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Press Release 01/93


Rome, 29 November - Helping farmers and refugees to resume food production and return to their farms will be the key challenge in the next months in war-torn Afghanistan, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today, launching a $US 10.1 million appeal to enable it to resume immediate emergency assistance and provide seeds, fertilisers, feed and vaccines for animals. The appeal is part of a wider UN effort to alert the international community to the need for assistance to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is facing a severe food crisis as a consequence of serious drought, intensifying economic problems and the ongoing crisis, according to FAO.

"Supporting farmers and the rural economy is essential to fight hunger and poverty in Afghanistan," said Anne M. Bauer, in charge of the FAO emergency programme in Afghanistan. "Some 85 percent of the country's estimated 22 million people are directly dependent on agriculture. Since the 11 September event, commercial food supply and humanitarian assistance has been disrupted. The majority of rural people have been struggling for survival in extreme poverty. The demand for basic agricultural inputs is tremendous with the start of the winter season. "

"We have to do everything to make the next planting season a success," Anne M. Bauer said. "As soon as funds are available, some of FAO's activities can be carried out almost immediately. The challenge will be to support the livestock sector through the winter and the spring planting, which starts in some regions as early as January."

The autumn planting of wheat, which accounts for 80 percent of the country's total cereal production, has been seriously jeopardised by drought and military actions. "Without feed and vaccines, livestock is unlikely to survive through the winter season because of feed shortages and disease," Bauer warned. Sheep due to lamb at the end of winter are particularly at risk.

The country's irrigation systems are in complete ruin, while agricultural services are virtually non-existent. Thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land have been taken out of production due mainly to lack of irrigation and millions of land mines. Fruit trees and forests, once a major source of foreign exchange, have virtually disappeared.

In order to resume already funded projects and start new emergency activities, FAO will soon reopen its offices in Kabul and other provinces. Many of the buildings were destroyed and looted in the past months and important equipment was stolen. FAO will join a UN mission in Kabul in the next days to prepare for the return of FAO staff from Islamabad to Afghanistan.

One of FAO's immediate activities will be the distribution of 1,500 tonnes of wheat seeds for spring planting to farmers in Northern Afghanistan, with a special focus on remote areas. FAO estimates that the production of rainfed wheat in the Northern Provinces is down by 90 percent compared to 1998. The availability of quality seeds in rainfed and irrigated areas is one of the major constrains for wheat production in Afghanistan, FAO said.

Provided that funds are made available, some 100,000 war and drought affected farm families will receive spring seeds and fertilisers for the upcoming spring planting season. These projects will also focus on irrigation and water resource management.

Furthermore, FAO will provide 100,000 refugees and internally displaced people with spring vegetable kits to facilitate their return and re-integration to their villages and towns in the rural areas.

For several years, FAO, the World Food Programme and NGOs have successfully collaborated in a food-for-seed programme in Afghanistan, by which improved seed varieties were multiplied by contract farmers in exchange for flour. FAO and WFP have agreed already to continue this programme.

In addition, FAO will distribute 1,800 tonnes of animal feed and boost its already ongoing livestock vaccination programme in Northern Afghanistan. A total of 18,000 head of cattle will be fed through this project. This will benefit more than 50,000 farmers and their families. The vaccination of animals is expected to protect up to 70 percent of livestock in the targeted areas.

Most essential animal health services, including vaccination, used to be provided by more than 220 FAO Veterinary Field Units, employing over 650 national veterinarians and animal health workers. FAO, together with NGOs and other partners is planning to revive and extend this important network.

FAO will also start the emergency distribution of animal feed and an animal health campaign in other parts of the country in support of 100,000 war- and drought-affected livestock owners, most of them nomads. A network of farm machinery workshops will be created to repair agricultural machines and tools.

As soon as the security situation allows, FAO will re-establish its regional offices in Afghanistan and its main office in Kabul.

A food security surveillance unit and an early warning system will be established to better target and evaluate international food security interventions in the region.

The Netherlands, the United States and Norway have already pledged funds to assist FAO activities.


For more information please contact Mr. Erwin Northoff, Media Relations Branch, tel. (39) 06 5705 3105, email: or visit the FAO home page:

Audio-clip (In English)

In the following interview, Ms. Anne Bauer says that FAO's priority in Afghanistan, today, is to help resuming the agricultural activities and prepare the Spring season.
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