Increased support for Afghan farmers hit by conflict and natural disasters

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - Headquarters

The Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF) has contributed $9.5 million to an FAO-led project that aims to boost the resilience of farmers affected by conflict and natural disasters in 16 of Afghanistan's most food insecure provinces, the two partners announced today.

Over 10 million people in Afghanistan are now coping with severe acute food insecurity and in need of urgent humanitarian support, according to a report issued last week by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative (IPC).

The new FAO project will work to enhance the resilience against future shocks of over 660,000 people belonging to nearly 100,000 households whose livelihoods have been affected by conflict and natural disasters, with the provision of essential agriculture inputs - in particular improved and certified wheat seed, fertilizer, and training on improved agriculture practices.

This will enable highly vulnerable small farming households to grow wheat during the upcoming cultivation season and contribute to higher farm yields, boosting people's food self-sufficiency and generating surpluses that can be used as seed stock or sold for profit.The AHF is administered by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) under the leadership of the Humanitarian Coordinator.  

The impact of the 2018 drought and 2019 floods, exacerbated by the protracted conflict, has been devastating for smallholder farmers, impeding their ability to cultivate large plots of land or carry over surplus seed stocks for use in future planting. It disrupted local markets as well. This meant zero or little availability of local or improved varieties of seed within local communities," said Rajendra Aryal, FAO Representative in Afghanistan.

This AHF assistance will restore access by food insecure farmers to certified seed for the upcoming season, protecting their livelihoods and the main source of food and income for their families. FAO is extremely grateful to the AHF for this time critical support," he added. 

Under the project, each beneficiary family will receive inputs sufficient to plant around half a hectare with wheat, allowing them to grow and harvest more than 900 kg of the staple grain. That's enough to cover their household consumption needs for one year as well as possibly generate surpluses.

All told, the AHF-supported FAO distributions are expected to result in a total gross wheat production of 113,200 metric tonnes in 2020. 

Deliveries and training will be implemented by FAO in close collaboration with NGO partners of the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster and the Afghanistan's Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL) in Badakhshan, Kunduz, Faryab, Sar-i-pul, Samangan, Daikundi, Nimroz, Nuristan, Helmand, Kandahar, Bamyan, Badghis, Farah, Herat, Ghor and Wardak provinces.

"Farmers are key to ensure food production in Afghanistan and yet they have limited access to good quality seeds and other essential farming inputs," said Toby Lanzer, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan. "This time-critical allocation to FAO and partners will protect farmers' livelihoods and enable them to cultivate wheat during the ongoing season, which is vital in fighting the widespread food insecurity that is affecting so many vulnerable people", he added.

Small farms key to food security, yet highly vulnerable

Around 70 percent of Afghans rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, making the sector critical to poverty reduction and food security. At the same time, most farmers in the country are smallholders (67.5 percent) who work in irrigated plots generally ranging from just half a hectare to a hectare and a half. 

Many smallholders in marginal areas of the country are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, food insecurity and seed insecurity. Their lack of physical and economical access to farming inputs - as well as escalation prices for those inputs - are a large part of the challenge.

Afghan farmers are also affected by declining soil fertility, leading to an increase in the use of marginal and fragile lands. Drought and floods tied to climate change are also a growing threat. In order to build resilience of communities and ecosystems to drought, FAO is also supporting MAIL in the formulation of a long-term national drought risk management strategy.

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