Executive Summary

Drawing from seven country case studies in Chile, Italy, Japan, Namibia, New Zealand, Turkey and the United States, this report proposes a new approach to building agricultural resilience to natural hazard-induced disasters (NHID). Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as floods, droughts, severe storms, and animal pests and diseases, causing production losses and damaging farm land and assets in agricultural sectors across the world. Although farmers in developing countries often bear the brunt of these impacts, OECD countries are not immune. Across the globe, recurrent and more severe natural hazards are challenging even the most experienced and innovative farm managers.

These trends mean that a “business-as-usual” approach to disaster risk management in agriculture cannot continue if we are to increase the sustainable agricultural productivity growth needed to meet the triple challenge of feeding a growing global population, providing livelihoods along the agrifood chain and improving the sustainability of the agricultural sector, and support progress towards sustainable development. Governments and agricultural sector stakeholders need to shift from an approach that emphasises coping with the impacts of disasters, to preventing and mitigating the adverse impacts of disasters ex ante, and being better prepared to recover from disasters, and to adapt and transform in order to be better placed to manage future disasters. That is, to move from a risk coping to a resilience approach.

This approach entails a shift from a reliance on ex post government disaster assistance to building the capacity of stakeholders to manage risk. Frameworks that strengthen the ability of farmers and other stakeholders to prepare and plan for natural hazards; to absorb, respond to and recover from their impacts; and to more successfully adapt and transform in response to the risk of future natural hazard-induced disasters, are essential to build a more resilient agricultural sector.

In all seven countries reviewed by the OECD and FAO, governments, farmers and other stakeholders are already using innovative policy measures, governance arrangements and on-farm strategies to increase their resilience to natural hazard-induced disasters.

To encourage farmers and other stakeholders to consider the risk landscape over the long term by helping them to understand the risks that they face from natural hazards, countries are increasingly providing farmers and other agricultural stakeholders with access to science-based and targeted information and decision-support tools developed by both public and private sector actors on climate and extreme weather events. These tools also support risk-informed decision-making by providing options and strategies for adapting to those risks. In some countries, these tools are co-produced with farmers and other stakeholders to ensure their usability and usefulness on farms.

Countries are implementing physically effective and cost-efficient nature-based solutions to prevent and mitigate natural hazard risks and impacts. This includes solutions that leverage the potential of agricultural land to reduce specific natural hazard risks, such as the risk of flooding, but also on-farm practices that mitigate natural hazard impacts and generate productivity and sustainability benefits, even in non-disaster contexts, such as by improving soil health.

Agricultural sector stakeholders are also collaborating and building relationships to better prepare for and respond to NHID via formal networks of public and private stakeholders. These networks offer an opportunity for stakeholders to develop relationships and build capabilities before a disaster, improving the effectiveness of disaster preparedness and response – on farm, and for the wider agro-food sector.

Finally, countries are prioritising contingency planning and simulation exercises to help enhance the preparedness of all relevant stakeholders to respond to disasters. These exercises ensure that DRM frameworks, measures and stakeholders remain flexible and have the capacity to respond to unanticipated events, and to identify and manage potential cascading effects.

A resilience approach requires stakeholders to prepare for natural hazards and implement strategies to reduce the risks and impacts, but also to learn from disasters. This means helping stakeholders understand the risks that they face from natural hazards and their responsibilities for managing those risks; and supporting their capacity to manage risk, and to adapt and transform to be better positioned to face future risks. To this end, this report proposes three main areas for action.

  • Building a more resilient agricultural sector requires consistent and coherent policy signals, both from disaster assistance policies and from agricultural policy frameworks more broadly.

  • A common challenge lies in how to provide disaster assistance without discouraging a more resilient recovery or ongoing efforts on-farm to prepare for, prevent and mitigate natural hazard risks and impacts. Triggering criteria and types and levels of government support should be clearly defined in advance, and use of ad hoc support should be minimised, in order to provide farmers with a clear incentive to invest ex ante in risk prevention and mitigation measures, and preparedness capacities. Disaster assistance should also encourage farmers to “build back better” by providing guidance on, and targeting support towards, on-farm options to reduce natural hazard exposure and vulnerability.

  • The wider agricultural policy environment also provides incentives and signals for farmers to prepare for, prevent and mitigate natural hazard risks – and indeed, to adapt and transform in response to future climate and natural hazard risks. Policies such as direct payments to farmers, publicly-supported risk management tools, and technical assistance can provide useful incentives to adopt new practices or encourage take-up of risk management tools. But unless these policies are carefully designed, they can reduce the cost of, and incentives to address, risk. Governments should review wider agricultural policy frameworks for their effects on farm-level incentives to prepare for, mitigate and prevent natural hazard risks in the long term, and for opportunities to better integrate resilience considerations.

  • While clear and consistent policy signals are necessary to encourage farmers and other agricultural sector stakeholders to take responsibility for building their resilience to natural hazard-induced disasters, it is crucial that farmers have the capacity to act on those incentives – including the necessary skills, information and tools.

  • Governments should support stakeholders to build their resilience to NHID where gaps exist in stakeholders’ capacities. This includes:

    • targeted training and extension services that help farmers develop their entrepreneurial and risk management skills, and to adapt and transform in response to uncertainty and a changing risk environment.

    • providing targeted and science-based information about risk that is tailored to the needs of farmers to support risk-informed decision-making on adaptation to climate and natural hazard risks.

    • consistently and systematically assessing agricultural damage and losses in the wake of a disaster, and ensuring that these data are available and accessible to all stakeholders.

    • investing in public goods and services, including appropriate infrastructure for reducing disaster risks, and supporting the implementation of nature-based solutions on farms.

  • The above efforts are unlikely to be successful if breakdowns in the “last mile” between research outputs and farmers mean that information on natural hazard risks, and new innovations in risk mitigating investments and management practices do not reach some groups of farmers.

  • Policy makers should engage closely with trusted stakeholders – including farm and industry organisations, agricultural co-operatives and local extension agents – to promote the benefits of prevention, mitigation and preparedness to reduce exposure to natural hazard risk, as well as to better understand farm-level constraints to adopting practices that improve farm resilience.

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