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Tackling food insecurity in Afghanistan

Display Date: 1/4/10

This article was originally published in the APR Newsletter ‘Making a Difference in Asia and the Pacific’, Issue 30, in January/February 2010.
Author: Jawaid Samadey

Food insecurity is a major problem for the people of Afghanistan, where 30 years of conflict, recent droughts and unstable climate have strongly deteriorated rural and urban livelihoods. Afghanistan Food Security Conditions and Causes, 2007 – a special report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) supported by USAID – indicated that more than 60 per cent of the Afghan population suffered from low dietary diversity and poor food consumption during 2002-2007.

The following table shows the profile of food security in Afghanistan.

Profile of food consumption groups Group Percentage

Group Percentage

Low dietary diversity/very poor food consumption

24

Low dietary diversity/poor food consumption

37

Better dietary diversity/slightly better food consumption

20

Better dietary diversity/better food consumption

19

Source: Afghanistan Food Security Conditions and Causes: A special report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), USAID, Aug 2007

In addition to the shortage of arable and irrigated land, droughts and security problems, the following factors directly affect food security in Afghanistan:

  • lack of employment opportunities, and low wages and household in come
  • declining livestock production
  • widespread indebtedness, particularly in rural areas
  • refugees and internally displaced people
  • rapid growth in the urban and rural populations
  • Lack and/or absence of clear government rules and policies on land management.

Moreover, in rural agricultural business a loss of export markets for agricultural and livestock products is contributing to a more precarious food security situation in the long run, as are geographically imbalanced agricultural and policy and development frameworks, which tend to focus on areas where security is relatively better.

A woman drying fruit

Fortunately, increased rainfall in 2009 and a dramatic rise in the wheat harvests have opened a window of hope for improved food security in the upcoming months. Furthermore, the International Research Institute for Whether Forecast predicts a wet winter.

Nevertheless, growing insurgency in rural Afghanistan and weak governance have always been a barrier to the poverty reduction process in the country. Pakistan’s new import tax policy on Afghan agricultural products may also contribute negatively to the already unfavourable situation.

These issues have been recognized by international and national actors. Currently, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office, the Government of Afghanistan, Mercy Corps, the World Food Programme and World Vision International are helping the Afghan Government address food security challenges through various programmes. The National Development Strategy of Afghanistan has proposed establishing a National Food Security Programme to stimulate the agricultural and rural development process. However, this programme has yet to be created.

Most of the poor households facing food insecurity and hunger are working in the agricultural and livestock sector. International donors and the national policy makers need to focus on the issues and factors that result in food insecurity and should align their strategies in order to address them effectively. Keeping the diverse factors contributing to food insecurity in mind, multiple agricultural and livestock development activities may not produce significant results unless national and sector-based benchmarks are set for alleviating hunger and promoting food diversity. As a result, the agencies working for agricultural, livestock and rural development will need to consider enhancing the food security paradigm as an important element of their desired social and economic impact.

In addition, a National Strategy on Food Security needs to be drawn up that will effectively coordinate donor assistance. A National Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper can be used as a guideline for such a strategy. The national ownership of the strategy will also increase the potential of the public administration to work for sustainability of the aid management on achieving food security throughout the country.

Jawaid Samadey, Knowledge Management Officer, Rural Microfinance and Livestock Support Programme

Read more:

IFAD in Afghanistan
Future agricultural strategies on improving food security situation

Update on food security in Afghanistan

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