Asia-Pacific countries identify priority action to build resilience of agriculture to natural disasters
With the number of hydro-meteorological events such as storms, floods, heat/cold wave, droughts, on the rise due to a changing, warming climate, the world also witnesses a rise in frequency of natural disasters. Of the total damage and loss caused by natural hazards in developing countries between 2003 and 2013, 22 percent occurred in the agricultural sector, according to data by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
Representatives of governments and the academic and development communities in the Asia Pacific region gathered last week in Hanoi to craft priority actions addressing the vulnerability of food and agricultural systems to natural disasters. Organized by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, the conference aimed to “identify priority actions and the ways forward for the agriculture sectors to proactively implement the four priority areas of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the 2030 Agenda,” the conference website said.
Adopted by UN Member States in 2015, the Sendai Framework urges States to take action towards understanding disaster risk, strengthening disaster risk governance, investing in disaster risk reduction, and enhancing disaster preparedness.
At a session facilitated by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), participants emphasized the need for coherence in policies and investments across institutions, in order to effect a coordinated response towards reducing risk and strengthening resilience of crops against increasing frequency and severity of natural hazards.
“The importance of a coordinated action, directed by a clear policy, could not be overemphasized,” notes Godefroy Grosjean, session facilitator and leader of the Climate Policy Hub at CIAT. “And we have a number of models in the region to draw inspiration from. The efforts of the Philippine government to mainstream climate change in the work of the Department of Agriculture is one example: the program is comprehensive, integrative, builds in long-term planning, and – very important – is part of the national development agenda, which means that the government has allocated resources for it.”
CIAT’s Climate Policy Hub works with stakeholders in countries most threatened by climate risks in Asia, such as the Philippines. It helps the Department of Agriculture assess the country’s agricultural areas’ vulnerability, as well as weigh the benefits to and investments needed for the application and scale out of climate-resilient agricultural practices, in order to aid decisionmaking.
In 2017, the Climate Policy Hub performed comprehensive stocktaking exercises of a country’s challenges and opportunities in agriculture relative to climate change scenarios, for Vietnam, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan. Following development of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) profiles, follow-on initiatives specifically responding to risks previously determined in the profiles, are currently underway in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. With assistance from the Climate Policy Hub, national and sub-national governments, together with development partners, work towards strengthening resilience of the agriculture sector.
Bangladesh, together with World Bank, is in the process of developing a climate-smart investment plan for agriculture. Pakistan, in partnership with FAO, is getting ready to turn their agricultural communities into climate-smart villages, starting off with the Punjab and Sindh provinces. Nepal, also with FAO, is beginning to explore the use of climate information services, for example, advisories pertaining to agronomy and markets, in order to advise farmers and entrepreneurs on the best action considering their location’s unique conditions.
All of these are examples of steps towards building resilience of agriculture, including of crops. Other priority actions identified by session participants include strengthening research in order to improve risk assessment; establishing a responsive regional mechanism to address transboundary disaster risks, for example, pest-disease outbreaks; and investing in the collection and dissemination across country and across the region of useful data and knowledge, e.g. improved crop varieties, and in early warning systems, seed banks, and climate risk-based insurance schemes.