FAO in Afghanistan

FAO helps safeguard Kuchi livestock

A Kuchi herder in Uruzgan's provincial center Tarinkot. ©FAO/HRDA

Livestock protection assistance funded by Japan helps Kuchi nomadic herders in Uruzgan to continue feeding their animals

Abdul Manan, 41, is a nomadic herder from Uruzgan’s provincial capital Tarinkot. He once had a herd of 100 sheep and other livestock. The ongoing drought, animal diseases and COVID-19 pandemic forced him to sell almost his full herd of sheep to cover for his family’s basic needs.

In Uruzgan, fresh pasture availability is scarce because of the ongoing drought and feed is too expensive for herders like Abdul Manan, forcing most Kuchi to adopt negative coping strategies like tactical distress destocking, wherein they trade their livestock at a much lower cost to simply get by. Selling one sheep would bring him up to 7 000 Afghanis (AFN) at the time (roughly USD 80), hardly enough to feed an average family for one month. Distress selling has brought his herd down to only 13 goats, two sheep and two donkeys, yet he is not able to feed them properly.

The continuing drought, economic crisis and the pandemic have severely affected the Kuchi nomadic households, who rely heavily on livestock for their food security and livelihood. They live in remote areas and migrate seasonally. Kuchis’ only source of income remains livestock, raising livestock to earn a living by selling animal products like meat, milk, as well as other by-products such as yogurt, cheese, wool and hides.

“Kuchi herders are essential to Afghanistan’s food security through their contribution relating to animal products and by-products. However, the majority of them live a stressful life and are vulnerable to various shocks. FAO has persistently prioritized the vulnerable Kuchi herders to support them with emergency livestock protection support, keeping in mind the seasonality and time-urgency,” said Kaustubh Devale, Emergency and Resilience Officer for FAO in Afghanistan.

To support those Kuchi facing the loss of their only livelihood, FAO distributed concentrate animal feed to 630 Kuchi families in Uruzgan. A total of 4 410 animals from these families received health treatment, including deworming support in Tarinkot, thanks to the generous funding from the people of Japan.

After receiving the animal feed and health treatment (deworming medicine) from FAO, Abdul Manan has seen a 40 percent increase in the animals’ body weight, as well as up to 50 percent in their productivity. “A sheep that used to weigh 25 kg, now weighs up to 35 kg. Goats’ milk production has increased by at least 50% on a daily basis and that was very pleasing,” the Kuchi herder said.

“If I hadn’t received FAO’s crucial support, I would have sold all my remaining animals as well because I could not have afforded to buy animal feed,” Abdul Manan added.

Under this initiative, FAO also organized 15 training courses focusing on sustainable livestock and animal health management in drought context to beneficiaries provided awareness on COVID-19 pandemic in Tarinkot.