Four out of five people in Afghanistan rely on agriculture for their food and income, but decades of conflict, drought, poverty and inadequate infrastructure make it difficult for many to provide for themselves. For some, especially those in remote areas or women who head their households, it is often a question of limited access to productive assets. High prices prevent many from buying the food they need. FAO is supporting the revival and growth of Afghanistan’s agriculture sector – from ramping up certified seed production to promoting entrepreneurial activities – and with it, helping the country set a course for greater food security.
Better seeds, bigger yields
Agricultural development in Afghanistan has long been hamstrung by poor access to improved seed varieties. To counter this, FAO has been working with the Afghan government to set up and expand community-based seed enterprises. These private enterprises, equipped with seed cleaning and packaging equipment and storage facilities, produce and market certified seed well suited to local growing conditions. In just four years, national seed production has tripled. With better seed comes bigger yields – and potentially bigger earnings for farmers, especially as the country’s network of experienced seed producers branch out from certified wheat seed to more profitable crops likes vegetables, rice and maize.
Boosting nutrition and incomes
Livestock are the main livelihood source for many Afghan families. Animals, however, are vulnerable to drought, floods and cold waves, which weaken their health and increase their need for nutrients. Impoverished families unable to feed their animals often have little recourse but to sell or kill their livestock. FAO is working to stem livestock losses by providing veterinary health services and animal feed to rural households. It is supporting local dairy unions to process and market milk, as well as to produce animal feed, providing additional income opportunities for Afghan farmers. In fact, FAO purchases some of the feed it distributes to vulnerable livestock holders from these very unions.
Coordination and partnerships key
In Afghanistan, where challenges stemming from an ongoing crisis are complex and humanitarian needs great, enhanced leadership, reliable information and effective coordination are vital. FAO co-leads the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster in Afghanistan with the World Food Programme. The Cluster, which counts around 45 members including international and national non-governmental organizations, government ministries, UN agencies and donors, aims to make the responses to Afghanistan’s food security and agriculture needs as effective and timely as possible. This means identifying critical gaps – knowing who’s doing what, where, when and how – and building strong partnerships. In addition, FAO is rolling out the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which classifies the nature and scale of food insecurity in the country and, through improved analysis, enables a more needs-based, timely and strategic response.