FAO warns that protecting agriculture from extreme weather and climate change must become a priority in Asia and the Pacific
While climate change and extreme weather events are impacting the environment in many ways, agriculture and food production in Asia and the Pacific are among those hardest hit and must be first in line to defend, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.
Droughts, floods and other natural disasters are becoming more frequent in Asia and the Pacific, already the most disaster-prone region in the world. When they strike, their impact on food production can be immediate. Because of this FAO is working with member nations, their farmers, academia, civil society and the private sector to improve ways to adapt to, and mitigate the effects of, climate change and crises on the agriculture sector.
About 200 participants and development partners from 28 countries in Asia and the Pacific are meeting today in Hanoi at an FAO convened regional conference to chart the ways forward for the agriculture sector’s implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
The Sendai Framework calls for making disaster risk management integral to all development sectors. This is critical to not only reduce disaster losses but also prevent and reduce risks, to adapt to climate change and achieve the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Over the last four decades, in financial terms, disaster losses in Asia and the Pacific increased 16 times.
“We must take actions to revert this trend. With 2.5 billion people on the planet relying on agriculture for livelihoods, this level of damage and loss jeopardizes our efforts to end hunger and poverty,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative.
During this meeting, FAO launched a global report “The impacts of disaster and crisis on agriculture and food security 2017.” It reveals that between 2005 and 2015 natural disasters cost the agricultural sectors of developing country economies a staggering US$ 96 billion in damaged or lost crop and livestock production. Drought was one of the leading culprits with 83 percent of all drought-caused economic losses with damage to agriculture accounting for US$ 29 billion. The report also warns that this is not the full picture as little is known about damage and loss to fisheries, aquaculture and forestry.
Heavily dependent on climate, natural resources and globalizing trade, agriculture is highly vulnerable to disasters. Climate change intensifies these risks. “But the risks are also driven by poorly planned development that results in pressures on land and water resources, ecosystem degradation, migration and increasing social tension and vulnerability of people, particularly the poor. Systematic investments in understanding these risks is instrumental for effective actions”, Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Minister of Disaster Management and Relief, Bangladesh highlighted in a message conveyed to the Conference.
“Agriculture is vital for many countries in the region. Agriculture development especially food production has helped Viet Nam firmly stand during regional and global economic crises, maintaining our economic growth and social stability” said Le Quoc Doanh, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Viet Nam at the Conference. “It is obvious that in the changing climate and urbanization context, poverty cannot be eradicated without strengthening the resilience of agriculture dependent livelihoods, especially of smallholder farmers.”
Discussing the risks faced by crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry, participants of the Conference were to share good practices in reducing risks and enhancing resilience and jointly identify priorities to move forward the implementation of the Sendai Framework in the agriculture sectors.
“FAO works with countries to enhance access of vulnerable smallholder farmers to climate information and disaster risk warning, using this information to adjust their production, diversify livelihoods and take early actions to be better prepared when emergencies happen. I am pleased to see these come along with technological advances as well as cost-benefit analysis to make the case for more investments in resilience building of smallholders,” Kadiresan said.
The Conference’s outcomes will be brought up to the FAO 34th Asia Pacific Regional Conference next month in Fiji to set priorities in the next biennium. These recommendations will also inform deliberations at the 2018 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, the platform to discuss the Sendai Framework implementation in the region, hosted by the Government of Mongolia in July 2018.