29 May 2003, Rome/Kabul -- Long-term agricultural development activities in Afghanistan are under threat unless urgently needed donor funds are provided, FAO warned today.

"We are facing a potential funding gap of around $25 million," said Manfred Staab, FAO Programme Manager for Afghanistan.

"We are afraid that political events in other parts of the world are forcing donors to redirect scarce funds away from Afghanistan."

"Since 11 September 2001, FAO has received around $40 million for rehabilitating agriculture and regenerating rural areas in Afghanistan. Much of these funds were for emergency activities such as distribution of seeds, tools, fertilizers and locust control, but we have also made solid investments in long-term rehabilitation," Staab said.

"We are now seriously concerned about the lack of new funding commitments for long-term agricultural development projects."

Major achievements at risk

"Without the additional amount of $25 million, we will have to stop more than 70 percent of our activities by the end of this year. This would have serious repercussions on the farming communities we are now helping and would prevent us from assisting more farmers," Staab said.

"All our achievements, with the exception of FAO's fully-funded involvement in the seed sector, would be jeopardized. We would lose the results of about two years of our work."

"A critical mass of investment is urgently needed - otherwise we shall lose the momentum," Staab said. "We can only gain the confidence of Afghani farmers in the long-term development of rural areas if we now build upon what we have achieved during the emergency phase."

Long-term projects include seed production, the cultivation and marketing of fruits and vegetables, livestock vaccination campaigns and veterinary services, the rehabilitation of destroyed irrigation systems and the strengthening of fragile government services over the next years.

Projects for several hundred thousand farmers

FAO has become a strong player in supporting farmers with seed delivery and multiplication, animal production and health services, milk production and marketing projects, successful poultry raising projects for women and the rehabilitation of irrigation systems. Several hundred thousand farmers have profited from these projects over the past years, according to the UN agency.

"In addition, we have helped to build up and strengthen local and national agricultural government institutions," Staab said.

"Our main objective is that the Afghanis should finally run their own institutions and play the leading role in restructuring agriculture. FAO, for example, is in the process of moving its offices to government premises in Kabul and major cities to ensure that we are in close contact with the people who will be finally responsible. We are also providing them with training on the job."

FAO staff in Afghanistan includes 275 national and 30 international experts. A special network covering all parts of the country provides services even in remote areas.

Donors supporting FAO's activities in Afghanistan have been Belgium, the European Commission, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

FAO is now strongly encouraging donors to provide funding for its development activities in Afghanistan.

Erwin Northoff
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53105