Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation


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These trends influence and reinforce each other, and determine risk levels through interconnected processes that are difficult to separate in order to get a real sense of future risks, and policies that need to be set up to reduce them. Thus adaptation management demands integration of methods from different disciplines Howden et al. Uncontrolled autonomous adaptation, defined as responses implemented by individual farmers and communities without the intervention of governments or international agreements, is projected to increase consumption of energy, water and land resources and lead to land degradation Smith, ; Tubiello and van der Velde, which would potentially result in increased carbon losses.

Thus synergy between adaptation and mitigation is needed as a part of adaptation strategies. The strategies would have to include practices which reinforce the climate change mitigation potential. Adaptation to the changing climate is considered to be particularly challenging in the developing countries, as they are highly vulnerable to climate change due to their warm baseline temperatures, the predominance of agriculture in their economies, the relatively low amount of available capital and high exposure to extreme events Tubiello and van der Velde, Despite the challenges, several technical response options are already available.

These methods include: i adapting farm management; ii changing crop varieties and species; iii improving water management practices. The methods are mainly extensions of widely known farming practices and are more specifically introduced Tubiello and van der Velde, Regarding agricultural water management specifically, the different adaptation requirements include: i changes in water availability; ii changes in irrigation requirements; iii improving resilience and adaptive capacity; iv responses to floods and droughts; v changes in other related parts of the environmental system, such as soil and biodiversity Iglesias and Garrote, On a global scale, improvements in irrigation efficiency and expansion of irrigated areas have been estimated to have the potential to compensate for a large part of the negative impacts of climate change Nelson et al.

Irrigation methods also fundamentally require simultaneous application of proper drainage practices Smedema et al. Benefits of technical adaptation methods also vary with the type of crop and with the changes in temperature and rainfall IPCC, Predictions of the adaptation potential also include uncertainties related, for example, to pest and disease incidence and the ability of farmers to adapt to increasing climate variability and frequency of extreme weather events.

In order to build capacity for better collective understanding as well as to build stronger strategic and technical capability for adaptation, adaptation policies need to support information communication as well as research and analysis operations Howden et al. New policies may be needed and would also require the capacity to be able to continuously improve adaptation to include targeted monitoring of the costs, benefits and impacts of adapted policies Howden et al.

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Adapting to extreme weather events can be considered more challenging in comparison with the adaptation to increased mean temperatures, since extreme events may not have historical analogues. In general, adaptation to extreme events is, however, possible through reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience of the food production systems. For example, practical capacity building rather than disaster relief would increase resilience to extreme events Mirza, and improved flood forecasting and warning practices would reduce the vulnerability of agricultural systems.

Iglesias and Garrote, Recent technical advances have increased the ability to adapt to extreme climate variation Cane et al. Also the early warning systems related to extreme events have improved Dilley, However, social inequities can also prevent part of society from benefiting from these adaptation options and thus hinder the adaptive capacity of society Pfaff et al. Potentially a large part of the required financial flow is expected to be generated through carbon markets by boosting activities related to both agriculture and forestry, including methods such as reducing deforestation Tubiello and van der Velde, Without the carbon markets the funding needs are estimated to fall an order of magnitude short Tubiello and van der Velde, Generally, further increasing the number of these projects includes both administrative and technical challenges, including investor risks, inadequate infrastructure and unclear land tenure FAO, Further, more agricultural activities could be included in the list of clean development funding projects, and aggregation of different actors within a region could be one way to further scale up the projects and thus increase the attractiveness of the projects for investors Tubiello and van der Velde, Since the dawn of time, civilizations have prospered on floodplains, taking advantage of the benefits of floods, which are much more than just a hazard WMO and GWP, These zones often represent a major source of income, livelihood and housing for thousands of communities, while floods play a key role in these processes WMO and GWP, After the great flood of , flood management by reservoirs was also included.

In that sense, NSMs were perceived more as complementary additions to the essentially structural solutions to flood control, in order to reduce costs and enhance efficiency. In the specific case of floods, there has been a recent paradigm shift, moving from flood control to integrated flood management IFM WMO and GWP, , that is, from the need to master floods from a technical standpoint to the need to manage them from every point of view—technical but also social, political and economic, by anticipating the event rather than undergoing it.

