Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015
Making development sustainable: The future of disaster risk management

background image
3.7 Agricultural drought risk
In several countries, losses from agricultural drought not only pose risks to the national economy but can also lead to devastating effects on the rural population. With climate change, patterns of agricultural drought can be expected to change.
Agricultural drought is probably the most socially constructed of all disaster risks (UNISDR, 2011a

UNISDR. 2011a,Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction: Revealing Risk, Redefining Development, Geneva, Switzerland: UNISDR.. .
). Besides insufficient rainfall, agricultural drought is associated with other factors such as temperature and wind, which influence evaporation, transpiration and the soil’s capacity to hold moisture. However, while agricultural drought hazard occurs when there is insufficient moisture in the soil to meet the needs of a particular crop at a given time and location, it is also associated with factors such as land degradation, inappropriate land-use and cropping patterns, over-extraction of ground water, and overgrazing. Low-income rural households and communities may have no alternative but to farm or graze marginal, drought-prone and degraded land. And with little capacity to mobilize assets, they are vulnerable to even small shortfalls in production and have low levels of resilience.
The direct impacts of agricultural drought are reduced crop, rangeland and forest productivity, reduced water levels, increased fire hazard, damage to wildlife and fish habitats, and increased livestock and wildlife mortality. The indirect impacts include reduced income from agriculture and increased food and timber prices, which in turn lead to wider impacts such as malnutrition (especially among children), increased unemployment, migration, reduced tax revenues and the risk of foreclosures on bank loans to farmers. Although agricultural droughts can persist for several years, even a short, intense drought can cause significant damage to the local economy (FAO, 2013a

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). 2013a,Drought, FAO Land & Water.. .
In sub-Saharan Africa, only 1 per cent of the farmed area is irrigated (Ward et al., 2014

Ward, Christopher, Claudia Ringler, Raphael Torquebiau and Tom Watson. 2014,Improving resilience in SSA drylands: the contribution of agricultural water management. .
), while 52 per cent of land is degraded to some degree (GAR 13 paperErian et al., 2014

GAR13 Reference Erian, Wadid, Bassem Katlan, Naji Assad and Sanaa Ibrahim. 2014,Effects of Drought and Land Degradation on Crop Losses in Africa and the Arab Region with Special Case Study on: drought and conflict in Syria, Background Paper prepared for the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. Geneva, Switzerland: UNISDR..
Click here to view this GAR paper.
). Despite increasing productivity, the total productivity gap between the region and developing countries as a whole is still widening (Figure 3.33).
Figure 3.33 Total factor productivity (TFP) index
(Source: USDA Economic Research Service.)
In many low-income countries in this region, agriculture remains a critical economic sector. In many of those countries where economic activity and employment are concentrated in agriculture, such as Eritrea and Ethiopia, a significant proportion of the population is undernourished, and a significant proportion of the area covered by vegetation is affected by high levels of land degradation and agricultural drought hazard (Table 3.2).
In these countries, agricultural drought not only poses risks to the national economy but also leads to devastating effects on the rural population.
In Malawi, for example, agriculture is responsible for around 30 per cent of GDP. Estimated annual losses due to drought represent about 1 per cent
Previous page Previous Section  
Contact us  |  Disclaimer  |  Our Partners  |  References  |  Acknowledgements  |  PreventionWeb |  WCDRR  |  © United Nations 2015.