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HomeEnvironmentFloods severely impact Africa's food security, study shows

Floods severely impact Africa’s food security, study shows

Floods severely impact Africa’s food security, study shows

(Photo: Kevin Krajic/Earth Institute)

Flooding can severely impact the food security of millions of people, a study of more than a dozen countries in West, East and Southern Africa shows. The research follows record flooding in Africa in 2020, which has devastated Pakistan, India and much of the European Union and the United States.this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In many of the flood events the authors assessed, significant damage was caused not only to farmland but also to livestock, as well as to water and sanitation infrastructure critical to food security. “Our findings suggest that flooding affects food security immediately and months after a flood event,” said lead author Connor Reed, a graduate student at NYU.

Reed, along with researchers from Columbia University’s School of Climate and others, studied the period 2009-2020 in 16 countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mauritania and Nigeria. They looked at how key characteristics of flooding, including location, duration and extent, affect an independent indicator of food insecurity used by a famine early warning system created by USAID: the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale. The IPC measures the severity of food insecurity using a five-point scale: minimum food security (IPC 1), stress (IPC 2), emergencies (IPC 3), crises (IPC 4) and famine (IPC 5).

The results showed that in the area studied, approximately 12 percent of the food-insecure population, or 5.6 million people, were affected by flooding during this period. However, the effect is complex. In addition to adverse effects, there are some effects that improve food insecurity, such as increased soil moisture, depending on the time period and area size of flooding.

“Our findings suggest that flooding may have opposing effects on food security at different spatial scales, particularly in the time period after they occur.” Society. “In a given year, excess precipitation may immediately lead to flooding that damages crops in localized areas, while also being associated with favorable growing conditions, boosting crop production nationwide.”

The link between flooding and food security is not so much due to national dynamics, such as changes in food prices, as to specific environmental impacts on food supplies: for example, loss of subsistence crops, damage to infrastructure, or loss of A livelihood that enables people to buy food.

“Understanding the impact of flooding on food security is increasingly important for the humanitarian community,” said co-author Andrew Kruczkiewicz of the International Institute for Climate and Society. “With the results of this study, the humanitarian community is better able to decide which actions to prioritize or de-prioritize in the areas we study, including anticipation, preparedness and response.”

The paper’s other authors are Jennifer Nakamura, Richard Seeger and Domini Gallo of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory in Columbia; and Sonali Shukla McDermid of New York University. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Adapted from a NYU press release.

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