Climate change-related disasters surge pose growing threat to food security

Surge in climate change-related disasters pose growing threat to food security, the FAO warned in a new report released ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris.

According to the report, a copy which was made available to the Ghana News Agency by Peter Mayer of the FAO Media Relations in Rome, droughts, floods, storms and other disasters triggered by climate change had risen in frequency and severity over the last three decades, increasing the damage caused to the agricultural sectors of many developing countries and putting them at risk of growing food insecurity.

It said, worldwide, between 2003 and 2013 – the period analyzed in the study – the average annual number of disasters caused by all types of natural hazards, including climate-related events, almost doubled since the 1980s.

The report observed that the total economic damage caused was estimated at 1.5 trillion dollars.

It said focusing specifically on the impact of climate-related disasters in developing countries, some 25 per cent of the negative economic impacts were borne by the crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors alone.

It said in the case of drought, over 80 per cent of the damage and losses affected the agriculture sector, especially livestock and crop production.

The FAO report is based on a review of 78 on the ground post disaster needs-assessments conducted in developing countries coupled with statistical analyses of production losses, changes in trade flows and agriculture sector growth associated with 140 medium and large scale disasters – defined as those affecting at least 250,000 people.

The report clearly demonstrates that natural hazards – particularly extreme weather events – regularly impact heavily on agriculture and hamper the eradication of hunger, poverty and the achievement of sustainable development.

It said the situation was likely to worsen, unless measures were taken to strengthen the resilience of the agriculture sector, and increase investments to boost food security and productivity, and also curb the harmful effects of climate change.

“This year alone, small-scale farmers, fisher-folks, pastoralists and foresters – from Myanmar to Guatemala and from Vanuatu to Malawi – have seen their livelihoods eroded or erased by cyclones, droughts, floods and earthquakes,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

He noted how the international community recently committed itself to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and is expected to reach a climate change agreement at the COP 21.

“Measuring progress made in meeting these global targets will require accurate, up-to-date information, including on the impact of disasters,” Graziano da Silva stated.

“National strategies for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation that support resilience must address the types of disasters with the greatest impact on the agriculture sector,” the FAO Director-General said.

He noted how sector-specific data on damage and losses are essential for effective policy and practice,” and that the FAO study aims to contribute to national, regional and global efforts to develop comprehensive disaster data collection and monitoring systems.

According to the report, drought had an especially detrimental impact – around 90 per cent of production losses – on agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa where the sector on average contributes to a quarter of GDP, rising to a half when agribusiness is included.

“At a conservative estimate, total crop and livestock production losses after major droughts were equivalent to more than $ 30 billion between 1991 and 2013 in the region.

“Drought often has a major cascading effect on national economies as shown in Kenya where between 2008 and 2011 it caused significant losses in the food processing industry, particularly grain milling and coffee and tea processing,” the report said.

“Worldwide, the livelihoods of 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture, yet only 4.2 per cent of total official development assistance was spent on agriculture between 2003 and 2012 – less than half the United Nations target of 10 per cent,” it added.

It said investment in disaster risk reduction was extremely low, only around 0.4 per cent of official development aid in 2010 and 2011.

FAO stresses that aid should better reflect the impact of disasters on the agriculture sector.

“Investments into disaster response and recovery should also build resilience to future shocks through risk reduction and management measures, particularly in countries facing recurrent disasters and where agriculture is a critical source of livelihoods, food and nutrition security, as well as a key driver of the economy,” the report said. GNA

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