Extreme climate events can undermine agricultural and rural development progress. Where a climate-related shock may exceed the capacity of rural communities to cope effectively, a range of safety net and related policy interventions have the potential to prevent long-term loss of livelihoods. Examples include emergency food and cash assistance, food-for-work programs, emergency shelter, fodder distribution for livestock, and replacement of lost seed.
There is a strong body of evidence that when a climate-related shock exceeds the coping capacity of affected communities, delayed intervention greatly increases both the short-term cost of providing emergency assistance and the long-term impacts on the livelihoods of those communities. Early warning systems play an important role in early response, but must be embedded in effective communication and decision-making processes.
This area of research seeks to improve climate-related early warning systems, and to provide evidence and guidance to improve strategies for safety net programs and humanitarian organizations to respond to climatic extremes in ways that better protect farmers' livelihoods. For example, in Ethiopia we have worked with decision-makers at different levels of government to identify opportunities to improve climate-sensitive food security planning processes using either existing or potential new information sources.
We have also worked with African regional organizations to develop recommendations on improving early warning systems as inputs to global climate negotiations. New projects, beginning in 2015, will strengthen food security early warning systems in East and West Africa and Central America, and will develop new early warning systems for climate-sensitive agricultural and zoonotic diseases in Southeast Asia.