ROME/KABUL, 18 November 2002 -- The
UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is currently
distributing around 3 700 tonnes of wheat seeds and around 7 000
tonnes of fertilizers to half a million people in almost all
provinces of Afghanistan.
The seeds were
distributed to farming families that were severely stricken by
conflict and more than three years of drought. The distribution
was carried out by 26 local and international non-governmental
All seeds were purchased
from local suppliers participating in the FAO Seed
Multiplication Programme. FAO contracted several thousand
farmers last year for multiplication of high quality wheat seeds
suitable for irrigation and rain-fed agriculture.
"Procuring seeds directly from farmers
strengthens local production of high quality seeds and the
adoption of new varieties," said Anne M. Bauer,
Director of the Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation
"The seed is the best
quality available within Afghanistan. The improved seeds are
selected and adapted to Afghan conditions, they do not need
large amounts of fertilizers or pesticides. The improved
varieties are known by the average Afghan farmers and they are
more resistant to diseases," Bauer said.
Around 80 000 families received seed
Kits of seeds and
fertilizers were distributed to around 80 000 poor farming
families who cannot buy new agricultural inputs. "The
kit they received will not solve all their problems but it is an
important contribution to help them restart their food
production with high yielding varieties. It will be a first step
to produce food for themselves or sell it in the
market," Bauer said. "This will help them to
break the vicious circle of poverty and indebtedness."
FAO estimates that the cultivation of
distributed seeds will amount to around 120 000 tonnes of wheat.
The beneficiaries will have to repay for the kits obtained in
cash or in kind (wheat). The communities will use the
reimbursement for development projects.
The emergency project was funded by Germany, Italy,
Kuwait, Norway, Switzerland and the United Nations Development
Programme with around US$ 4.5 million.
"It should be kept in mind, however, that the
current distribution of seeds covers only a small amount of the
real needs. The total requirement for quality seeds in
Afghanistan is estimated at around 250 000 tonnes per season.
This year the production has been estimated at 15 000 tonnes.
The Afghan seed production sector is capable of producing much
more seeds," Bauer said.
"If we want to help farmers to get out of
poverty and produce more food, we need to increase our
assistance, extend the seed multiplication programme and improve
the marketing and processing of seeds. Currently seed marketing
is almost not existent. Our aim is to reach sustainability in
seed multiplication and prepare the transition towards
privatization and better marketing. Donor support is needed to
cover these activities," Bauer said.