Policy Support and Governance Gateway

Disaster Risk Reduction in Agriculture

Disasters have recently intensified, affecting 4.03 billion people (up by 124% compared to the previous two decades) and resulting in direct economic losses of nearly USD 3 trillion (up by 182% compared to 1980-1999). Climate-related disasters were responsible for 91% of direct economic losses and affected 3.6 billion people globally.

Agriculture absorbed 26% of the overall impact caused by medium- to large-scale disasters in least developed countries (LDCs) and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) between 2008 and 2018. The livelihoods of 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture; while this sector provides resilience solutions to disasters and climate change.

Reducing risks, strengthening resilience.

FAO supports the coherent implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). FAO’s efforts related to disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies and governance include mainstreaming DRR within agricultural development planning, developing capacities for disaster impact monitoring in agriculture, and strengthening coherence between DRR and climate change adaptation processes.

Key policy messages

  • The number and impact of disasters, particularly climate-induced disasters, is increasing significantly. It is crucial that all countries succeed in shifting from reactive disaster response approaches to more proactive prevention, preparedness and risk-informed anticipatory actions and investments, as agreed under the SFDRR. Many small- and medium-scale disasters can be avoided – or their impact limited – if effective risk reduction measures are put in place.
  • Farmers, herders, fishers and forest-dependent communities are direct custodians of the environment; the way they manage natural resources can prevent natural hazards from becoming disasters and crises. Ecosystem services provided by farmers should be acknowledged, costed and translated into tangible returns for them. Policies must take into consideration the “buffer” role of agriculture in times of crises. It absorbs environmental and economic shocks and related stress at the macro or micro economic and environmental levels. Agriculture plays a critical role in ensuring that affected people maintain access to food and livelihoods during and after disasters, and in building resilience over time. These functions should be reflected in sectoral responsibilities and in budget allocation.
  • It is critically important to integrate disaster risk reduction (DRR) into sectoral/agricultural development plans and socio-economic development strategies. At the same time, there is a need to strengthen and ensure greater coherence between DRR and climate change adaptation (CCA) in agriculture. Joint actions across systems (local, national, regional and global) must be accelerated and scaled up, including through the alignment of national/local DRR strategies/plans with national climate action plans (Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans) and the SDG targets/commitments in order to leave no one behind.
  • Risk-sensitive agriculture and food systems are key to secure development gains across the Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus. Without strengthening the understanding and effective reduction and management of multiple risks in agrifood systems, the number of people and communities in need of humanitarian assistance, particularly in conflict and protracted crisis settings will further increase. In this context, it is critical to scale up DRR in humanitarian actions and to ensure that such interventions are gender and conflict-sensitive.
  • Over the last decade, the Official Development Aid (ODA) to agriculture-related prevention and preparedness  has remained relatively low and reached only 3% of total agriculture-related ODA to DRR and management. Yet, the investments in prevention and preparedness for agriculture pay off. Benefits from farm-level DRR good practices are on average 2.2 times higher than from previously used farming practices. In addition, the return on investment from risk-informed early action in agriculture is 7:1 i.e. for  every USD 1 invested it has generated returns of up to USD 7 in avoided disaster losses and added benefits. Proactive policies and incentives are needed to increase investment in disaster prevention and preparedness and upscale evidence-based DRR good practices.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that risks are systemic. Policy development and implementation, resilience building as well as  recovery interventions in agrifood systems must be risk-informed, evidence-based and geared towards system-wide solutions, within and across sectors and actors. This requires multi-sectoral, multi-hazard and preventive and anticipatory approaches that consistently integrate disaster, climate and crisis risk management to strengthen the resilience of people, their agricultural livelihoods and the ecosystems they depend on in a sustainable manner.

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