STORY: FAO / IMPACT OF DISASTERS ON AGRICULTURE CHIEF ECONOMIST INTERVIEW
RESTRICTIONS: PLEASE CREDIT FAO ON SCREEN
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS
DATELINE: 10 OCTOBER 2023, ROME, ITALY
(QUESTION: According to the new FAO flagship report, “The impact of disasters on agriculture and food security”, what are the primary hazards responsible for agricultural losses and their impacts?)
SOUNDBITE (English) Maximo Torero, Chief Economist, FAO: "This new flagship report brings a new comprehensive methodology to assess disasters, and the major drivers are hydrometeorological, which are related to climate, geophysical like earthquakes, biological like pests and diseases, that’s what we saw with COVID 19, environmental and also societal like conflicts and the war in Ukraine.
Disasters are producing unprecedented levels of damage and loss in agriculture around the world.
Their increasing severity and frequency, from 100 per year in the 1970s to around 400 events per year in the past 20 years, affect agrifood systems across multiple dimensions, compromising food security and undermine the sustainability of the agriculture sector.
Over the last 30 years, an estimated USD 3.8 trillion worth of crops and livestock production has been lost due to disaster events, corresponding to an average loss of USD 123 billion per year or 5 percent of annual global agricultural gross domestic product (GDP).
In relative terms, the total amount of losses over 30 years is approximately equivalent to Brazil’s GDP in 2022.
Over the last 30 years, disasters inflicted the highest relative losses on lower and lower middle-income countries, ranging between 10 and 15 percent of their total agricultural GDP, respectively.
Disasters also had a significant impact on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), causing them to lose nearly 7 percent of their agricultural GDP.
Agricultural production losses translate into significantly reduced nutrient availability, with a loss of dietary energy estimated at 147 kcal per person per day at the global level from 1991 to 2021.
Just to put this into context, this is equivalent to the average requirement of around 400 million men or 500 million women during one year." [Timecode: 00.00-01.54]
(QUESTION: How do various systemic drivers of disaster risk, including climate change, pandemics, and armed conflicts, impact agricultural production and food security?)
SOUNDBITE (English) Maximo Torero, Chief Economist, FAO: " Understanding systemic drivers of disaster risk, such as climate change, environmental degradation, pandemics, epidemics and armed conflicts, poverty and inequality is central.
Especially to understand their cascading impacts on agricultural production, value chains, and food security is key to building resilient agrifood systems.
Attribution science can be used to demonstrate the degree to which climate change, for example, is increasing the occurrence of yield anomalies, and consequently is reducing agricultural production.
Although the analysis contains high levels of uncertainty, estimates of loss and damage for four country-crop pairs like soy in Argentina, wheat in Kazakhstan and Morocco and maize in South Africa shows mostly negative impacts on yield that range from 2 to 10 percent. Look at how wide this range is.
Pandemics, on the other hand, such as the COVID-19 related emergency can have a significant effect also on agriculture.
Data from food-insecure countries shows that the COVID-19 pandemic created considerable problems for farmer access to input and output markets, such as constraints to access mechanized equipment, a shortage of labour that we all felt during that period of time and in some cases, reductions in areas planted by up to 50 percent.
Also, the 2019-20 spread of African swine fever had wide ranging negative impacts at the global level, causing substantial socioeconomic losses.
In 2020, for example, pork production in China decreased by 26 percent in comparison to 2017 levels, and knock-on effects on production and prices were recorded in other countries such as the United States of America, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and the Philippines.
Finally, armed conflicts have a significant impact on agriculture and food security, as demonstrated by recent assessments in Somalia, the Syrian Arab Republic and Ukraine.
Although the post-disaster needs assessment in conflict situations provides guidance on estimating losses and damages, this framework should be further developed to provide better information to foster risk reduction during armed conflicts, and, post-disaster needs assessment in conflict situations carried out more systematically. So very significant work is still to be done further to this report to improve the way we estimate and reduce the level of uncertainty." [Timecode: 01.54-04.11]
(QUESTION: What steps, interventions and solutions does FAO recommend to limit the impacts of disasters, and build resilient, sustainable agrifood systems?)
SOUNDBITE (English) Maximo Torero, Chief Economist, FAO: "The frequency of disaster events is increasing substantially. Therefore, urgent action is required to foster the adoption of available innovations in disaster risk reduction, promoting the generation of more scalable risk management solutions, and enhancing early warning that leads to anticipatory action.
We need to understand that early warning is core in increasing resilience. Multihazard risks approaches need to be mainstreamed into policy and decision making, with a view towards prioritizing disaster risk reduction across sectors and geographical scales.
Technical interventions and farm-level good practices can proactively prevent and reduce risk in agriculture, thus building resilience. That is the second component of resilience. So the first component is early warning. The second component is to be able to absorb the shocks and for that good practices in production can substantially help. These have shown that they perform on average 2.2 times better than previously applied practices. So we need to focus on those good practices.
The knowledge base for technical solutions that address risk in agriculture and protect livelihoods is limited.
Efforts to expand and improve the base of knowledge on the returns of investment for resilience are needed for risk-informed policy and action.
Anticipatory actions, especially when used in conjunction with early warning systems to mitigate the impact of disasters, show mostly favourable benefits-cost-return ratios, ranging from 0.46 to 7.1 in a pool of countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. So, every dollar we invest has up to seven times more return than before.
A combined preventative control and anticipatory action approach has also shown demonstrable benefits in the case of the desert locust 2020-2021 outbreak in the Horn of Africa.
In this case, investment has averted losses of 4.5 million tonnes of crops and 900 million litres of milk, securing food for nearly 42 million people in the aftermath of this outbreak.
So, it's very important to see how these policies can accelerate the process to make countries more resilient and to be able to cope with these disasters. That's where we need to put emphasis and we need to accelerate this process. Both having capacity of early warning and predictive power to be able to have the countries prepared, but at the same time to use innovations and good practices to assure that countries can absorb the shocks when they occur." [Timecode: 04.11-06.38]
More footage can be found here: http://tv.fao.org