As 2015 draws to a close, we look back on a year where world agriculture and food security still face serious challenges. We saw a rising number of people affected by crises and disasters, often depending on humanitarian assistance to protect and rebuild their livelihoods. From Syria to Yemen and Nigeria to the Central African Republic, an unprecedented amount of people have been forced to flee, often losing a lifetime of assets and sometimes the hope to rebuild their lives at home.
In 2016 the number of humanitarian crises is unlikely to go down. Climaterelated disasters, droughts, floods and storms are on the rise and now account for over 80 percent of all disasters. Agriculture is strongly impacted, with at least 25 percent of economic damage and losses caused by climatic shocks.
In the case of droughts, agriculture absorbs up to 84 percent of total damage.
Already we are starting to see the aggravating effects of climate change on the El Niño events in East Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. In Papua New Guinea, 2.4 million people, one-third of the country’s total population, are affected by drought and frost and in the Dry Corridor of Central America, a drought-prone region shared by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, up to 80 percent of crops have been lost.
In a world where humanitarian crises seem to be ever increasing, we need to invest in resilience. Humanitarian appeals have gone up by 550 percent over the past ten years, reaching a record USD 20 billion in 2015. A significant share of these humanitarian resources is being invested in addressing the symptoms of acute food insecurity and malnutrition, but not enough is done to address underlying root causes. Increasing the resilience of agricultural livelihoods while responding to emergencies when they occur means implementing simultaneous short- and long-term interventions. We need to strengthen countries’ capacities to prevent and absorb shocks, adapt to new conditions and undertake longer-term transformational changes while we continue to support countries to respond to overwhelming crises affecting the agriculture sector. Resilience is one of the key topics emerging from the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit preparatory process.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO’s) experience confirms that resilience brings together humanitarian and development activities for sustainable development. From day one, addressing the immediate needs of agricultural livelihoods while enhancing prevention, preparedness and impact mitigation, is at the core of the Organization’s emergency and resilience support. We are working closely with our partners by acting before, during and after crises occur.
For example, in South Sudan, FAO is distributing life-saving livelihood kits in areas most affected by the ongoing crisis while expanding its development portfolio in less affected areas. In the Central African Republic, FAO plays a key role in providing the necessary agricultural inputs to help farmers produce their own food and earn income while in the meantime building the resilience of women’s groups.
In the past year alone, FAO responded to several simultaneous large-scale systemwide Level 3 emergencies in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen and continued to support the response to Ebola in West Africa. FAO was also part of the humanitarian response to rapidly restore agricultural livelihoods and food production in Nepal after the April/May 2015 earthquakes, the devastating floods in Myanmar and the Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu.
Despite these efforts, millions of people remain severely food insecure.
In 2016, FAO seeks USD 787 million to assist more than 21 million crisisaffected people in 29 countries. With your support, we can continue to enable vulnerable and affected families to protect and rebuild their agricultural livelihoods with dignity, ensuring that food and nutrition security remains an essential foundation for peace, political stability and well-being for sustainable development.
Laurent Thomas, Assistant Director-General Technical Cooperation and Programme Management