31.08.2021 |

Drought threatens the livelihoods of farmers in Afghanistan

The troops are leaving, drought is coming (Photo: CC0)

The United Nations has issued an urgent appeal to scale up humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan as a worsening drought threatens the livelihoods of more than 7 million farmers. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on August 28 that food production and agricultural livelihoods are under extreme pressure due to the combination of severe drought, COVID-19 related economic impacts and widespread displacement caused by the Taliban’s seizure of power. “If we fail to assist the people most affected by the acute drought, large numbers will be forced to abandon their farms and be displaced in certain areas,” said FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu. “This threatens to further deepen food insecurity and poses yet another threat to the stability of Afghanistan.” Currently, there are over 14 million people in Afghanistan who are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity and depend on humanitarian assistance. This is one third of the population. “Farmers and livestock owners must not be forgotten in today’s humanitarian crisis,” said QU Dongyu. “Urgent agricultural support now is key to counter the impact of the drought and a worsening situation in Afghanistan’s vast rural areas in the weeks and months ahead.”

In June, the Afghan government officially declared a drought in the country due to the effects of La Niña. Drastically reduced rainfall has caused food and water scarcity across 25 provinces, at a level not seen since the drought of 2018, which displaced a quarter of a million people, according to a recent report published by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP). FAO now announced that the current harvest is expected to be 20% below the 2020 harvest and 15% below average due to the acute drought. Another problem is that Afghanistan’s cereal requirements - mainly wheat and flour - are already projected to be some 28% higher than last year at 3.6 million tonnes. The Rome-based agency also voiced concerns that traditional government seed distribution systems may have been severely affected by the recent crisis which might affect the next planting season. The next winter wheat planting season will be crucial to prevent a further deterioration in Afghanistan’s food security and to protect agricultural livelihoods. “If farmers cannot get the seeds they urgently need by the end of September or early October, then the winter wheat season will fail. This will be a disaster for millions of Afghans, both farmers and consumers,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO’s Representative in Afghanistan. He stressed that “the window of opportunity to provide this assistance is closing quickly. We must act before it is too late.” FAO plans to assist 250,000 vulnerable farming families - some 1.5 million people - for the upcoming winter wheat season but current funding will only enable the agency to support 110 000 families. There is still a funding gap of USD 18 million.

FAO also highlighted that Afghan herders and livestock owners urgently need assistance to counter the impact of drought during the coming winter season. Three million animals are estimated to be at risk, making livestock protection critical for herders and livestock owners across the country. The agency warned that if marginal herders and livestock owners do not receive support, they may have no other option than selling their livestock holdings because they are not able to pay for increased fodder and feed prices. This could also lead to their displacement. According to recent FAO research, farmers and herders affected by drought typically need three to five years to recover fully. This means another difficult wheat season would hit them hard. “This next winter wheat season is a tipping point. If we miss it, disaster looms,” Trenchard said. (ab)

Back to news list


Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
English versionDeutsche VersionDeutsche Version