Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Wheat seeds distributed to 30 000 rural families in Afghanistan

Afghanistan, 12 Mar 2002 -- Rome – Approximately 30 000 families in rural areas of Northern Afghanistan have received 1 500 tonnes of wheat seeds and fertilizers for the spring planting by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN agency said today. FAO estimates that farmers could finally harvest around 16 000 tonnes of wheat from the seeds distributed.

“We expect that as a result of the distribution a farmer’s family of six members could be self-sufficient in wheat for about six months after the harvest”, said Anne M. Bauer, FAO Focal Point for Afghanistan.

The seeds were distributed for spring planting to poor farmers, returnees and internally displaced people in remote areas in Northern Afghanistan in the provinces of Faryab and Saripul. People there are suffering from food shortages caused by drought and conflict.

The project was carried out in close collaboration with non-governmental organizations such as Save the Children (USA), Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (Pakistan), and ACTED (France), which will also provide fertiliser to complement the seed distribution. The United States funded the seed distribution with around one million dollars.

“Some 85 percent of the Afghan population depend on farming,” said Anne M. Bauer. “Despite rain and snowfall in the beginning of this year, the production of wheat, the country’s stable food, has been seriously jeopardised by the shortage of agricultural inputs. FAO’s emergency projects will enable farmers to resume food production this year.”

According to FAO, wheat availability declined from around 144 kg in 1998/99 to 112 kg per person/year in 2001/2002, while 180 kg per year is the basic requirement for wheat consumption per person.

FAO is currently procuring another 2 800 tonnes of wheat seed and 1 500 tonnes of fertiliser, 26 tonnes of vegetable seed and hand tools to assist 88 000 more families.

The UN agency has also re-opened its offices in Kabul and Mazar-I-Sharif. Funding is now being received to re-deploy international staff also to the FAO offices in Jalalabad, Khandahar and Herat.

FAO will also continue and expand its development activities, which have been going on at varying levels for many years. This includes a seed multiplication programme, improvement of livestock production, animal disease prevention, a vaccination campaign and support for women-headed households with small-scale poultry and dairy production. Approximately 40 national staff inside Afghanistan are already involved in these activities.

Since last September FAO has received US$12 million for its emergency and rehabilitation activities, mainly from the US, the European Commission (ECHO), Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the UK. For 2002, FAO is appealing for
US$36 million to meet short- and medium-term needs.

RAP 02/05