Conclusions and Next Steps
This review shows that although significant progress has been made over the past decade in understanding droughts and their impacts, as well as the merits of risk management approaches compared with traditional crisis management approaches, important research and policy gaps remain. There is a need for mutually compatible methodologies to comprehensively assess drought costs and impacts. Presently, many available estimates of drought costs are partial and difficult to compare. The problem is compounded by the lack of data on droughts and their impacts. Moreover, there is relatively little knowledge available on the costs of indirect and longer-term drought impacts.
Potential next steps include the following:
- • Case studies should evaluate the costs of action versus inaction against droughts using consistent and mutually comparable methodological approaches. This should allow better understanding of the drought costs, impact pathways, vulnerabilities, costs and benefits of various crisis and risk management approaches against droughts, and the cobenefits of risk management approaches, which will ultimately lead to better informed policy and institutional actions on droughts.
- • Comprehensive evaluations of the costs of action versus inaction against droughts need to be informed by drought risk assessments. They require weather and drought monitoring networks with sufficient coverage, as well as adequate human capacity to analyze and transform this information into drought preparedness and mitigation actions.
- • When the previous two points are fulfilled, a clearer picture of the cost-benefit ratio of actions before drought (drought preparedness) versus the cost-benefit ratio of reactive actions (crisis management) can emerge. This is required to guide policy and investments for building drought resilience.
- • Since it is not possible or economically efficient to eliminate vulnerability to droughts, they will continue to affect society to some extent. Therefore, more efficient drought responses also need to be identified.
- • To have impact, research and development partners need to demonstrate to governments that it will be unaffordable to continue with drought relief in the future. It is already putting a huge burden on budgets, thus requiring a shift to risk management approaches in both the discourse and through specific funded actions. A low- hanging fruit in this regard would be to choose mitigating actions that have immediate cobenefits beyond drought risk management, and that would be beneficial with or without droughts. There is a need for more research to identify such socioeconomic cobenefits of drought risk management strategies and approaches, and for more evidence-based advocacy on this issue.