Disaster risk reduction at farm level: multiple benefits, no regrets

Results from cost–benefit analyses conducted in a multi-country study, 2016–2018
Agriculture Risk Disasters Emergency management Farmers disaster resilience


  • The farm-level use of practices and technologies intended to reduce disaster risks provides farmers with economic and social benefits that are significantly higher than the benefits they gained from previously used practices.
  • Disaster risk reduction (DRR) good practices in agriculture are highly context- and location-specific. Not all have the potential for wider upscaling; rather, targeted upscaling – driven by evidence – should be pursued.
  • To truly qualify as a good practice, DRR measures must offer added value in both hazard and non-hazard situations – that is, they must increase agricultural productivity even in the absence of hazards.
  • On average, the DRR good practices analysed in this study generated benefits 2.2 times higher than practices previously used by farmers under hazard conditions. The average observed benefit-cost ratio (BCR) was 3.7 in hazard cases – under non-hazard conditions this rose to 4.5. Benefits included both increases in agricultural production as well as avoided hazard-associated damage and loss.
  • Prevention and DRR measures in agriculture are especially useful in avoiding or reducing damage and loss from high- to medium-frequency events – which occur with low or medium intensity. Greater emphasis in agriculture sector strategies is needed on farm-level DRR as an effective and relatively low-cost way to prevent and mitigate the types of disasters that most frequently affect vulnerable smallholders.
  • Agricultural development policy, planning and extension work should treat DRR as a priority. Farm-level DRR should not only be mainstreamed in a deliberate manner, but widely promoted and implemented at much larger scales.
  • The upscaling of good practices can considerably increase farm productivity and enhance the resilience of smallholder farmers to natural hazards, bring broader benefits at regional and national levels, and contribute to the achievement of the global development agenda articulated by the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, and the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • There are two suitable but different paths for upscaling farm-level DRR good practices in agriculture. The first is at a smaller- and incremental scale, through farmer-to-farmer replication, which requires lower investment and institutional support. The second path is through larger-scale efforts in which government or private sector support are needed to promote uptake of good practices at scale. Crucially, both pathways depend on good infrastructure as well as an enabling environment. This means that new initiatives and investments aimed at meeting those critical needs for upscaling are necessary.

Structure of the study

The study starts with a comprehensive literature review critically analysing existing evidence and previous economic evaluations of DRR practices. Research relevant to the agriculture sector is assessed in detail, with a view to informing the present study’s methodology and focus. Research gaps and the contribution of this study to filling those gaps are highlighted. A subsequent section explains in detail the methodology employed, including the quantitative and qualitative approaches used to conduct field level assessments, and the potential benefits of upscaling select good practices.

The study’s core findings (starting on p. 26) provide a detailed analysis of field-level data from 924 farms covering 36 different DRR practices in ten countries. For each location where practices were implemented and monitored, the hazard context is explained in Annex III. This provides a qualification of hazard contexts- and intensities under which each practice’s performance was assessed. Alongside descriptions of select examples of good practices and their cost-benefit analyses (CBAs), results from farmer interviews are also included, to highlight the social and environmental co-benefits observed.

Next, the potential for upscaling or increasing the use of good practices is discussed. This potential was assessed using a system dynamics model. Select case studies are showcased, including the introduction of the green super rice variety in the Philippines, the implementation of a good practice package for improved banana cultivation in Uganda, and the use of a good practice package for protecting camelids from harsh temperatures in the Bolivian Andean region.

The report closes by situating the results in the broader context of ongoing efforts to assess the economic benefits of DRR measures, followed by a conclusion summarizing the results and providing an outlook on future research and other follow-up actions in the realms of policy and practice.

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