FAO calls for better data on impact of natural disasters

The agriculture sector absorbs 22% of the economic impact of natural disasters and hazards, according a new report from FAO.

The agriculture sector suffers the most from natural disasters, according to a recent report published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The organisation, which is calling for better data collection by national and international disaster databases to help measure the real impact, estimates that crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry absorb about 22 percent of the economic impact caused by medium- and large-scale natural hazards and disasters in developing countries.

But there are major data gaps that need to be filled so that governments can improve their risk reduction policies and place more effective investment into the sector.

“Between 2003 and 2013, natural hazards and disasters in developing countries affected more than 1.9 billion people and caused over $494 billion in estimated damage. How much of this damage was on the agriculture sector is unreported and is therefore unknown,” reads the report. “National and international disaster loss databases typically report populations affected and damage to housing and other infrastructure, but seldom report damage or losses in the agriculture sector. As a result, there is no clear understanding of the extent to which natural hazards and disasters impact the agriculture sector and sub-sectors in developing countries.”

In order to estimate the impact of disasters on agriculture, FAO applied a combination of methods and used various sources of information. It covered natural hazards, namely drought, floods, storms such as cyclones and hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, affecting developing countries between 2003 and 2013, and focused on the following five key areas of analysis:

  1. Reviewing the damage caused by hazards on crops and livestock from DesInventar, a database tracking emergencies and disasters.
  2. Estimating losses in crop and livestock production affected by medium- to large-scale disasters during the period.
  3. Estimating changes in trade flows, particularly increases in the value of imports and decrease in value of exports.
  4. Estimating the impact of drought on sub-Saharan Africa in terms of populations affected and production losses.
  5. Calculating the humanitarian aid in post-disaster recovery of the sector during the last decade.

For more detailed analysis of the findings, read: The impact of natural hazards and disasters on agriculture and food and nutrition security – a call for action to build resilient livelihoods.