Preparedness strategies

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Few countries have actually implemented risk-based drought policies and preparedness programs or strategies. However, Australia is an exception to this and some components associated with effectiveness in program development can be provided.

Wilhite (2003; 2005) identified four key components that have been identified for effective drought risk reduction strategy, ttese are:

• tte availability of timely and reliable information on which to base decisions,

• Policies and institutional arrangements that encourage assessment, communication, and application of that information,

• A suite of appropriate risk management measures for decision makers,

• Actions by decision makers that are effective and consistent.

ttus, the Australian national drought policy has developed in the context of deregulation of the agricultural sector with the aim of creating efficient and internationally competitive farming systems, tte policy has multiple objectives that include (adapted from Drought Policy Task Force 1997 and cited in Botterill and Wilhite 2005):

• Encouraging self-reliant approaches to managing climate variability;

• Protecting the natural resource base in times of extreme climate stress;

• Ensuring adequate welfare support for farm families commensurate with that available to other Australians;

• Ensuring that the policy does not impede structural adjustment in the farm sector; and

• A high level of awareness and understanding of drought and drought policy (also Wilhite 2003, 2005).

Wilhite (1996) argued that drought policy should be informed about the impact of climate variability on key policy relevant outcomes such as farm incomes and profitability. ttompson and Powell (1998) showed how this could be done using whole-farm models, ttey concluded that a preoccupation with climate and environmental definitions of drought was not consistent with a need to holistically manage all sources of risk on farms, tte relevance gap that has emerged between the information necessary to support drought policy, and that being supplied has been highlighted through the work of Nelson et al. (2005). Nelson et al. (2005) showed that understanding the capacity of rural households to cope with risk requires broad measures of the human, social, natural, physical and especially financial assets from which rural livelihoods are derived (Figure 24.5a). However, Meinke et al. (2006) suggest that the information used to inform the implementation of climate policy in Australia agriculture is mostly related to measures of variability in rainfall, soil water analysis and plant growth (see Bureau of Rural Sciences 2006). However, policy maybe somewhat powerless to influence the impact of climate variability on these scientific measures of exposure to climate risk and may also bear little relation to more holistic measures of the key policy outcome: the coping capacity of rural communities (Figure 24.5b) (Meinke et al. 2006).

It is also suggested that beyond engaging with public policy makers, public-private partnership models need to be further explored in order to 'mainstream'

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