Conclusions

It is clear that drought contingency planning provides an important component in improving measures to reduce the impacts of drought on agricultural production and natural resource systems. Droughts have mostly been managed through a reactive, crisis management approach but have largely been ineffective. Nevertheless, it is clear that investments in preparedness and mitigation will pay large dividends in reducing the impacts of drought and a growing number of countries are realizing the potential advantages of drought contingency planning. Improved preparedness programmes that involve suitable drought impact assessments and drought risk analyses (including use of agricultural simulation models) will help, not only current drought impacts but enable improved capability to respond to longer-term changes in climate. A common and key requirement for contingency planning to be successful is to develop a formal adoption process and to engage the likely affected community. Otherwise, as Susanna Davies points out, the plan may remain merely 'a piece of paper'.

A worthwhile development has been the initiation of decision-support systems that can aid in drought management preparedness practices. However, more recent assessment of these systems suggests they could be used more as discussion support tools that are then able to be more effective in providing planning tools for drought preparedness.

Aspects associated with global warming and long-term climate change appears to have received little attention in relation to future drought contingency planning. Additionally, current or recently developed policies regarding exceptional circumstance provisions for exceptional droughts (rare and exceptional droughts with a current frequency of one in twenty years or similar criterion) may not be relevant in the future as the frequency of severe droughts may potentially change either in severity or in frequency in some regions, ttis means that the impacts associated with a current one in twenty year drought maybe encountered more often in some regions in the future (e.g. one in five years). It is suggested any changes in severe drought frequency due to climate change will greatly impact on drought contingency planning policies with a possible result that governments will revert to again taking a more reactive role. (Indeed, this may alreadybe happening). It is suggested aspects of drought contingency planning, drought preparedness, and drought impact assistance policies need to be urgently considered as to their future effectiveness under long-term climate change.

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