In Afghanistan, at least 18.8 million people currently lack food every day. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is providing emergency humanitarian assistance to local farmers and herdsmen to prevent a large-scale livelihood collapse in the country. At the same time, FAO urges the international community to provide greater and more direct support for agricultural production in Afghanistan.
Agriculture is the backbone of the livelihood of the Afghan people and plays a pivotal role in the Afghan economy. Approximately 70% of Afghans live in rural areas, and agriculture accounts for at least 25% of Afghanistan’s GDP. Of all livelihoods, it is estimated that 80% are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. As the Afghan people suffer from widespread drought, rural livelihoods collapse, and economic turmoil, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warned on November 19 that at least 22.8 million Afghans are expected to face severe food insecurity by the end of 2021.
FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said, “We must help Afghanistan get rid of hunger. Tens of millions of Afghan citizens are on the brink of disaster. If livestock die or their fields are deserted, they will fall into the abyss.” He said: “There is an urgent need to provide emergency assistance to Afghanistan’s agricultural and animal husbandry production to bring Afghanistan back to the right track of food security, which will also help donors save overall input.”
Distributing seeds: the basis for farmers to survive
FAO currently distributes wheat planting kits in 31 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces for planting winter wheat. In addition to providing locally sourced high-quality certified wheat seeds, it also provides technical training to ensure farmers get the best harvest.
Most of the population of Afghanistan lives in vast rural areas. FAO is continuously increasing its humanitarian support to Afghan farmers, including 1.3 million people in the scope of assistance to ensure that they can maintain their livelihoods in the coming weeks and months.
However, the winter wheat that is sown now will have a period of severe lack of green and yellow before harvest. Therefore, more assistance needs to be carried out to feed rural families and ensure that they can survive. This means protecting their livestock, not only to keep them, but also to ensure that they are healthy and can help with production.
FAO Representative in Afghanistan Richard Trenchard (Richard Trenchard) said that farmers in Afghanistan must produce food in order to feed their families and build the country, they are now in dire need of cash. The farming time waits for no one, and the Afghan people cannot afford it either.
Distributing a $157 wheat planting aid package will be able to meet the cereal needs of a farmer's family for one year. To meet the minimum food needs of an average family, it would cost US$1080. Few donors can afford such assistance.
Consequences of letting go: farmers leave their homes
Trenchard has just finished his field visit to the drought-stricken area of Herat Province. There, he met fleeing farmers from the nearby province of Gul, all of whom left their land in despair.
Trenchard said: "The situation I have seen is disastrous. Every farmer we contacted has almost no income this year, and many people have been forced to sell their livestock. They are burdened with huge debts and have no money at all. No farmers are willing to leave their land. But when they can’t open the pot, there is no surplus grain at home, there is no sowing in the fields, and there are no livestock in the barn, they have to leave their homes.”
Large-scale droughts seem to get worse. In the coming months, the La Niña phenomenon may lead to unusually dry weather in Afghanistan, and farmers and herders may usher in a second dry year in 2022. Unless the international community immediately provides large-scale support to protect local farmers and herdsmen and their livelihoods, this situation is entirely likely to cause a very serious famine.
Although humanitarian aid channels have been successfully opened, prices are soaring, and the speed of aid still cannot keep up with the increasingly urgent needs.
FAO desperately needs to raise US$115 million to help 5 million Afghans this winter and next spring. In this aid, 1 out of every 5 dollars will directly support Afghan women. In 2022, another US$85 million needs to be raised to carry out humanitarian relief work to prevent the livelihood of the Afghan people from collapsing and causing a large number of people to leave their homes.