Developing countries like the Philippines should integrate disaster risk reduction and management in modern agriculture, as the sector continues to be devastated by disasters each year, according to a new report from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
"A crowded field of threats that includes drought, floods, animal disease outbreaks and chemical spills are among the disasters costing farmers in the developing world billions of dollars each year," said the newly launched "2017: The Impact of Disasters and Crises on Agriculture and Food Security."
"The agriculture sectors-which include 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," it added.
Between 2005 and 2016, there were 260 natural disasters per year in developing countries-an 11% increase on the 1993-2004 period when the average was 235 per year, and a more than two-fold increase on 1981-1992 when they averaged 122 per year.
The economic impact of geophysical disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and mass movements) has remained fairly stable over the past decades.
However, annual economic loss from climate and weather-related events has been consistently growing, as the frequency of storms, drought, and floods has grown more and more frequent.
"Though damage and loss have not yet been calculated, 2017-the most violent hurricane season on record-will certainly confirm this trend," said the report.
It pointed out that between 2005 and 2015 natural disasters cost the agricultural sectors of developing country economies a staggering US$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. FAO documented that 83% of all drought-caused economic losses were absorbed by agriculture-to the tune of $29 billion.
The report also detailed how multiple other threats are taking a heavy toll on food production, food security, and people's livelihoods.
While floods and storms had the largest impacts in Asia, their agricultural systems were also heavily affected by earthquakes, tsunamis and extreme temperatures.
The report also included "food chain crises" sparked by animal diseases, like Rift Valley Fever and also addressed conflict.
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.
Such emergencies pose serious challenges to agricultural production and food security, said the FAO report.
"Insufficient governance and institutional capacity to deal with the resulting challenges pose a serious threat to livelihoods and food systems," it further stated.
"In a crisis context, undernourishment can be severe and levels of stunting and under-five mortality rates and particularly high."
The paper pointed to the importance of building resilience as a viable framework for integrating humanitarian and long-term development initiatives.
"Disaster risk reduction and management must, therefore, become an integral part of modern agriculture," added FAO.
The report highlighted the need to develop adequate disaster and crisis governance structures-including enabling policies, strengthened capacities, and targeted financing mechanisms to counteract the impacts.
It also said such initiatives and structures "must be grounded on data and evidence detailing the ways that disasters affect farmers and food producers."
To this end, bridging the knowledge gap is the first step.
"Estimating and quantifying the impact of natural disasters, climate-related events, food chain hazards and protracted crises on the agricultural sector is crucial to protecting the investments made in development and strengthening resilience," said FAO.
"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."
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