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The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: Afghanistan

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: Afghanistan

Dec 2012

Afghanistan’s 34-year conflict has worsened over the last five years and the humanitarian crisis continues unabated. Nearly 450 000 people are internally displaced as a result of conflict, which has uprooted three out of four Afghans at least once in their lifetime.

Afghanistan faces the largest and most protracted refugee crisis in history – 5.7 million refugees have returned while 2.7 million remain in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan.

In addition, recurrent natural disasters and hazards – earthquakes, drought, flooding and harsh winters – affect an estimated 250 000 people each year. In 2013, insecurity will be an especially important factor in determining humanitarian access, as the country continues its transition to national security control.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

One-third of Afghanistan’s 27 million people suffer from food insecurity, including 2.1 million who are severely food insecure. The vast majority of people unable to access sufficient food are farmers and pastoralists. Agriculture – the livelihood of around four out of five Afghans – is continually threatened by conflict and seasonal natural hazards that inflict damage throughout the year and reduce options for income and food access.

Challenges arising from armed conflict and displacement are immense and likely to increase in 2013. Within the first nine months of 2012, nearly 152 700 people fled their homes from conflict, leaving behind their livelihood base, including their land, farming inputs and animals. Furthermore, the resources of host communities are long overstretched, while people remaining in severely conflict-affected areas experience poor market access, reduced economic opportunities and frequent damage or losses of their crops, herds and other productive assets. Returning to Afghanistan is often unsustainable, as millions of returnees struggle to obtain livelihoods, land and basic services. The ability to integrate these returnees and internaIly displaced persons (IDPs), in addition to those expected in 2013, will depend greatly on restoring livelihoods and food production.

Excluding the continual risk of earthquakes, Afghanistan is prone to at least one type of natural hazard per month for ten months of the year – all of which threaten agriculture. For example, cyclical drought, as experienced in 2011, reduces crop yields and pasture available for livestock feeding, while seasonal flash floods occur in spring when winter grains (wheat and barley) approach harvest and spring wheat is sown. Between January and August 2012, more than 251 000 people were affected by natural disasters, such as floods, harsh winter weather, landslides, avalanches and riverbank erosion. In the 177 affected districts, such shocks led to livelihood loss, and with it reduced access to food and income. There is also serious concern over natural resource degradation and depletion, including surface and groundwater scarcity, contamination, deforestation, soil erosion and desertification. Despite these constraints, a good harvest in 2012 has contributed to a drop in the price of wheat, increasing access to food for many.

Without sufficient resources and support to recover from these crises, rural families are becoming less resilient. To cope, many are contracting substantial debts and selling their productive assets, including livestock. While addressing immediate needs, these coping strategies deteriorate livelihoods, deepen poverty and reduce nutritional intake. Some population groups are deemed at greater risk of acute food insecurity than the general population, such as IDPs and returnees, families living in insecure areas, households with disabled and aged members and those headed by widows. Women-headed households are especially at risk of food and livelihood insecurity owing to their higher dependence on markets for food and limited access to productive assets, property ownership, income, education and information.

Food Security and Agriculture Cluster response

Within the Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Afghanistan, the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster’s main objectives are to provide life- and livelihood-saving assistance to populations in need of emergency response and to support livelihood recovery. With donor funding, Cluster partners will deliver food assistance through activities such as general food distribution and cash or voucher transfers, and provide emergency livelihood support to protect and restore crop and livestock production.

The Cluster, co-led by FAO and WFP, will contribute to improving existing systems of emergency preparedness (including early warning systems and contingency planning), allowing for more rapid, effective decision-making and response to crises. The Cluster will also continue to support the Emergency Preparedness Subworking Group of the Humanitarian Country Team. While some aspects of early warning are in place (e.g. Famine Early Warning Systems Network and the Early Warning Group), funding will also be sought to strengthen the linkages between local, regional, provincial and national levels in terms of information gathering, monitoring and analysis.

Legend: FAO funding requests for Afghanistan from 2009 to 2013

This range of complementary interventions – from addressing immediate food needs to restoring self-reliance – will focus on people worst affected by natural disasters, those displaced by conflict or natural disasters and populations classified to be “in crisis” (Level 3) by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. The latter includes people affected by harsh winter weather and flooding, IDPs, deportees and host communities, particularly in Badakhshan, Nuristan, Ghor, Khost and Sar-e-Pul provinces.

FAO’s response efforts within the Appeal will help the most crisis-affected farmers and pastoralists to restore and strengthen their livelihoods, including displaced populations and host communities. All activities are geared to help families build more resilient lives and livelihoods, and will be responsive to the different situations, needs and abilities of women, men, girls and boys. Livestock support will include distributing animals to families whose herds have been reduced, as well as feed and veterinary supplies that will safeguard livestock health and productivity. FAO will also help small-scale farmers quickly resume crop production – including home gardening activities focused on women – by providing quality seeds, fertilizers, tools and technical support. Collectively, these activities will play an important role in facilitating the return, resettlement and reintegration of displaced populations – a major challenge anticipated in 2013.