Climate shocks fuelling poverty

Extreme weather events are costing farmers in the developing world billions of dollars each year, taking a heavy toll on food security and people’s livelihoods.

A new UN report reveals that natural disasters hit the world’s poorest countries with $96bn of agriculture losses between 2005 and 2015 – a sector on which 2.5 billion people depend.

Droughts are emerging as the most destructive threat, responsible for $29bn of the economic costs, although floods, forest fires, storms, plant pests, animal diseases and chemical spills are also causing widespread suffering.

“This has become the ‘new normal’, and the impact of climate change will further exacerbate these threats and challenges,” said José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Half of the damage caused by natural disasters in the decade following 2005 occurred in Asia, making it the most affected region in the world, with floods and storms having the largest impact.

Droughts were the costliest type of disaster in Africa, as well as Latin America and the Caribbean, causing crop and livestock losses of $10.7bn and $13bn respectively.

Crop pests and animal diseases were also among the most expense-inducing disasters for Africa, resulting in over $6bn in losses. Tsunamis, earthquakes, storms and floods were most costly for small island developing states. 

The report highlights how small-scale farmers, herders, fishers and forest-dependent communities generate more than half of the world’s agricultural production. However, because they are typically cash- and asset-poor, they are particularly at risk from disasters that destroy or damage harvests, equipment, supplies, livestock, seeds, crops and stored food.

Given the scale and intensity of threats to agriculture, the report argues that it is critical to develop disaster and crisis governance structures, including enabling policies, strengthened capacities and targeted financing mechanisms.

“Building a more holistic and ambitious disaster-resilience framework for agriculture is crucial to ensuring sustainable development – which is a cornerstone for peace and the basis for adaptation to climate change,” da Silva added.

Download the UN report at

Image credit: Getty 


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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