How disasters and crises affect agriculture and food security

Earthquake in Nepal, war in Syria – how to measure the impact of these disasters and crises on agriculture and food security? The FAO has provided an update on the state of post-disaster agriculture in developing countries.

The human food chain is under continuous threat from an alarming increase in the number of outbreaks of transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases. Conflict and protracted crises are forcing more and more people into conditions of poverty, food insecurity and displacement. This has become the “new normal”, and the impact of climate change will further exacerbate these threats and challenges. Disaster risk reduction and management must therefore become an integral part of modern agriculture.

The report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in March 2018 on the “Impact of disasters and crises on agriculture and food security 2017” presents its new methodology to estimate the impact of disasters on crop and livestock production. The report distinguishes three different causes of threats: 

  • Natural disasters
  • (Transboundary) food chain crises
  • Conflict regions

In addition to the post-disaster losses and damages in agriculture described in FAO’s 2015 report, the 2017 edition takes the subsectors fisheries, aquaculture and forest resources into account. Furthermore, it reveals an agriculture-specific methodology for evaluating damage and loss from disasters, thereby improving understanding of the wider implications for the economy and livelihoods. The main findings provide an overview not only of the damage and loss sustained by countries’ agriculture sector, but also of the support required to kick-start an effective recovery.

Case studies applying the new methodology come from Ethiopia and the Philippines. Damages and losses are estimated after the earthquake in Nepal. Transboundary livestock management and its interlinkage with food chain crises is regarded with special emphasises on the epidemic outbreak of the Bluetongue Virus and Rift Valley Fever. FAO’s new methodology has also been applied to assess the impacts of conflicts, such as the one in the Syrian Arab Republic, on agricultural losses and damage.

With this report, FAO seeks to contribute to implementing and monitoring the two main 2015 international agendas, which recognise resilience as fundamental to their achievement, namely the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Sendai Framework. The newly developed methodology aims to improve agriculture-related resilience monitoring by providing a standardised set of procedural and methodological steps that can be used at global, national and subnational levels. This contributes to consistency across countries and disasters. The methodology has already been adopted by the UN Office for Disaster and Risk Reduction (UNISDR).



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