The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2012: Afghanistan

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2012: Afghanistan
Dec 2011

People in Afghanistan face immense humanitarian needs due to a decade-long conflict, regularly occurring natural disasters, profound gender and social inequities and underdeveloped livelihood systems and infrastructure.

The country has endured eight droughts in the past 11 years, with the drought of 2011 leaving an additional 2.6 million people severely food insecure. Other natural hazards, such as floods and extreme weather conditions, affect an estimated 400 000 people each year. Around 42 percent of Afghans live on less than USD 1 per day, 68 percent lack sustainable access to improved water sources and almost 95 percent lack access to improved sanitation.

Over 5.7 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2002 – more than 40 percent have been unable to reintegrate successfully. The transition of security and peacekeeping responsibilities from international to Afghan control presents a risk of increased civil unrest and internal displacement.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

The majority of people suffering the effects of conflict, drought and other natural disasters are pastoralists and farmers.

Four out of five people in Afghanistan rely on agriculture for their livelihood. Decades of human-induced and natural shocks have significantly reduced agricultural production, increased food insecurity and diminished the ability of families to provide for themselves and cope with further hardship.

Regions experiencing conflict are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity due to limited production capacities, reduced access to markets, as well as limited access by the humanitarian community. Households headed by women are particularly at risk of food insecurity, as they have reduced access to productive assets and higher dependency on markets. Food price hikes – estimated at over 80 percent for wheat and 90 percent for wheat flour – are placing staples beyond the reach of vulnerable populations. To cope, families are contracting substantial debts and selling their livelihood assets.

In 2011, the culmination of failed rains and slow-onset drought led to significant losses of cereal crops and reduced grazing resources. Unable to harvest sufficient staple crops such as wheat, farming households face decreased food stocks, lower wage rates and fewer opportunities to generate income. Due to increased seed prices, farmers are unable to procure sufficient seed for the 2011/12 farming season.

Pastoralists’ purchasing power has likewise been reduced by high food prices coupled with low livestock market prices. Water resources for livestock are estimated to be insufficient in 18 districts in and around the drought-affected area. Insufficient fodder and water resources are expected to further impact the country’s livestock herd. Over one-quarter of livestock in drought-affected provinces had already perished as of mid-2011. As a last resort, many pastoralists have sold their remaining livestock, a key source of nutrition and their primary household asset.

Addressing critical needs in the agriculture sector is vital to increase affected populations’ access to sufficient food and income in a sustainable way, and to build their self-sufficiency and resilience.

FAO’s response

FAO aims to build the resilience of the most vulnerable populations in disaster-affected areas of Afghanistan by improving local availability of food, nutritional intake and ability to generate income.

With donor funding, FAO will equip farmers for upcoming planting seasons by providing vital agricultural inputs, such as wheat seeds, vegetable garden kits and fertilizers through direct distribution, as well as seed fairs and voucher schemes, to the extent possible. To preserve the livestock assets of pastoralists severely affected by drought, the programme will also provide animal feed and veterinary services as well as rehabilitate water sources.

Livelihood input packages tailored to women-headed households will focus on food processing, small animal breeding and small-scale gardening. Additional activities will help to strengthen the technical skills of women and girls, and increase their access to credit and markets.

As co-lead of the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster with the World Food Programme (WFP), FAO seeks to continue to improve coordination and food security situation monitoring. Funding is also sought to carry out a detailed livelihoods assessment, which will allow for in-depth understanding of needs and vulnerabilities, and thus enable a more coordinated, targeted response effort.

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