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The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2010: Afghanistan

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2010: Afghanistan
Nov 2009

Conditions in Afghanistan have continued to deteriorate throughout 2009. An escalation in armed conflict has decreased civilian security, inhibited access to basic services and slowed the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Civilian casualties in the first six months of 2009 were 24 percent higher than the first half of 2008 – a year in which losses of innocent lives had already climbed by 40 percent over the previous year. Continued insecurity and election-related violence claimed a further 624 lives in August and September 2009 alone.

Over 256 000 Afghans are internally displaced and nearly 2.5 million refugees remain abroad, primarily in Pakistan and Iran. The effects of conflict and insecurity have disproportionately impacted women and other vulnerable groups, frequently subject to human rights abuses and inequalities that widely go unpunished. An estimated 40 percent of the country cannot be reached by relief operations due to general security threats and increased targeting of humanitarian partners.

The country is highly prone to recurrent natural hazards and climatic extremes, including severe winter weather, plant and animal pests and diseases, earthquakes, drought and flooding. Extensive losses to livelihoods caused by natural disasters and conflict combined with the global hike in food costs have taken an enormous toll on the country’s extreme poor. Some 42 percent of the population lives on less than USD 1 per day and more than half is either chronically (31 percent) or borderline (23 percent) food insecure.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Improving food security in Afghanistan will largely depend on the ability of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees and families affected by disasters to resume their farming activities. Agriculture provides the main source of livelihood for over 80 percent of the population. However, year-on-year crop and livestock losses caused by human-made and natural disasters have increasingly diminished the capacity of farmers to meet the food needs of their families. Although food costs have stabilized, they remain 40-45 percent above pre-crisis levels and account for an average of 67 percent of household spending.

Despite projections for a good harvest in 2009, recurrent drought, flooding, earthquakes and intensified conflict throughout the year have caused food security to remain a priority need in 2010. Decades of conflict have forced millions to abandon their agricultural activities and land.

Recurrent drought and water shortages continue to threaten key food production areas and subsistence farmers. Plant disease and pests, such as locusts and melon fly, are also a major source of annual losses to staple and cash crops. Thousands of households lack quality seeds and fertilizers for the upcoming agricultural seasons and will be unable to plant if these essential inputs do not reach them on time.

Livestock provide a vital source of food, income and draught power for Afghan farmers – and are often their sole lifeline in times of crisis. Endemic animal diseases and lack of veterinary services, grazing pastures and fodder are causing low productivity, livestock deaths and, consequently, devastating economic losses. Many farmers are forced to sell their surviving animals at low cost, plunging them into deeper food insecurity.

FAO Response

Despite elevated needs in the sector, agriculture interventions remain severely underfunded. Increased investment in the recovery of rural livelihoods will be paramount to securing the positive agricultural gains achieved in 2009, lessening dependency on food aid and increasing the population’s resilience to future shocks.

With donor support, the distribution of certified wheat seeds and fertilizers will enable IDPs, refugees and drought-affected farming families to immediately resume food production. Focus will also lie in strengthening the development of alternative agricultural livelihoods, offering farmers the opportunity to move from subsistence to market agriculture. The start up of gardens and provision of nutrition education will benefit vulnerable households, feeding centres and hospitals and maximize their use of locally available foods.

From the 2009/10 to 2010/11 winter seasons, the provision of concentrate feed will protect the animals of thousands of families that depend solely or primarily on livestock for their livelihood. Animal and plant pests and diseases will also be addressed by implementing control measures and building capacity in surveillance and response at community and institutional levels. Importantly, support to coordination activities of the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster will strengthen the effectiveness of humanitarian response and ensure that timely assistance reaches communities most in need.