Climate disasters hitting poor farmers hard, finds UN report

The UN’s food and agriculture agency and Vietnam launched a report that outlines the economic, environmental and social costs that extreme weather events are having on agricultural production worldwide. Poor farmers bear the largest brunt.

“The agriculture sectors – which includes crop and livestock production as well as forestry, fisheries and aquaculture – face many risks, such as climate and market volatility, pests and diseases, extreme weather events, and an ever-increasing number of protracted crises and conflicts,” José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said in a statement.

Together with Vietnam, the FAO launched the report, 2017: The impact of disasters and crises on agriculture and food security, on Thursday at a regional conference in Hanoi.

The report reveals that between 2005 and 2015 natural disasters cost the agricultural sectors of developing country economies a staggering $96 billion in damaged or lost crop and livestock production, $48 billion of which occurred in Asia.

Drought, which has battered farmers globally, was one of the leading culprits.

The report further shows that 83 per cent of all drought-caused economic losses were absorbed by agriculture – to the tune of $29 billion.

“This has become the ‘new normal,’ and the impact of climate change will further exacerbate these threats and challenges,” da Silva warned.

Multiple other threats are taking a heavy toll on food production, food security and people’s livelihoods.

“Disaster risk reduction and management must, therefore, become an integral part of modern agriculture,” stressed da Silva.

The report examined in detail which weather events affected which geographical regions. For example, while floods and storms had the largest impacts in Asia, their agricultural systems were also heavily affected by earthquakes, tsunamis and extreme temperatures. For Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean in contrast, drought was the costliest disaster. African farmers were also hard hit by crop pests and animal diseases.

All told, nearly a quarter of all financial losses caused by natural disasters between 2005 and 2015 were borne by the agricultural sector, according to FAO’s study.

“Building a more holistic and ambitious disaster-resilience framework for agriculture is crucial to ensuring sustainable development, which is a cornerstone for peace and the basis for adaptation to climate change,” concluded da Silva.


Image credit: UC Berkeley


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