approaches are effective in enhancing the resilience of communities and their capacity to cope with drought, but despite the progress made, drought management and planning is often overlooked until a crisis unfolds. This reactive, crisis-led response gives rise to a fragmented policy space where interventions are sectorally isolated, and drought mitigation strategies under-perform.

FAO is firmly committed to build on the momentum provided by the SDGs, the Paris Climate Agreement, and recent efforts by other international actors to support the creation of national drought management policies and the shift to a proactive drought management approach, which is at the heart of FAO’s Strategic Objective of increasing the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises.

FAO’s support materializes through the following actions:

  • Awareness creation to improve understanding among policy-makers and decision-makers of the importance of drought risk management (e.g. through the organization of high-level events, such as the International Seminar on Drought and Agriculture, MHNDP, the African Drought Conference);
  • The development of guidelines tailored for specific drought-prone regions and of other technical tools to facilitate the adoption of proactive drought management policies at the country level;
  • Capacity development in drought policy through training at the regional and country levels;
  • The provision of direct support to countries to implement proactive drought management policies through field projects;
  • Building partnerships with specialized organizations and research centres as well as with country-level and regional networks of institutions concerned with drought to promote proactive drought policies and enhance country support;
  • Carrying out studies to characterize drought and its management in different regions;
  • Hosting the Drought & Agriculture Forum, a common learning, sharing and planning platform on best practices in drought management to enable the design of multi-sectoral initiatives that benefit all stakeholders.

FAO’s programme on proactive drought risk management cuts across the Organization’s technical and cooperation departments and involves strong partnerships with specialized organizations and research centres beyond FAO. Collaborating partners include the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and UN-Water, as well as the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Lincoln-Nebraska, United States of America. The programme also coordinates with several national research centres and regional networks concerned with drought issues.

International Seminar on Drought and Agriculture

As part of the celebrations of the International Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Netherlands requested FAO to organize an International Seminar on Drought and Agriculture. The proposal was well accepted and the event took place at FAO Headquarter in Rome on 19th June 2017.

The main objective of the Seminar was to stimulate an innovative debate on drought management trends and practices, by promoting proactive, integrated actions and engaging actors within and beyond the drought community. To this purpose the morning High-Level as well as the technical sessions emphasized the importance of a paradigm shifting from drought immediate response to medium- and long-term preparedness. The Seminar highlighted existing best practices drawn from different contexts, drove the sharing of knowledge and fostered the implementation of integrated, holistic drought interventions. The event was organized under the Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture, a new partnership initiative launched by FAO at UNFCCC CoP 22 in Morocco in 2016, and saw the participation of worldwide representatives.

Click on the links in the below agenda to access presentations and speeches as well as a summary of the panel debates, and the Co-Chairs Communiqué adopted at the end of the event.


Introduction by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Islamic Republic of Iran




Video on Drought and Agriculture


Ceremony for the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between FAO and WMO


SETTING THE SCENE: What could be done differently and by whom


Showcases on thematic 1 - Integrating and aligning water and soil management strategies to maximize response to drought 

  • Mr. Saidi Mkomwa, African Conservation Tillage Network - Sustainable Land Management & Climate Change Resilience. SHOWCASE | PRESENTATION
  • Ms. Marcella D'Souza, Water Organization Trust - Towards Resilience in the Face of Drought: The Case-study of Kumbharwadi, Maharashtra, India. SHOWCASE | PRESENTATION



Moderator: Mr. Theib Y. Oweis, ICARDA 

  • Mr. Sibiri Jean Ouedraogo, Interim Director-General, Institut du Sahel
  • Ms. Gulchekhra Khasankhanova, Head of Soil and Irrigation Department, Uzbek State Uzgipromeliovodkhoz Institute (UZGIP) Institute



Presentation on Monitoring Water Productivity through Remote Sensing 


Showcases on thematic session 2 - Connecting farmers to technologies – changing threats to opportunities 



Moderator: Mr. Joseph Ahenda, FAO Somalia 

  • Ms. Maria Isabel Andrade, Board Member, AGRA
  • Mr. Leith Ben Becher, Former President and Founder, Syndicat des Agriculteurs de Tunisie (SYNAGRI)



Showcases on thematic session 3 - Moving from reactive to proactive management in drought emergencies

  • Ms. Jyothi Bylappa, World Food Program (WFP) - R4 Rural Resilience Initiative.  SHOWCASE | PRESENTATION
  • Mr. Horacio Rubio Gutiérrez, Comisión Nacional del Agua, Government of Mexico - Programa Nacional Contra la Sequia (PRONACOSE). SHOWCASE | PRESENTATION



Moderator: Mr. Dominique Burgeon, FAO 

  • Mr. Johannes Cullmann, Water and Climate Division Director, WMO
  • Mr. Daniel Tsegai, Drought Programme Officer, UNCCD



Showcases on thematic session 4 - Mainstreaming drought management in the context of the 2030 Agenda

  • Mr. Johannes Hunink, Future Water - DMIAT: Drought Monitoring and Impact Assessment Toolbox for Vietnam. SHOWCASE | PRESENTATION
  • Ms. Catherine Ogolla, CAFOD - Managing drought in Kenya through interagency cooperation. SHOWCASE | PRESENTATION



Moderator: Mr. Mawira Chitima, IFAD

  • Mr. Ronald Hugh Jackson, Executive Director, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency
  • Mr. Michael Brüntrup, Senior Researcher DIE (German Development Institute)



Remarks and Conclusions


Launching of FAO Publication: Drought characteristics and management in Central Asia and Turkey - FAO Water Report 44