Colombia: Impact of Early Warning Early Action - Boosting food security and social cohesion on the frontline of the migration crisis

From Early Warning to Early Action

The intensity and frequency of natural hazards and conflicts is increasing, and they are leaving in their wake an unprecedented level of humanitarian needs. Natural hazards alone occur nearly five times as often today as 40 years ago. The number of people displaced by conflict, meanwhile, is the highest ever recorded, and millions more are driven to migrate out of necessity.

Not surprisingly, the impact on local economies, on people’s lives and their livelihoods has similarly increased. In some of the worst-hit places, it can seem unrelenting. One crisis will follow another, every time stripping away at the hard-earned but limited assets of the poorest and most vulnerable. Along with their assets, it deprives people of their self-reliance and their dignity.

Globally, expanding needs, competing priorities and limited resources call for new tools to make humanitarian interventions as wise and effective as possible. This ensures that the impacts of crises are limited before they can grow into even more devastating and costly disasters.

Support at the right time can protect and empower people, giving them the confidence to keep going or to resume their livelihoods. Investing in early action also means FAO can help shelter longer-term development gains and strengthen resilience.

That’s why FAO has been a long-time advocate of forward-looking interventions and works closely with governments and partners in the humanitarian and scientific community to anticipate crises before they reach a crest.

Its Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) approach translates warning signs into anticipatory actions. Every quarter, FAO’s EWEA report ranks risks by their likelihood and potential impact on food security and agriculture. It also identifies options for intervention.

That is when FAO’s Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities (SFERA) comes into play and through its Early Action Window makes funds available to respond rapidly to an unfolding crisis. Along the way, it draws on FAO’s greatest asset – its technical knowledge and expertise in supporting rural livelihoods.

Early actions are varied and flexible. They can range from cash transfers that help fishing communities store their nets ahead of a cyclone to livestock treatments that keep herds healthy through a drought. Early action may build flood defences that protect crops against a severe rainy season, or provide agricultural inputs and technical skills to boost food production ahead of potential food crises.

This study analyses the outcomes of monitoring early warning signs related to drought and mass migration and taking targeted early actions in northern Colombia between 2018 and 2019. It evaluates their effectiveness and quantifies the benefits of acting early.