4 December 2003, Rome/Kabul -- It
could take up to ten years for the animal herds in Afghanistan
to regenerate naturally, according to FAO. Herds have been
seriously reduced after four years of drought and many years of
FAO published today the
preliminary results of the first livestock census ever conducted
Data collected in more
than 36 700 villages covered around 3 million families. Almost
every Afghan village was visited. The project was carried out by
FAO and involved around 900 Afghan interviewers. The US$780 000
project was funded by the Government of Italy.
Livestock production is a major source of income and
food for Afghan farmers and their families. For some, such as
the Kuchi nomads, animals are the only source of income.
Counting farm animals
The results show that there are 3.7
million cattle in Afghanistan, 8.8 million sheep, 7.3 million
goats, 1.6 million donkeys, 180 000 camels, 140 000 horses and
12.2 million poultry.
first time we really have a clear statistical picture of the
livestock situation in Afghanistan," said Simon Mack,
FAO Senior Officer, Livestock Development.
"Now we have the basic data on which future
decisions regarding farming systems, public veterinary services,
and livestock development polices can be based," he
Comparisons with earlier livestock
surveys showed that the number of farm animals per family had
plummeted, "Stock holding per family has decreased
sharply over the past years," according to the census.
The number of families without livestock
has increased from 11.4 to 14.4 families per community due to
The number of cattle per
family, for example, has fallen from 3.7 in 1995 to 1.22 in
2003, while the number of sheep decreased particularly sharply
from 21.9 to 2.9 over the same period.
Kuchi nomads and other semi-nomadic pastoralists in the
provinces of Ghazni, Zabul, Kabul and Kandahar have been
particularly hit by the drought, FAO said. About 60 percent of
the Kuchi households have completely lost their livestock. The
majority of households have yet to recover.
Oxen are used as a major source of farm power for
ploughing, transport and threshing. Numbers of draught animals
have also declined over the past years.
"The major challenge now is to maximize the
natural regeneration of herds," Mack said.
"This can be done by ensuring that the animals are
healthy and well fed, and that there are adequate breeding males
or artificial insemination available."
"In addition, animals are also being imported
from neighbouring countries. Without adequate veterinary control
there is a risk of spreading infectious diseases such as
foot-and-mouth disease and Peste des petits ruminants, which
could adversely affect the recovery of the national herd. FAO
strongly recommends increasing the capacity of the public
veterinary services to manage these disease risks," he
The final results of the Afghan
livestock census are expected early next year. They will contain
detailed results from household and gender surveys.
"These data will tell us more, for example,
about the role and responsibilities of women in animal
husbandry, regional differences in production systems and
species, as well as information on levels of production and
productivity," Mack said.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570