Decades of conflict in Afghanistan have left most sectors of Afghan society in tatters, and the same is true for agriculture. The farming sector has also been hit by recurring droughts. Each year, Afghanistan has a deficit in cereals production.
High food prices
Wheat prices were 80 percent higher in April 2008 than in April 2007. In fact, all foodstuffs were significantly higher. Diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilizer prices for the same period were up more than 60 percent.
Wheat export bans from neighbouring countries put further upward pressure on supplies and prices in Afghanistan.
European Union Food Facility
Using improved varieties of certified seed could potentially boost wheat yields in Afghanistan by about 30 percent in irrigated areas, helping to feed more people and replenish seed stocks.
With just over € 13 million in funds from the European Union, FAO launched a two-year project in May 2009 to expand the production and use of certified seed for wheat and other major food crops throughout the country.
The project, coming under the EU Food Facility, supports the long-term seed industry development strategy put in place by the government.
It also builds on an ongoing EC-funded project aimed at accelerating certified seed production and marketing in Afghanistan. Thanks to the success of this project’s initial phase, which provided basic start-up support to eight pilot seed enterprises in 2004, 29 more private seed enterprises have been set up in 11 provinces. FAO has been implementing the project’s second phase since 2007.
Efficient seed cleaning and packaging machines are essential for a seed enterprise, as are good storage facilities; however, not all of the existing seed enterprises in Afghanistan have the same level of resources or facilities. Part of the funds from the EU Food Facility project will go towards the purchase and/or repair of equipment that will enable the enterprises to process and properly store the seed.
Through the project, FAO aims to create 21 new seed enterprises in 12 additional provinces to ensure more farmers have access to certified seeds. FAO will also support the enterprises in producing seed for other crops in addition to wheat. Diversifying seed production will help pave the way for long-term profitability and sustainability.
The seed enterprises will also benefit from training activities in the area of business management and market exploration, while FAO will provide institutional support and policy assistance for breeder seed production, foundation seed production and seed quality control.
Other FAO activities
FAO launched a Technical Cooperation Programme project worth USD 500 000 to help assure the off-season wheat crop for some of the most vulnerable producers.
Through the TCP project, 149 tonnes of each of certified wheat seed, DAP fertilizer and urea are being supplied to 2 980 of the hardest-hit farming families, or 20 860 people.
A project designed to increase production of certified seed is being supported by USAID of the United States and DFID of the United Kingdom, who have contributed USD 3 million each to a multi-year programme.
A similar programme is being supported by the Netherlands in Afghanistan’s southern region, which was particularly affected by the spring droughts. The project will supply 913.8 tonnes each of certified wheat seed, DAP fertilizer and urea to 18 276 farming families during 2008-2009, benefiting a total of 127 932 people.