Integrated flood management is the approach that promotes an integrated—rather than fragmented—approach to flood management. It integrates land and water resource development in a river basin, within the context of integrated water resource management IWRM , and aims at maximizing the net benefits from the use of floodplains and minimizing loss of life from flooding.

Uncertainty and risk management are defining characteristics of choice, and risk management is a necessary component of the development process in the integrated flood management approach, essential for achieving sustainable development. The application of a risk management approach provides measures for preventing a hazard from becoming a disaster. Flood risk management consists of systematic actions in a cycle of preparedness, response and recovery, and should form a part of IWRM.

The actions taken depend on the conditions of risk within the social, economic and physical setting, with the major focus on reducing vulnerability. Flood risk assessments, which form an essential element in such approaches, need to incorporate climate change effects on the magnitude of floods and the vulnerability of populations. An important aspect of evolving concepts of engineering practice is the way uncertainty is recognized and addressed. It is today widely appreciated that many consequences of civil engineering investments cannot be precisely forecasted.

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Whether the objective is to take advantage of new opportunities or to insure against bad outcomes, the goal is to create the capacity to respond appropriately as new situations may include unforeseen surprises. Flexibility over the life of the project is essential for effective development and functioning of civil engineering systems.

Flood maps are tools for visualizing flood information for decision makers and the general public. These maps form the basis for developing flood risk scenarios based on land use, various environmental and climate conditions; and they form the basis for the planning and implementation of development alternatives WMO, Adaptive management concepts and practices represent innovative, current thinking on resolving conflicting demands and adjusting to changing social preferences and priorities.

Many of the benefits of adaptive management come in the form of better knowledge of ecosystem response to management actions. This improved knowledge reduces uncertainties and therefore must improve management decisions. The benefits of better management decisions will be realized in the future. These benefits, however, are difficult to measure and translate into dollars, the standard metric of economic analysis.

The intangible nature of these benefits stands in contrast to the direct, upfront costs of adaptive management programmes, such as ecosystem monitoring programmes, scientific staff and institutional support. In fact, the appropriate authorities issued large flood forecasts for the months of November and December several months in advance. These forecasts closely matched the observed floods and consequently reduced the devastating effects of the floods. Drought is a natural but temporary imbalance of water availability, originating from a deficiency of precipitation e.

Although agriculture is the sector most affected by drought, in both developing and developed countries, other sectors such as energy production, transportation, tourism and recreation, urban water supply and the environment face significant impacts. Some drought types are recognized i. When meteorological drought e. Satellite observations can supply in situ data at high spatial density. They can profitably be used for monitoring drought events according to the vegetation response to environmental stress. Since duration of drought i. Drought has both a natural and social dimension, the latter being the factor that moves a hazard into disaster Wilhite et al.

Due to the absence of a unique definition of drought, some confusion can arise on the existence and the degree of severity. This may lead to difficulty both in quantification of the impacts and in disaster relief. In addition, both economies and the environment can be affected for long time periods. Natural disasters originate from the interactions between climate extremes and the vulnerability of human and natural ecosystems to such extremes WMO, Responses to drought have been reactive in most parts of the world, largely adopting a crisis management approach. This approach is revealed to be ineffective in most cases, mainly because it does not reduce the risks associated with drought.

Improving the level of preparedness for drought results in a reduction in societal vulnerability. Impacts associated with drought are the result of a wide range of climatic and societal factors. Whether a drought event becomes an emergency or a disaster depends on the vulnerability of people and the environment to such an event IPCC, In recent years, due to an increase in vulnerability, together with the incidence of drought, the approach to reduce the risks associated with drought is gaining emphasis.

Two main paths can be followed to deal with drought events: better planning to improve operational capabilities, and mitigation measures to reduce drought impacts.


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When drought occurs, governments and donors normally follow the steps in the recovery section of the cycle. Countries with policies based on crisis management have little reduction in risk when moving from one drought event to another WMO and GWP, These responses to drought are generally reactive both at the national and regional scale Wilhite and Pulwarty, Treatment of symptoms is often untimely, poorly coordinated and ineffective to reduce the impacts of droughts, since it is driven by crisis rather than prevention.

