Chance of Exceeding Median Growth

September to November 2006


Fig. 24.4. Example of forecast output from Aussie GRASS depicting pasture growth likelihood for subsequent three month period (September to November 2006) using climate forecast system integrated into pasture growth simulation model for 5 degree pixel regions.

on agricultural production and sustainability over the past 30 years. For instance, the long period of dominance of La Niña patterns from 1950 to 1975 brought improved conditions for agriculture in many countries through generally increased rainfall, with flow-on benefits for pastoral and cropping industries, tte beginning of this period coincided with rapid agricultural development in many regions encouraged by high world prices for many commodities. Provision of drought relief during these periods would have constituted a relatively simple process in the relatively few El Niño-induced drought years (such as 1957, 1965, or 1972) (Hay-lock and Ericksen 2001). However, as La Nina's dominance faded in the mid-1970s so did the standard of living of many rural economies. Unfortunately, instigation of government assistance schemes encouraged farming in marginal country which also helped to intensify farming in some areas that were more susceptible to drought impacts, tte response to losses from drought was for governments to intervene with various forms of assistance (Haylock and Ericksen 2001).

Reformed drought policy has been associated with the development of contingency plans for more severe droughts in New Zealand. In New Zealand an overarching Contingency Plan refers to and reflects the central government policies for adverse climatic events assistance. In this example this overarching Contingency Plan makes a distinction between local events and national events. Local events are those which have impacts on the rural sector but which are not considered severe enough to warrant central government involvement. In these events, producer organizations representative of the affected groups are responsible for managing the local response with the assistance of local government agencies. While the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) has no direct operational role it liaises with local organizations, and may be contracted to help such organizations develop disaster response plans (Haylock and Ericksen 2001). Nevertheless, as is common in a number of countries, central government may have a role in responding to national events, particularly those which are beyond the coping capacity of the local community. In this case, a series of actions and responsibilities operates. Local farmer organizations, in association with local government agencies in the affected areas, make a request for assistance to the central government through the relevant Ministry (Haylock and Ericksen 2001).

In New Zealand the general criteria for a drought event to be of national significance include:

• An exceedence of meteorological norms,

• An extension across territorial authorityboundaries,

• Proof that responding to the event is beyond the capacity of local communities and agencies,

• More than one government agency is involved in the recovery operation, and

• Considerable stock and property is at risk (Haylock and Ericksen 2001).

tte Contingency Plans extend responsibility for initial response to extreme drought events from the central government to local communities and agencies. Remarkably, anticipated changes to New Zealand drought policy include increasing the meteorological criteria for an event of national significance from a one in twenty year event (5% annual probability of exceedence) to a one in fifty year event (2% annual probability of exceedence). It is unknown whether attention to like ly changes in drought frequency or intensity under long-term climate change has been assessed in formulating these changes (see later sections in this chapter for further discussion). Further, a new category of event has been created where in addition to local and national events are regional significant events which may attract limited government assistance such as social welfare grants and labour assistance (Haylock and Ericksen 2001).

In terms of water supply issues drought contingency planning can take on the following processes:

• tte need to forecast the supply situation in relation to demand,

• tte need to assess drought mitigation options such as supply enhancement and demand reduction and timing necessary to obtain results,

• tte need to establish triggering levels for mitigation actions by working backwards from a worst case scenario,

• tte need to develop phased demand reduction programs,

• tte need to adopt a drought plan with a key component to work with users and also the press and associated media and with special interest ('lobby') groups affected by drought,

• tte need to adopt a formal adoption process,

• tte need to monitor results and adjust responses as necessary,

• tte need to provide evaluation of the contingency plan in any post-drought period (Macy 1993).

Engagement of the community is especially important in the development of contingency plans for drought, tte community is then more likely to implement a water conservation program to combat likely drought rather than pay for other options. Including community needs in contingency planning such as this is difficult as the community may well provide widely differing responses depending on when the community consultation takes place. For instance, there are likely to be widely differing responses in a drought or dryyears compared to a wet year (Macy 1993).

Additionally, it is important to include contingency planning within the context of an overall drought preparedness program. In particular, it is important to improve preparedness and triggering mechanisms to produce timely and appropriate responses. While contingency planning may remain at the level of theory, Davies (2001) argues more concerted risk management can be regarded as being at the core of drought preparedness. Nevertheless, preparedness and contingency planning can form the very important first stages of the risk management process (Davies 2001). Davies (2001) also notes that those in drought-prone areas have highly developed information systems which they use to predict likely disruptions in rainfall and to then diagnose and produce responses. Notably, in India even in 'normal years', Indian farmers remain aware of the possibility of drought and undertake water management, crop management, and contingency planning, tten, it is through their informed decisions that they make that they produce their relief and mitigation strategies. All these local strategies (at individual, household, and community levels) can then become part of an effective overall contingency planning process (Subbiah 2001).

Many drought-prone countries have some form of drought contingency plan on paper but many have not been translated into effective policy covering the range of activities required to address short and long-term consequences. In many cases, information is not linked to response and the use of information that is available is partial and unsystematic. Additionally, coordination between the different sectors, agencies, or individuals involved in the response planning may be poor or impossible. tte process from policy development to effective drought preparedness may not be effective or well thought out with the result that little effective drought preparedness actually takes place by the farmer or industry. As Davies (2001) points out 'there is more to (drought) contingency planning than simply drawing up a document'. Additionally, contingency planning must be strong enough to withstand the pressures of crisis and relief operations. Contingency planning must continually be reinforced, must involve local people, personnel must be trained, and flexible responses must be field tested in advance of emergency situations (Davies 2001).

A final point is that, as a means towards proactive drought contingency planning, effective and interactive management systems need to be set in place, ttis approach helps ensure that future adjustments can be made through actual realizations during drought events and updated as maybe required (Bruins and Lithwick 1998; Bruins 2001).

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