Four decades of conflict and recurrent natural disasters have debilitated Afghanistan’s institutions and weakened the resilience of its people, making it nearly impossible for communities to adequately cope with further shocks. In 2018, the most severe drought in decades, compounded by conflict, a significant economic downturn, plant pests, animal diseases, and internal and cross-border movements have contributed to a sharp erosion of the food security situation in the country. Impacts of the drought include insufficient food access, adoption of negative coping mechanisms, loss of livelihoods and productive assets – including land, indebtedness, major damages and losses in cultivated areas, distress sale of livestock, further internal displacement and migration.
Afghanistan is experiencing a major food security and livelihoods crisis, currently the world’s third largest. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Afghanistan Report #10 (2018), an estimated, an estimated 13.5 million people are facing severe acute food insecurity – 6 million more than this time last year. Of the total number, 3.6 million are facing emergency levels of food insecurity nationwide. In the past five years, the country has experienced a steady decline in wheat production mainly due to climatic factors and conflict. Without immediate livelihood support, in a country where more than 70 percent of the population is associated with crop production and livestock, the food security situation is expected to deteriorate further. This could result in the food insecurity situation becoming more acute as the lean season progresses during the spring and early summer.
Following a year of drought, El Niño-induced flash floods and landslides are causing destruction throughout the country, severely affecting the lives and livelihoods of farming communities. The melting of snowpack early in the season endangers cultivated areas and households’ productive assets, including livestock, and inducing further displacements, especially in the western, southern and eastern regions.
To address the most urgent needs of the affected population, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through its Emergency Livelihoods Response Plan (ELRP), will support vulnerable people with livelihood assistance, including timely provision of varieties of wheat and summer crop seeds, fertilizers, vegetable seeds for kitchen gardens, backyard poultry kits as well as concentrated animal feed, fast-growing fodder crop seeds and animal health protection measures such as deworming. Throughout 2019, FAO will also support farming communities affected by floods during the spring and summer seasons through the rehabilitation and construction of community-based water assets (canals, water harvesting schemes, check dams, protection walls, etc.) and the provision of agricultural inputs.
The ELRP includes FAO’s component to the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and additional activities to further enhance community resilience, such as restoring and rebuilding community assets to improve flood/drought control. While providing immediate relief assistance, FAO envisages to link short-term responses to medium- and longer-term interventions through a robust disaster risk reduction (DRR) approach that aligns with the 2030 Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This includes improved land and water management, seed security and livestock sector development. FAO is also supporting the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) to develop a drought risk management strategy, which will inform short-, medium- and long‑term interventions in a sustainable manner and will be owned and led by the Government of Afghanistan.