FAO in Afghanistan

South-South Cooperation to achieve SDGs


A 13-member delegation of high-level government officials and members of the Afghanistan Food Security and Nutrition Agenda (AFSeN-A), led by H.E. Nasrullah Arsalai, Director General of the Afghan Council of Ministers’ Secretariat, spent five days in Bangladesh learning how multi-sectoral and inter-ministerial coordination and governance can help improve food security and nutrition.

The South-South cooperation study visit was carried out under the joint FAO – European Union initiative on “Food and Nutrition Security, Impact, Resilience, Sustainability and Transformation (FIRST)” Programme. The scope of the mission was to incorporate learning from the Bangladesh experience to strengthen the policy, investment, monitoring and governance frameworks in food security and nutrition in Afghanistan.

Recognizing the importance of addressing food insecurity and malnutrition, the Government of Afghanistan launched the AFSeN-A in October 2017 “to ensure that no Afghan suffers from hunger and every Afghan is well nourished at all times”. FIRST provided the technical assistance to the Government of Afghanistan to address the food insecurity and malnutrition issues through the operationalization and institutionalization of AFSeN-A in Afghanistan. Three UN agencies, namely FAO, UNICEF and WFP, will provide technical and financial support to the Government for establishment and operationalization of the AFSeN-A Secretariat with well-structured food security and nutrition coordination mechanisms in the country involving different sectors and stakeholders.

During the visit, key Afghan FSN stakeholder were exposed to Bangladesh’s experiences to build their capacities and to better understand the political, economic, environmental and technological dynamics of Food and Nutrition Security (FSN) governance, in view to tackle hunger and malnutrition and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Afghanistan.

Why Bangladesh?

Bangladesh was chosen for this study tour for its unique multi-sectoral coordination mechanism and inclusive approach on food security and nutrition that involves different actors at all levels. Bangladesh has made commendable progress over the past 40 years in achieving food security and reducing malnutrition. Bangladesh’s agricultural sector has benefited from a sound and consistent high-level policy framework backed up by substantial public investments in technology, rural infrastructure and human capital. A well-coordinated structure that is inclusive of different sectors and actors made it possible to achieve the desired results. UN specialized agencies, including FAO, have played a critical role by providing technical expertise to support the implementation of policies and monitoring systems. 

The Study Tour

The team visited 16 different institutions including research institutes, departments, ministries, authorities, and universities. The Afghan delegation met with Advocate Qamrul Islam, MP, Honorable Minister of Food, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (GoB), and with Begum Matia Chowdhury, MP, Honorable Minister of Agriculture, GoB. The ministers shared success stories on the agricultural sector and on food security and nutrition interventions, including the establishment of a Food Policy Monitoring Unit and Secretariat and its governance mechanism, the formulation of a Food Security Policy and its five-year action plan, and the results achieved in the agriculture sector through production, research, and export.

The delegation has learned about the progress Bangladesh has made in a variety of sectors, particularly in some key areas that could be successfully applied in context of Afghanistan, such as nutrition-sensitive and climate-sensitive agriculture; fortification and bio-fortification; targeted programs for vulnerable people; development of environment-friendly pesticides and stress tolerant crop varieties; and the development of local technology to help farmers. The government of Bangladesh has improved the enabling environment and fostered coordination and collaboration with the private sector while keeping the farmers and producers at the heart of its development agenda, which is one of the main targets the Afghanistan Government wants to achieve through its Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework and related priority programmes.

Following the study visit, the delegation has developed a series of conclusions that will provide policy- and decision-makers with insights on how to improve FSN-related action in Afghanistan, which will eventually lead to the elaboration of a cooperation plan on FSN between the two countries.