New FAO report calls for investments in agricultural resilience

October 24, 2023

Global civilization is up against a rising rate of disaster, according to a new Food and Agriculture Organization report. That puts agriculture at risk.

According to the report, “The Impact of Disasters on Agriculture and Food Security: Avoiding and Reducing Losses Through Investment in Resilience,” the world saw about 100 disaster events per year in the 1970s compared to about 400 events per year in the past 20 years.

Disasters are defined in the report as “serious disruptions to the functioning of a community or society.” These most commonly are natural: drought, flooding, extreme temperatures, and storms. They can also be man-made, related to armed conflicts—civil unrest, regime change, interstate conflicts and civil war—which are at their highest level since World War II.

An estimated $3.8 trillion in crops and livestock production has been lost due to disaster events over the last 30 years, according to the report. That’s an average $123 billion lost each year, 5% of the annual global GDP. The report also found that agriculture sustained nearly 23% of total economic losses from disasters, according to post-disaster assessments from 2007 to 2022.

“Agriculture is one of the most highly exposed and vulnerable sectors in the context of disaster risk, given its profound dependence on natural resources and climate conditions,” wrote Dr. Qu Dongyu, FAO director general, in the report’s foreword.

It’s also one of the most important in which to build resiliency. Without productive agriculture, there is no food. Without food, disaster only grows more deadly.

The report, which aimed to organize and disseminate available knowledge on the impact of disasters on agriculture, highlights three needs:

  • The need for improved data and information on the impacts of disasters in agriculture.
  • The need to develop and mainstream multisectoral and multi-hazard disaster risk reduction approaches into policy and decision making.
  • The need for investments in resilience to provide benefits in reducing disaster risk in agrifood systems.

By anticipating and preparing for difficult conditions, farmers are better equipped to weather storms and bounce back afterwards.

Solutions from the Land is fortunate to have a front seat to see innovative farmers at work building resilience. Farmers across the world are making small steps forward every day as they produce food, take care of the land, and provide a variety of other fundamental ecosystem services.

It has never been more important to nurture farmer creativity and to connect farmers with other farmers, researchers and allied industries. That’s exactly what we do at SfL. We help individual ideas grow into widespread solutions that work for more farmers and communities, near and far.

As Dr. Qu writes: “In a world with limited resources, we need to increase investment in resilience by adopting creating, innovative and scalable solutions that can avoid and reduce losses generated by disasters.”

This may come in the form of more stress-tolerant seeds or tools that enable more desirable timing of planting or harvesting. It could involve more efficient irrigation techniques or grazing patterns. There’s always something new, something we haven’t thought of yet, but getting those ideas out into actionable form requires collaboration, ingenuity, persistence and a little boldness.

SfL will continue to stand behind farmers, providing them a platform from which to share their ideas and advocating for policy that encourages proactive, farmer-centered approaches for building resiliency.

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An Agricultural Renaissance, led by innovative and entrepreneurial farmers, ranchers and foresters constructing sustainable, profitable and resilient systems that lay the foundation for a world of abundance on many scales capable of producing nutritious food, feed, fiber, clean energy, healthy ecosystems, quality livelihoods, and strong rural economies.