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28 July 2015

Agriculture bears major brunt of disaster impacts

Nearly a quarter of damages wrought by natural disasters on the developing world are borne by the agricultural sector. Building resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises must therefore be the top priority, FAO demands.

Twenty-two per cent of all damages inflicted by natural hazards such as drought, floods storms or tsunamis are registered within the agriculture sector. This is the result of an analysis by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of 78 post-disaster needs assessments in 48 developing countries spanning the 2003–2013 period. These damages and losses are often incurred by poor rural and semi-rural communities without insurance and lacking the financial resources needed to regain lost livelihoods. Yet just 4.5 per cent of post-disaster humanitarian aid in the 2003–2013 period targeted agriculture.

The 22 per cent figure only represents damages reported via post-disaster risk assessments, so while indicative of scale, the actual impact is likely even higher, the authors of the report ‘The Impact of Natural hazards and disasters on agriculture and food security and nutrition’ maintain. To arrive at a closer estimate of the true financial cost of disasters for agriculture in the developing world, FAO compared decreases in yields during and after disasters with yield trends in 67 countries affected by (at least one) medium- to larger-scale events between 2003 and 2013. It established the sum of 70 billion US dollars (USD) in damages to crops and livestock over that ten-year period. 82 per cent of production losses were caused by drought (44 %) and floods (39 %).

Asia was the most affected region, with estimated losses adding up to 28 billion USD, followed by Africa at 26 billion. Between 2003 and 2013, there were 61 drought years in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting 27 countries and 150 million people. FAO estimates that 77 per cent of all agricultural production losses suffered world-wide due to drought occurred in those 27 Sub-Saharan countries, adding up to 23.5 billion USD.

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