3 December 2002, Rome/Kabul - A national livestock census has started in Afghanistan.

More than 30 000 villages and farming communities will be visited over the coming months to provide detailed information on the number of animals and livestock production practices, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

FAO is conducting the survey in close cooperation with the government of Afghanistan and non-governmental organizations, with financial assistance from the government of Italy.

"There are no exact figures of the current number of livestock in Afghanistan," said Len Reynolds, FAO Census Manager. "The last census was held in 1995, but the situation has changed dramatically since then."

"After four years of drought and conflict, farmers and nomads in Afghanistan have suffered a severe drop in livestock."

According to preliminary estimates by FAO, the losses amount to more than 70 percent. The Kuchi nomads were especially hard hit, many of whom have lost nearly all their flocks.

Better control of animal diseases

The census is essential for planning the rehabilitation and development of the Afghan livestock sector. It will also help to better target veterinary services and disease control, in particular vaccination campaigns against infectious diseases like rinderpest and foot-and-mouth.

"We will contact every Afghan village," Reynolds said. "More than 500 Afghans, from private veterinary field units, will deliver and collect the simple two-page census form over the next months. We will contact the local Imam and Shura first to explain the reasons for the census, and also use radio stations to inform farmers about the survey," Reynolds said.

The census started in the mountainous areas where snow has already fallen. Insecurity along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is expected to restrict access in a few districts according to FAO.

Data collection will probably be finished by the end of March 2003, the final analysis and report will be completed by the end of July.

Erwin Northoff
Media Relations Officer
+39 06 570 53105