The impact of disasters on agriculture and food security

A reactive approach is partially due to the uncertainty and unpredictability of drought events, especially in the past. This situation has hindered development of different approaches to drought management, no longer based on reactive practices, but on the underlying causes of the vulnerability. This reactive approach does not sustain the reduction of vulnerability, since behaviour or resource management practices are not expected to change. Concern that droughts may be increasing in frequency, severity and duration due to climate change, together with available technologies to support drought early warning and information delivery systems, has stimulated governments throughout the world to switch from responses to drought based on crisis management towards national drought policies based on risk management.

A drought policy is developed in advance of drought and maintained between drought events. Among others, they include seasonal forecasts, water conservation demand reduction and increased exploitation of groundwater, water reuse and recycle, construction of reservoirs, interconnection of water supplies between communities, drought planning and education Wilhite and Rhodes, Insurance also can be categorized in this policy type. Where vulnerabilities are identified population groups, regions, sectors , measures that are able to reduce the risk associated with future drought events can also include adaptation measures WMO and GWP, Vulnerability of a region is also a function of the sensitivity of water management that in turn is characterized by adaptation to changing circumstances.

Many adaptations are reactive, but others are planned for the future. Adaptation to altered circumstances allows us to respond to some consequences of climate change i. Adaptation in the water sector to cope with adverse impacts follows two approaches: supply side and demand side. However, subsidies are always controversial. They are costly and unsustainable and if not carefully considered, subsidies can form a huge fiscal drain on national budgets with far reaching distortions on insurance markets. Experience indicates that once established, subsidies may be difficult to eliminate.

Table 4 indicates the pros and cons of providing subsidies to WII programs. Often provided indiscriminately for all clients, when some clients are able to pay full or higher premiums. Can promote dependency culture and provide disincentives to purchase non-subsidized products.

These are far too few to adequately cover the million hectares of arable land and rarely located in rural areas. It has been estimated that so far between10,—15, additional weather stations have been installed so as to offer meaningful insurance services to farmers. Beyond the investment in weather stations, there is a need to collect, maintain and archive data - making them available on real time in relation to insured events.

World Meteorological Organization WMO , private players, donors and governments—working closely with national meteorological services—can play a key role in improving and expanding the network of weather stations and the quality of data produced and available. Further, these actors can explore opportunities related to satellite-based indices that use remote sensing tools.

Given the increasing unpredictability of weather patterns due to the changing climate, the benefits of investment in weather infrastructure will extend beyond the development of index insurance products [ 26 ].

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Many smallholder farmers have limited experience with formal insurance. Educating farmers on financial risk management is necessary to enhance insurance literacy [ 25 ]. Farmers require educational drills on agricultural insurance e. WII as a risk reduction, diversification and protection tool—all which will help farmers develop better expectations of WII.

In the government made financial education on insurance mandatory for all microfinance institutions MFIs. As a result, MFIs embarked on massive program to educate their clients through workshops, radio and television programs, leaflet distribution and internet campaigns. The use of mobile phones adds an exciting dimension to WII as this has the potential to lower administrative costs.

Mexico, Brazil and Kenya provide good examples of how to use technology to improve distribution channels and increase outreach of insurance. Kenya, for instance, mobile technology called M-PESA is widely used in performing all paperless transactions including registration, premium payment and indemnity pay-out and has brought great benefits to the insurance industry Bankable Frontier [ 27 ]. The M-PESA system has improved insurance penetration especially in rural areas as it reaches even those clients in remote parts. Mobile technology is an important tool for WII as reduces the cost and increase the efficiency of the index insurance programs.

One of the ways this is seen in practice is in distribution, where more efficient processes reduce the costs of distribution. Likewise, greater outreach may achieve a product scale that, in turn, drives down costs. But for technology to function effectively, it must meet the needs of the user and be adaptable to the environment in which it works. WII holds promise as a one of the disaster risk reduction strategies in Malawi important for mitigating the impact of extreme weather events - droughts and floods in particular. Despite its potential, weather index insurance has failed to develop roots and grow beyond the pilot phase.

