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From vulnerability to resilience in Afghanistan: Hawa Gul’s story of diversified livelihood and increased income due to FAO’s poultry intervention during COVID-19

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Afghanistan
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FAO
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Hawa Gul, 42, is a mother of seven children. She lives in Kohak village of Farah district in the western Farah province of Afghanistan, where FAO has recently assisted the most vulnerable households, specifically women-headed households, with a backyard poultry support intervention through the generous contribution of OFDA/USAID. The aim of this intervention was to provide home-based income opportunities for vulnerable women as well as sustain nutrition and food security of the vulnerable farmers who are on the brink of food insecurity as well as adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. FAO is supporting and working with the Government of Afghanistan to find alternative ways to address the needs of the most vulnerable smallholder farmers and landless households who are in dire need of assistance during this pandemic.

Hawa Gul takes care of her children alone as her husband is retired and is unable to support the family. “I mainly relied on livestock-based livelihoods in order to feed my family. Keeping goats was the only source of income I had in recent years, and I used to manage all the requirements of my family through the sale of goat milk. However, the drought of 2018 negatively affected our livelihoods. My livestock become weak and the milk production reduced day by day due to the dried pasture and the high price of the animal feed in the market, which hindered me from providing proper feed for my livestock,’’ explains Hawa Gul. She was also keeping a few chickens, but the number was not enough and, egg production was insufficient even for her family consumption. “I ended up selling several heads of my livestock, and I went through a really difficult period that time,” explains Hawa Gul further. Smallholder families like Hawa Gul are vulnerable to various shocks ranging from natural hazards to market fluctuations and animal diseases. The current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted her family’s livelihood even before they could fully recover from the adverse impacts of the 2018 drought.

Thanks to OFDA/USAID, FAO recently supported her with a poultry input package that has enabled her to enhance her family’s livelihood, food security and nutrition. Given the fact that there are lot of cultural barriers – particularly for the women in Afghanistan – to participate in other livelihood support activities, this intervention has provided access to nutritious food and home-based income opportunities for women through increased home consumption of eggs and the sale of surplus eggs in the market. “I cannot explain how much happiness the poultry package I received from FAO has brought back to my family. It’s a good home-based source of income, and I earn AFN 150 (around USD 2) from the sale of eggs everyday. I expect to increase this amount in the future,” exclaims Hawa Gul.

This intervention is a part of FAO’s Support to drought-affected and food insecure farming families. One of the activities under this project is to support around 1 500 vulnerable and food insecure households in three provinces (Kunar, Daykundi, and Farah) with poultry inputs. Each household received 20 pullets at 16 weeks of age with all necessary vaccinations along with 100 kg of compound poultry layer feed, two polyethylene drinkers and feeders, and essential construction materials for cooping. FAO also provided a leaflet with hotline numbers that provide technical support on backyard poultry to the farmers when needed. This intervention is instrumental in supporting vulnerable families to also minimize the adverse economic impacts of COVID-19 by having ready access to cash-flow/income when employment opportunities are reduced and household purchasing power is diminished. Despite the restrictions imposed by the response to COVID-19, FAO is committed to supporting the most vulnerable farmers with emergency and livelihood assistance while strictly following the precautionary measures laid out by WHO and the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan to safeguard the lives of beneficiaries and FAO staff.