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It is not that no rain is falling. Heavy floods occurred in Parwan province last August and left hundreds of homes destroyed and more than 100 people killed, among them many children. Late and unexpected snowfall in the mountains may trigger massive flooding when temperatures rise and the snow starts melting, destroying crops, infrastructure, and everything in its path. As a result, many of the Afghanistan provinces that suffer from droughts or increased flooding are chronically food insecure (WFP).
To make things worse, Afghanistan faces rapid deforestation: once famous for its extensive forests covering more than 50% of its lands, today the forest cover is only 2 %. This makes it harder for the rainwater to penetrate the soil and leads to further and faster soil erosion.
The agriculture sector is vital for most Afghanis, not only directly putting food on the table for many, but also providing employment for 40% of the total workforce in Afghanistan. Together with its partners, Action Against Hunger works in different provinces and advocates for efficient and sustainable agricultural production.
“Due to low precipitation and high average temperatures, farmers are not cultivating their lands. In rural Ghor, where people live mainly from agriculture, we witness a massive migration to Herat and other big cities in search of work. The main reason is climate change”, Rahimullah Mohmand, Head of Food Security and Livelihoods at Action Against Hunger in Afghanistan.
"Our main mission is to bring confidence in a better tomorrow, meaning there will be enough crops and food for everyone."
Our teams distribute different types of vegetable seeds for home gardening, such as Coriander, Tomato, Eggplants, Okra, and Squash, among rural communities in Daykundi and Ghor provinces to maintain local production. Families can then sow the seeds or keep some for the next cultivation season. As for livestock owners, they are often forced to sell their cattle, sometimes at meager prices, due to lack of fodder. We provide them with livestock feed to secure their income and keep the cattle breeding tradition alive. A large majority of rural households in Afghanistan keep poultry birds for eggs or meat production. We support poor and deprived farmers by providing them with poultries and constructing new poultry houses.
Many communities living in the mountainous countryside find themselves cut off from the world during winters. Various environmental shocks put an even bigger strain on the poor infrastructure in these areas. They can further limit markets’ access and these villages from essential services and vital food assistance. To prevent food insecurity and undernutrition during winter, Action Against Hunger worked with farmers to construct storage pits for agricultural products. In the Dulina district of the Ghor province, several households have been trained to build storage pits using local materials and instructed on moisture and temperature system control during winters. This is an affordable solution for many rural families, allowing enough food for the months to come and seeds to sow in springtime.
Over the last decades, the average rain and snowfall have dropped considerably, which will have a far-reaching impact on the communities and, by extension, on food security. Today, a relatively warmer winter with reduced snowfall already sends early signs of drought. This tendency may take a dramatic turn for irrigable lands reliant on runoff from snowmelt in the spring and summer period. It also means less water for the winter wheat crop cycle and a reduction in rangeland production, negatively affecting livestock.
Access to clean water is very limited in Afghanistan and is still among the lowest in the world. According to recent estimates, 73% of the rural population in Afghanistan do not have access to clean water for consumption, and only 27% have access to sanitation facilities and hygiene services. This situation also contributes to the spread of diarrhea, diseases, and now the COVID-19 virus, leading to further malnutrition, especially among young children.
To reverse the negative trends of climate change and support the rural population, Action Against Hunger explore different approaches of using and stocking natural resources, such as snow, during severe winters. This method helps improving access to water resources and ensure their continuous availability. Our teams provide construction materials and technical expertise to rehabilitate water infrastructure in rural and hard-to-reach areas, such as roads, irrigation channels, and bridges.
In Afghanistan, 85.000 children die every year (USAID) from lack of drinking water or diseases caused by poor water quality. These deaths are preventable if people are given access to essential services and adequate infrastructure. On top of the on-going food insecurity crisis, Afghanistan’s exposure to natural disasters is the highest in the world. The environmental degradation may cause considerable economic damage, affecting local agriculture and, as a result, the food security of entire communities. A trap in which a large number of Afghanis may fall if no mitigation measures are taken.
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