Based on field visits and discussions with key organizations involved in implementation of WII, this study has discussed some of the hardships that hampered successful development of WII in Malawi. The study also draw on a few illustrations e. Mexico, India, Colombia and Kenya to demonstrate successful experience and immense potential of WII as a risk protection strategy. Drawing from this review, the study identified some key lessons and best practice that could help the government of Malawi to re-visit, re-think and revise WII program as disaster risk reduction strategy against extreme weather events imposed by climate change and climate variability.

I would like to express gratitude to Mr. Wim van den Bos who participated as one of the research team. Finally, I acknowledge financial and material support provided by UNDP during the course of the study. The views, gaps, omissions and errors in this report belong to the author and have nothing to do with UNDP as an organization. Licensee IntechOpen. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3. Help us write another book on this subject and reach those readers.

Login to your personal dashboard for more detailed statistics on your publications. Edited by Philip John Sallis. We are IntechOpen, the world's leading publisher of Open Access books. Built by scientists, for scientists. Our readership spans scientists, professors, researchers, librarians, and students, as well as business professionals. Downloaded: Abstract Malawi continues to face unprecedented challenges imposed by extreme weather events—drought in particular.

Keywords weather index insurance extreme drought smallholder farmers agricultural insurance climate change insurance literacy disaster risk reduction. Background Malawi, like many other countries in Africa, continues to face severe challenges imposed by extreme weather events particularly droughts.

Weather index insurance: A false start? Consumer-related hurdles 4. Low demand for WII A stand-alone farmer-driven demand for WII at micro-level has failed to take roots because of low and unsustainable demand by smallholder farmers. Basis risk has discouraged demand The basis risk looms large as one of the factors that has discouraged the demand for WII. Premiums are too costly and unaffordable Many smallholder farmers in Malawi are poor and cannot afford meeting premium payments. Table 1. Proportion of respondents indicating preferred sources of loan.

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Source: [ 15 ]. Communication hardships and cultural hurdles WII is a new concept unheard of to many farmers in Malawi. Infrastructural hurdles 5. Limited number of automated weather stations Malawi has a total of 78 weather stations for which only 26 stations are automated and 36 stations contain data spanning more than year period [ 17 ].

Weather stations ill-suited for index insurance The Department of Meteorological Services DMS bemoans the lack of an expansive network of weather stations in Malawi especially in rural areas. Short historical data WII relies on historical and current weather data. Institutional hurdles 6. Lack required expertise Leading insurance companies acknowledge capacity constraints as the main hurdle hampering efforts to implement WII on sound footing.

Insurance companies lack product design innovativeness; rather than develop and test own products, they copy products implemented and successful elsewhere Lack of skilled staff to design products and pricing structure Leading insurance companies has no actuarial in-house expertise Product marketing No expertise within insurance sector to set up a marketing strategy for insurance products Insurance companies not present in rural market segments, potential rural customers face difficulties to get access to insurance services Customer service Insurance companies departments are difficult to reach Claim settling takes a long time.

Table 2. Area of lacking expertise. Cash versus food crops conflict Empirical studies have so far has demonstrated that the financial institutions are willing to offer insurance coverage for cash crops as opposed to food crops. Lessons from other developing countries The past decade has witnessed serious attempts by developing countries in partnership with development organization e. Mainstream WII into nation-wide disaster risk reduction programs For many countries that have successfully implemented WII, the program has been mainstreamed to become part and parcel of nation-wide climate change disaster risk management programs.

Component Description Product describes appropriateness by reviewing coverage, benefit level, eligibility criteria and availability of value-added services Access focuses on accessibility and simplicity by investigating choice, enrolment, information, education, premium payment method and proximity Cost measures both affordability and value for money, while looking at additional costs to keep down overall costs of delivery Experience assesses responsiveness and simplicity by looking at claims procedures and processing time, policy administration, product tangibility and customer care.

