Impacts of natural disasters on smallholder farmers: gaps and recommendations
Here, we review the impacts of recent natural disasters in developing countries on rural agriculture and livelihoods with the objective of understanding gaps and providing recommendations. Lessons from these disasters demonstrate that national governments, aid agencies, and international/non-governmental organizations (I/NGOs) are effective primarily at distributing short-term products (e.g. food packages and tarpaulin) to cities. Such products are inexpensive, simple to procure, and easily quantifiable for donors. Unfortunately, the literature suggests that many national governments and foreign NGOs are ineffective at assisting rural farmers in the short and long term. Given that the global community is somewhat effective at distributing short-term products, we suggest that a similar strategy should be developed for rural areas, but focusing on products that can assist farm households. There appears to be a gap in knowledge of effective products that can target such households after a disaster. We propose an emergency sustainable agriculture kit (eSAK) framework for disaster relief in rural areas that involves a comprehensive list of products that can be combined into packages to address the needs of shelter, hunger, first aid, seeds, preservation of indigenous crop varieties, and post-disaster labor shortages. We also propose ideas on how to re-purpose relief products provided to urban areas to assist with farm needs. Products highlighted are rolls of agricultural-grade plastics, low-oxygen grain storage bags, waterproof gardening gloves, multi-use shovels, seeds of early maturing crops, fertilizers, inexpensive farming tools, temporary food support, and first-aid kits. These products are needed, inexpensive, labor efficient, compact, lightweight, available/procurable on a large scale, simple, and reusable. Furthermore, correct use and re-purposing of the products can be explained using accompanying graphical illustrations, which is critical for rural illiterate households. As distribution to rural areas is a challenge, especially after a disaster, we propose the use of pre-existing alcohol/cigarette/snack food distribution networks as a novel strategy for rural disaster relief. These efforts must be in partnership with local officials and grassroots organizations, with dedicated funding from governments and international aid agencies. It is hoped that global stakeholders will benefit from these recommendations to assist affected farmers after a crisis.