18 December 2003, Kabul/Rome -- Around 60 000 Afghan farm families have received high quality seeds and fertilizers ahead of the planting season, FAO said today.

FAO has distributed 3 000 tonnes of quality wheat seed and 4 500 tonnes of fertilizer to households across the country in time for the next planting season.

Over 500 000 people are expected to benefit from the improved harvests and income generated by the seeds.

Seeds and fertilizers were given to vulnerable families returning home to their land. Thousands were forced to flee their farms and abandon their land during the country's civil war.

"Since 2002, FAO has carried out several large-scale distribution programmes in Afghanistan, reaching some 300 000 poor families, around 2.7 million people, with quality wheat and vegetable seeds, fertilizers and hand tools in nearly every province and district of the country," said Serge Verniau, FAO Representative in Afghanistan.

FAO worked with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (MAAH) and other partners to distribute the seeds.

Improved harvests

A recent evaluation of FAO's 2002 wheat seed distribution confirmed that FAO seed varieties performed better than local and other improved varieties found in markets.

They have higher germination rates and higher resistance to cold weather, frost and snow, as well as to disease and drought.

As a result, FAO seed varieties produced 30 to 50 percent higher yields on average than local and other improved varieties, contributing to the best ever crop in Afghanistan in 2003.

Most of the wheat seed distributed by FAO is produced by Afghan seed growers supervised by FAO's national seed multiplication programme.

The wheat seed varieties produced are resistant to disease and adapted to the country's different ecological conditions. This enables FAO and other organizations to obtain quality seed inside the country, reducing risks and costs.

Families who received FAO improved seed produced enough wheat for their own consumption as well as having some left over to sell.

War weapons grow vegetables

FAO also distributed vegetable seed kits to nearly
800 000 people early this year.

The kits included imported high-yielding varieties of seed, leaflets on home gardening practices and hand tools produced by local artisans, some of which were made using recycled war material.

With the support of the government of Switzerland, FAO provided agricultural tools, seeds and fertilizers to ex-soldiers in Kunduz participating in the UN's Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programme this autumn, helping them return to civilian life.

The governments of Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States contributed to FAO's seed distribution programme.

Erwin Northoff
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 5705 3105