Agriculture incurred the highest financial losses and damages wrought by disasters, which have grown in intensity, frequency and complexity, said the Food and Agriculture Organisation in its latest report.
In the report “2021 The impact of disasters and crises on agriculture and food security”, the FAO noted that agriculture and food systems have never confronted with such an array of new and unprecedented threats in history. The threats include fires, large desert locust swarms, extreme weather and emerging biological threats like Covid -19 pandemic. Apart from taking lives, these hazards devastate agricultural livelihoods and inflict cascading negative economic consequences across the society, the FAO said in the report.
The FAO points out that the impacts of disasters cost the agricultural sector of developing country economies over 108 billion dollars between 2008 and 2018. These damages are detrimental to livelihoods of smallholder and subsistence farmers, pastoralists and fishers. It said that Asia was the most hard-hit region. The region endured overall economic losses of 49 billion dollar during the period. Africa followed Asia, recording 30 billion dollar los and Latin America and Caribbean at 29 billion dollar.
FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu noted that the impact was extensive and required immediate effort to better assess and understand its dynamics in order to mitigate its costs. Increased risk exposure becomes the ‘new normal’, and the impact of climate change is set to exacerbate these challenges even further,” he said.
The FAO report highlights drought as the single greatest disaster leading to agricultural production loss. It said that drought led to over 34 percent of crop and livestock loss in Least Developed Countries and Lower-Middle Income Countries. This cost loss of about 37 billion dollars. Pests, diseases and infestations caused nine percent of all crop and livestock production loss from 2008 to 2018. Apart from these disasters, Covid -19 pandemic placed additional burden on agri-food systems exacerbating existing, systemic risks with cascading effects on lives, livelihoods, and economies worldwide, the FAO report said
Disaster impacts on food security and nutrition Disasters also impact food security and nutrition. The report estimates that crop and livestock production loss in Least Developed Countries and Lower-Middle Income Countries between 2008 and 2018 was equivalent to a loss of 6.9 trillion kilocalories per year. It points out that disaster impacts during the study period in Latin America and the Caribbean showed a loss of 975 calories per capita per day
A disaster resilient future
The report calls for investing in resilience and disaster risk reduction for achieving sustainable future Holistic responses. The report wanted countries to adopt a multi-hazard and multi- sectoral systemic risk management approach to anticipate, prepare, prevent and respond to disaster risk in agriculture. Strategies should not only involve natural hazards but also anthropogenic and biological threats like Covid -19 pandemic. The countries should make use of remote sensing, drones and geospatial information.