Drought is an insidious natural hazard that is a normal part of the climate of virtually all regions. It should not be viewed as merely a physical phenomenon. Rather, drought is the result of interplay between a natural event and the demand placed on water supply by human societies. It is important to build awareness of drought as a normal part of climate. Improved understanding of the different types of drought and the need for multiple definitions and climatic/water supply indices that are appropriate to various sectors, applications, and regions is a critical part of this awareness-building process. As with other natural hazards, drought has both physical and social component. It is the social factors, in combination with our exposure, that determine risk to society. It is obvious that well-conceived policies, preparedness plans, and mitigation programs can greatly reduce the vulnerability of the farming community and the risks associated with drought. Thus, planners and other decision-makers must be convinced that drought mitigation strategies are more cost effective than post-impact assistance or relief programs. It seems clear that investments in preparedness and mitigation will pay large dividends in reducing the impacts of drought. WMO has a major role to play in drought preparedness and mitigation strategies through its leadership role in early warning systems and preparedness strategies. The strong foundations laid by WMO through its research, applications, and capacity-building initiatives around the world are showing impressive results in dealing with events such as the 1997-98 El Niño. WMO stands ready to assist the agricultural community in developing strategies to coping effectively with agricultural droughts.


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