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Extreme weather poses growing threat to food security - UN's FAO

by Reuters
Thursday, 26 November 2015 17:05 GMT

A woman and her son walk in their drought-affected plot, in the southern village of San Francisco de Coray, Honduras, Aug. 13, 2015. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

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Drought, floods and storms have become more frequent and severe in the past 30 years, hurting poor farmers

ROME, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Drought, floods and other extremes of weather have become more frequent and severe in the past 30 years and pose a rising threat to food security in developing countries, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

Natural disasters caused worldwide damage worth $1.5 trillion, more than the annual GDP of Australia, between 2003 and 2013 and hit agriculture hard, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report.

It said they were occurring almost twice as often as in the 1980s, hampering efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty.

Ahead of next week's U.N. climate conference in Paris, where almost 200 countries will try to agree measures to limit climate change, the FAO called for more investment in disaster response and recovery, and in adaptation to climate change, to make the farming sector more resilient. Scientists say a rise in global temperatures caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions will make extreme weather events ever more frequent.

"This year alone, small-scale farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists and foresters - from Myanmar to Guatemala and from Vanuatu to Malawi - have seen their livelihoods eroded or erased by cyclones, droughts, floods and earthquakes," FAO Director General Graziano Da Silva wrote in the report.

The damage is most keenly felt in developing economies, which are more dependent on farming.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, agriculture and agribusiness together on average make up half of economic output.

While drought is the biggest threat to livestock, fisheries suffer most from storms and tsunamis.

The report singled out the damage that drought has done to food processing in Kenya, and the effect of floods on cotton and rice production in Pakistan.

Two and a half billion people worldwide depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, but only 4.2 percent of total official development funds was spent on the sector between 2003 and 2012, against a U.N. target of 10 percent, FAO said.

(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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