Skip to content
Start of page content below the header
News Story
24 October 2023
Author: Marta Anguera

Building resilience and enhancing preparedness for mounting risks

Photo by Michael Held on Unsplash

The world is experiencing unprecedented damage and loss in agriculture due to disasters. The intensity of such events is increasing and is expected to worsen as the climate crisis affects our planet and biological and ecological resources continue to diminish. The unknown effects of this situation make it crucial to act now. To address this issue, the FAO has released a report titled “Impact of Disasters on Agriculture and Food Security 2023,” which is the first-ever global-level estimate of the impact of disasters on agriculture and food security in the last three decades. The report highlights how disaster risk management can be integrated into agricultural practices.

An urgent wakeup call

Disasters are estimated to have caused a loss of USD 3.8 trillion in crops and livestock production, equivalent to an average loss of USD 123 billion annually and 5% of the annual global agricultural GDP. This loss is equal to 147 kilocalories per person per day.

Data on the impact of disasters on agriculture and agri-food systems is however partial and inconsistent, as highlighted during the launch of the report. This issue is especially problematic for the fisheries, aquaculture, and forestry sub sectors. There is a need for more and better data, to shape policies and solutions for risk reduction and resilience-building in agriculture.

Still, the report highlights that proactive, targeted investments in farm-level disaster risk reduction good practices can generate impressive results. Such  practices to build resilience in agri-food systems have been found to perform over two times better than previously used practices. Anticipatory actions, informed by early warning, are also found to be cost-effective in reducing risk and mitigating the impact of disasters. For every one USD invested in anticipatory actions, rural families can gain up to USD 7in benefits and avoided agricultural losses.

During the launch, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, emphasised that the report is a valuable addition to the FAO’s efforts towards more accurate measurement and analysis of agricultural disaster losses. The report reflects the organisation’s dedication to helping farmers and rural communities minimise the risks of natural disasters. Comprehending the interconnected risks and the factors that drive them is crucial for developing robust agri-food systems that can withstand the challenges posed by disasters.

Reducing risks and building resilience is crucial to ensuring a better future for coming generations amid increasing uncertainties.

“Our priority should be investing in, documenting, and implementing concrete solutions. This requires more scientific research and data analysis.”

When talking about the implementation of the Sendai Framework, he stressed the importance of gathering accurate and detailed data to comprehend the causes and effects of natural disasters, particularly on agriculture. This kind of data is vital as it enables policymakers to develop context-specific innovations and allows for proper planning and financing.

The FAO is working to improve coverage and standardise data collection techniques to assess the impact of extreme events on agriculture and establish tools and methodologies for regular monitoring and reporting at the national level.


Conceptual framework. This figure describes the interplay of disaster risks in agriculture and links it to the organisation of the report, which contains three main parts plus a concluding section presenting recommendations and observations.

The interplay of disaster risks in agriculture

Maximo Torero, Chief Economist of the FAO, presented how a disaster event can disrupt the function of a community or a society when a hazardous event interacts with conditions of exposure, vulnerability and capacity. The dynamic interaction between hazards and other components of disaster risk is also influenced by underlying risk drivers such as climate change, poverty, inequality, population growth, environmental degradation, pandemics, and armed conflicts, resulting in cascading.

The report dissects the impact of disasters on crops, livestock, fisheries, apiculture, and forestry. However, due to insufficient data, the losses for fishing, apiculture and forestry are underestimated. Next, it focuses on the main risk drivers that affect agriculture, such as climate change, pandemics and armed conflicts. Finally, it highlights the benefits of investing in multi-hazard resilience by applying farm-level disaster risk reduction practices and increasing anticipatory actions.

To understand the impact of climate change on agriculture losses due to disasters, it is crucial to develop policies and programmes that consider the risks involved. In this vein, Chief Economist of the FAO underlines:

“We must understand that it is not just about having good food today, but also about having good food in the future. Climate change can have a significant impact on our ability to produce good food in the future, which is why we must transform our agri-food systems to adapt to these changes.”

Greater investment in resilience building

Understanding and reducing disaster risk in agriculture is the initial step towards building national capacities and ensuring the sustainability of our food systems. The report has made significant progress by providing the first global estimate of the impact of disasters on crops and livestock production. However, it is crucial to continue these efforts to advance our knowledge base further and effectively mitigate disaster risks.

Secondly, as stated in the FAO Flagship Report, to address disaster risk reduction, there’s a need to integrate multi-sectoral and multi-hazard approaches to disaster risk reduction into policy and decision-making. Multiple drivers and overlapping crises worsen the impact of disasters and produce cascading effects that make people, ecosystems, and economies more vulnerable. In this sense, adopting a holistic, system-wide view of the different drivers and impact pathways is particularly important in countries with vulnerable communities and lower capacities or resources to prepare for or respond to disasters.

The report concludes that investing in resilience can help reduce disaster risks in agri-food systems, leading to improved agricultural production and livelihoods. It emphasises the need for collective action to encourage the adoption of existing innovations, promotes the development of scalable risk management solutions, and enhances early warning and anticipatory measures. There are context and location-specific good practices for front-level disaster risk reduction that are proven to be cost-effective in building the resilience of agri-food systems and livelihoods against natural and biological hazards.


  • The agri-food system will face increasing risk and uncertainty as disasters, including conflicts, are expected to grow exponentially worldwide.
  • Improving data and information on the impact of disasters on agriculture is crucial. There are still data gaps that need to be addressed, especially in some sectors.
  • It is important to mainstream multi-sector and multi-hazard disaster risk reduction approaches when making policy decisions.
  • Investments should be made in disaster risk reduction to improve resilience and help increase agricultural production and livelihoods.

FAO. 2023. The Impact of Disasters on Agriculture and Food Security 2023 – Avoiding and reducing losses through investment in resilience. Rome.