Table 3. Provide smart subsidies necessary especially during early stages of WII Smart subsidies may be are necessary especially during early stages of WII. As per year. The region is characterized by frequent people lack the capacity to resist droughts, they droughts and hence most livelihoods there are become highly vulnerable. Thus drought as a disaster characterized by animal husbandry — mainly cattle has caused a decrease in cop productivity, rearing as well as limited food and cash cropping unemployment, impoverishment and even forced ZimVac, This high frequency of droughts in southern Zimbabwe has greatly disrupted human livelihoods, Managing droughts in southern Zimbabwe: The especially cattle production.

Most households have challenges lost their livestock due to shortage of water and Vulnerability is when human beings are susceptible disappearance of rangelands. It has also led to the to natural hazards and is a result of various shrinking and drying of surface water bodies and contributory factors cutting across temporal and lowering of water table hence the drying of most spatial scales of economic, social, geographic, boreholes.

The scarcity of water in the area has thus demographic, cultural, institutional, governance and precipitated a fall in agricultural production, thereby environmental nature.


  • Agrometeorology in Extreme Events and Natural Disasters;
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  • Increases in socioeconomic inequalities wealth and education, disability and health status, as spearhead vulnerability to hazards of lagging well as gender, age, class and other social and communities. Neglected areas lack the capacity to cultural characteristics IPCC, Drought resist natural hazards and they end up becoming vulnerability, which is the limited ability of a system highly susceptible to these hazards. Southern Zimbabwe is highly vulnerable to warnings, response strategies, coping and adaptation droughts as shown by high food insecurity in the mechanisms has, also, increased vulnerability to region and outward migration to neighbouring drought IPCC, Poor people have limited countries such as, South Africa and Botswana.

    There access to vital information and this is critical for is also high loss of livestock due to hunger and water reduction of vulnerability and increasing resilience. Studies have shown that food security The poor are hard-hit by disasters because of lack of levels and grazing resources for livestock are accessible information. This is exacerbated by high frequent droughts. This has led to high poverty levels This implies that people have to be educated about increasing vulnerability of the people to drought these hazards and disasters from an early age for disasters.

    Poverty and vulnerability to droughts is a them to appreciate coping and adaptation vicious circle because when these two elements mechanisms and increase their resilience.

    Agriculture and Natural Events and Disasters | Agriculture | US EPA

    Most dry lands in Africa Drought mitigation is a challenge because it is very are poverty hotspots; the risk of desertification is high difficult to determine its onset, extent and end and is in many of those areas, as the poor inevitably become commonly the result of a number of factors Vicente- victims and willing agents of environmental damage Serrano et al, It is further and anthropogenic factors contribute to the stated that unsustainable farming systems, such as occurrence of droughts. It is, therefore, difficult to continuous cultivation without adding supplements, mitigate droughts since they are a result of multi- overgrazing, poor land management practices, lack of factors.

    Some locals have adapted to the use of soil and water conservation structures and high indigenous weather forecasting strategies, however, prevalence of uncontrolled veldt fires lead to land they are a challenge in that most of the biotic degradation and aggravate desertification ibid. The other drawback of marginal areas that are very fragile and this indigenous weather forecasting strategies is that the precipitates desertification.

    Many rural livelihoods knowledge is only possessed by a few elders and are reliant to a greater extent on the environment and most people no longer subscribe to indigenous natural resource base Scoones, , and natural knowledge systems. The other challenge for drought hazards can impact severely on the agricultural sector management is that mitigation measures are a Saldana-Zorrilla, This implies that disaster preparedness development.

    The most reliant source of livelihood is is very low due to poverty and people are least agriculture. Other sectors such as industry and equipped and prepared to cope with the impacts of commerce have not been fully developed. Development in the country is concentrated in the core, which is Harare the capital city. Vulnerability is population thus increasing their vulnerability. Therefore, governments should Karl, T. B, Lowe J. A, Wood R. A, and Vellinga mitigation. This would Sciences and humanities Vol. Nelson, S. There is a need to strengthen research institutions by linking scientists, practitioners and policymakers in an effort to Redmond, K.


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      Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation
      Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation
      Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation
      Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation
      Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation Natural Disasters and Extreme Events in Agriculture: Impacts and Mitigation

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