Incredible Alumni: Connor Reed co-authors study analyzing the impact of flooding on food insecurity

The research found the food security of over 5.6 million people across countries in Africa was affected by flooding

This summer as the waters receded from major floods in St. Louis, Yellowstone, and Kentucky as well as internationally in the European Union, Pakistan, and Nigeria, many have been left to grapple with the devastating aftermath. As the collateral damage of climate change builds, significant concern has been raised about how the public health and food security of flooded areas will be affected. Researchers around the world have been looking into the phenomenon and CDS is in the mix!

Conner Reed, a CDS MS alumnus was the lead author of a study, “The impact of flooding on food security across Africa,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this October. The paper was co-authored by Sonali Shukla McDermid, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Environmental Studies, along with other researchers. The paper underscored the necessity of improving data collection on flood and food security to aid in ongoing disaster preparedness and responses, research, and planning for climate change adaptation.

“Our findings show that floods can impact food security both immediately and in the months after the flood event,” says Connor in a recent press release. “In many flood events we assessed, there were substantial damages to infrastructure, croplands, and livestock, which compromised food production and access, as well as water resources and sanitation also critical to food security.”

Using data from 2009–2020, the researchers studied a dozen countries in Africa including Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, and Malawi. They looked at how flood characteristics like location, duration, and extent affected the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale: a metric created by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) to measure food insecurity.

During the period studied, over 5.6 million people across fifteen nations had their food security impacted by flooding events. The study revealed the flood impacts on food security were not uniform, but varied depending on spatial scale (sub-national, national, and/or regional) and time (just after a flood or one to three seasons after). The results also indicated some areas, for some time periods, showed increases in food security. This could be due to increased soil moisture from excess precipitation that boosts crop production and/or a variety of other interventions and factors. However, the researchers note the positive benefits of flooding are far from guaranteed.

“What we highlight in particular is that flooding has important but complicated impacts on food security at different times and spatial scales,” said Sonali in a press release. “This is however largely understudied globally, and therefore not well understood. Improving knowledge of where, when, and to what extent floods affect food security is crucial, especially for decision-makers across flood-prone rural areas that contribute to regional and global food supplies.”

By Meryl Phair

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