Drought Vulnerability, Impact Assessment, Drought Preparedness, and Mitigation

In the equation of risk, there are two factors, exposure to the hazard and vulnerability. Vulnerability is very context- and location-specific, takes into account socioeconomic and cultural aspects, and includes the coping capacity of the affected communities. Risk assessment involves the use of (1) drought risk models to account for drought losses and impacts; (2) ongoing monitoring of drought risk through observations (e.g., climate, remote sensing, food prices); and (3) assessment of drought impacts, number of households affected, and so forth.

The fragile agroecosystems of dry areas cover 41 percent of the earth's surface and are home to more than 2 billion inhabitants—and the majority of the world's poor. About 16 percent of the population live in chronic poverty, particularly in marginal rainfed areas. The challenges to coping with drought and enhancing food security in dry areas include inadequate agricultural policies for sustainable agricultural development and insufficient investment in agricultural research and development. We cannot prevent drought, but actions can be taken to better prepare to cope with drought, develop more resilient ecosystems and a better ability to recover from drought, and mitigate the impacts of droughts.

To address the theme of drought vulnerability and impact assessment, a plenary session was held in which Mr. John Harding from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) presented Current Approaches to Drought Vulnerability and Impact Assessment, which was followed by comments from four discussants from Germany, Kenya, Argentina, and Uzbekistan.

Another plenary session was held to cover the topic of drought preparedness and mitigation, in which Dr. Mahmoud Solh, Director General, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dryland Areas (ICARDA), presented Drought Preparedness and Drought Mitigation for Sustainable Agricultural Production (Solh and van Ginkel 2014). This presentation was followed by comments from three discussants from India, Mexico, and the Russian Federation.

Following these two plenary sessions, a roundtable (vulnerability and impact assessment for risk reduction) and three parallel sessions (drought preparedness and mitigation strategies in different regions, drought impacts in key sectors and coping strategies, and strategy and recommendations for policy development) were held simultaneously.

The following recommendations were made on the issue of drought vulnerability and impact assessment: [1]

  • • Conduct long-term monitoring to ensure reliability of vulnerability and impact assessments.
  • • Use not just top-down but also bottom-up approaches in designing adaptation strategies to allow inclusion of local knowledge and facilitate appropriation by the target communities.
  • • Go beyond economic cost-benefit considerations and include social and cultural dimensions in designing drought adaptation strategies.
  • • Use the inclusive wealth index (IWI), rather than gross domestic product (GDP) or income, for evaluation of success or failure.

The following recommendations were made on the issue of drought preparedness and management:

  • • Drought policies play a vital role in drought risk management and should be promoted.
  • • Policy processes should target institutional/interagency collaboration.
  • • Implementation of preparedness and mitigation strategies at the community and farm levels should be promoted.
  • • Ensure that technologies, measures, and practices adapted to drought conditions are freely available.
  • • Promote indigenous species/crops, plants, trees, etc.
  • • Consider both long- and medium-term measures for drought preparedness and mitigation.
  • • Link drought relief and drought plans at local and state levels.
  • • Ensure that information to meet users' needs is disseminated on accessible mediums.
  • • Promote efficient water management for irrigated, rainfed, and mixed systems.
  • • Emphasize water productivity optimization in lieu of yield maximization.
  • • Promote community approach in drought preparedness and mitigation.
  • • Ensure economic inclusion: youth programs are very important.
  • • Promote integrated approach to drought preparedness and mitigation.
  • • Determine most vulnerable zones and accessibility.
  • • Emphasize effective communication.
  • • Translate forecasts into a language/concept that users can understand.
  • • Focus on jobs and other long-term issues; drought management involves more than just providing food/water.
  • • Promote the development of safety nets and their implementation.

  • [1] Pursue the efforts undertaken by WMO to promote standard indicators to measure drought throughout the world. • Encourage countries to systematically collect data that will allow theassessment of drought impacts. • Institutionalize the collection of disaster loss data that covers allhazards, including droughts. • Facilitate comparison of drought vulnerability assessment amongcountries by the collection of a common minimum dataset. • Factor climate change dimension in drought risk assessment andmanagement policies. • Account for context specificity by involving local communities indrought impact and vulnerability assessments.
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