24 July 2003, Rome -- Farmers in
Afghanistan are about to harvest the biggest wheat crop in two
decades, said Serge Verniau, Representative of FAO in Kabul.
"This is a very encouraging
development considering that the country suffered greatly from
armed conflicts and a four-year drought," Verniau said
in a statement released today. "We are expecting that
the harvest will amount to more than 4 million tonnes. The
country will still need to import an estimated one million
An assessment report
prepared by FAO and the World Food Programme will soon be
published with more detailed information.
The crop situation improved after good rains, much
better access to seeds and fertilizers and a more stable
should become a main priority
"I would say that FAO's emergency activities, such
as the delivery of seeds, fertilizers and tools and the
successful control of potentially damaging locust outbreaks in
the North, contributed to this success," Verniau added.
Around 85 percent of the Afghan population
depend on agriculture. Agriculture should become a main priority
regarding funding and political support.
"Unfortunately, some key players still have not
realized that Afghanistan's future depends very much on the
development of the agricultural sector," Verniau said.
Chronic undernutrition and micronutrient deficiency
disorders continue to be a major problem in Afghanistan,
according to FAO. Particularly hard hit are small children,
women, refugees and people in remote mountain areas.
"The diets of many people are
unbalanced," Verniau said. "They lack energy,
but most often variety. The diets are poor in micronutrients
such as vitamin A, iron and iodine. There are also pockets of
scurvy due to vitamin C deficiency affecting people in the
northern mountains during winter months."
Poverty is still widespread in the country and people
have no access to a nutritious diet, or simply cannot afford it.
They often live just on bread and tea, small quantities of milk
and yogurt and some legumes. The intake of fruits, vegetables
and meat is still very low. People are not starving, but diets
are not rich enough for children to grow and to develop mentally
and for adults to be productive, Verniau said.
Livestock diseases are still a
The situation of Afghan
livestock farmers has not really improved. The outbreaks of
livestock diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease and peste des
petits ruminants are still considerable and do pose a serious
threat to neighbouring countries, according to FAO.
"It is clear that without a sound animal
health strategy run by farmers and livestock agencies, livestock
production could remain low and constrained by disease. FAO will
run a livestock vaccination campaign to keep the worst outbreaks
in selected areas under control," Verniau said.
FAO has also undertaken a country-wide
livestock census to get a clear picture about how many farm
animals remain after the conflict and drought in Afghanistan and
under what conditions farmers are producing. This is the first
census for many years.
Alternatives to poppy
Poppy production has increased by almost 20 percent
compared to last year, the head of the FAO Office in Kabul said.
The possibilities of introducing alternatives to poppy
production such as the rehabilitation of fruit tree nurseries
and vegetable seed production do exist.
"The country could, for example, try to gain
market shares in niche markets such as organic and horticulture
production. However, there is no immediate solution to the
problem. Poppy production offers income and employment
opportunities. It will take time to build credible alternatives.
In addition, the conditions for law enforcement and controls
have to be created."
that it has received fresh funding commitments from donors but
that it is still facing a gap of $10-15 million to provide a
comprehensive programme of rehabilitation of agriculture in the
coming months. The European Commission, USAID, Germany, the
Netherlands, Italy and the UK are the main donors.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570