Afghanistan: FAO intensifies support to most vulnerable smallholder farmers affected by drought and earthquake

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13 July 2022, Kabul: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is further stepping up efforts to boost food security and support for agriculture-based livelihoods of vulnerable rural communities in Afghanistan most severely affected by continuing drought, deep economic crisis and the devastating impacts of the recent deadly earthquake.

A new USD 14 million contribution from the Government of Japan will provide direct humanitarian assistance to over 550 000 food-insecure people in 11 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces in cooperation with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It will support vulnerable, smallholder and landless farmers, including women and persons with disability-headed households, directly dependent on farming, herding as well as landless people who are dependent on agriculture-based labour.

These 11 targeted provinces all experience acute food insecurity (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Phase 3+ as per IPC analysis of May 2022). According to this latest IPC survey, some 19.7 million people, almost half of Afghanistan’s population, are facing acute hunger meaning they are unable to feed themselves on a daily basis and are often forced to resort to desperate measures, such as selling of livestock (as a distress coping mechanism), food reserves and other vital livelihood assets.

“Japan has long supported our development work in Afghanistan, particularly in the irrigation sector. We are delighted that these timely resources will enable FAO to work with Afghanistan’s most vulnerable and food insecure farmers and livestock owners to increase food production capacity, protect livestock, improve food and nutrition security and rehabilitate critical small-scale community irrigation infrastructures,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Afghanistan.

“In light of the continuing and deep humanitarian crisis across the country, we hope that this new assistance will contribute significantly to safeguarding food security of the people of rural Afghanistan, including earthquake-affected Khost and Paktika provinces” said Ambassador of Japan to Afghanistan, Takashi Okada.

Thanking the Government of Japan for its financial assistance and long-term partnership, Eriko Hibi, Director of FAO Liaison Office in Japan said: “FAO is at the forefront of support to the most vulnerable farming household across the whole of Afghanistan affected by the worsening drought impacts and deepening economic crisis. The added support from Japan will enable FAO to make a remarkable contribution to address food and nutrition insecurity of vulnerable rural households.”

Boosting rural livelihoods

This work under the project will focus on four key components.

First, it will support wheat and spring/summer crop production, by providing emergency wheat and spring/summer crop cultivation packages and technical trainings to 126 000 vulnerable smallholder farmers. Along with the wheat seeds, this assistance will provide farmers with a chance to plant maize and high-protein legumes, like mung bean and chickpea.

Second, poor pasture conditions, drought, and diseases as well as constrained access to pastures, water, feed/fodder in local markets, and veterinary supplies and services have led to a reported decrease in livestock holdings. Emergency livestock protection packages and technical trainings will benefit 70 000 vulnerable livestock keepers to avoid resorting to negative coping mechanisms.

Third, in order to improve food and nutrition security and strengthen household’s short-term resilience under this project FAO will provide emergency backyard production of nutritious food assistance packages and technical trainings to over 140 000 vulnerable landless and marginal productive assets’ holding farmers, especially women.

Fourth, the project will increase access to irrigation water, improve soil and water conservation, and bolster climate resilience by supporting the repair and rehabilitation of selected small-scale irrigation systems. Under this component, 228 200 people will benefit from cash for work activities designed to rehabilitate vital small-scale community irrigation infrastructures. This is a key intervention to improve access to water, a scarce resource, while providing short-term employment opportunities and injecting cash in the local economy. Each family will receive the equivalent to USD 100 in the local currency, Afghanis, to cover their most immediate food and basic needs.

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