While the humanitarian access to people living under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the soaring prices of seeds, food, and drought are putting the Afghan Farmers and herders on the verge of collapse. Farmers are losing their crops. and, headers are forced to sell their livestock, pushing most of them into enormous debts and with almost no money for survival.
The United Nations Foods and Agriculture Organization is facilitating a huge section of these vulnerable with food, seeds, and training in an attempt to save the country from falling into famine in the year 2022.
Food Crisis in Afghanistan
Around 18.8 million Afghans are facing acute food insecurity today, meaning they are unable to put food on their plates every day. As of 2021, the numbers are expected to rise to 22.8 million. To avoid widespread livelihood collapse in several parts of the country, FAO is providing seeds, fertilizer, cash, and livelihood support to farmers and herders.
More than half the Afghan population, or 22.8 million people, will face food insecurity in 2021 alone, according to the World Food Programme. In a flash appeal, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) requests $606 million for priority multi-sectoral assistance to 11 million people by the end of the year. There is a possibility of large-scale starvation this coming winter if global help doesn’t arrive by then.
Starting from minor droughts, the crisis has spiraled to place nine out of ten major cities of Afghanistan into extreme hardship.
The Spiralling Problems
Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Afghanistan, says, “The situation is disastrous. Every farmer we’ve spoken to has lost almost all of their crops this year. Many were forced to sell their livestock. They have accumulated enormous debts and simply have no money.”
Afghanistan’s 31 out of 34 provinces are currently receiving wheat cultivation packages from FAO for the upcoming winter wheat season. They include local seed suppliers and technical training for farmers to ensure the best results. In addition, in the coming months and weeks, FAO will step up its humanitarian assistance to farmers in Afghanistan’s large rural areas where most Afghans reside, reaching out to 1.3 million people.
Reasons Behind the Crisis in Afghanistan?
As farmers and herders prepare for a probable second consecutive year of drought in Afghanistan in 2022, La Nina is likely to bring drier than normal conditions in the coming months, aggravating the already widespread drought.
The FAO warned that unless immediate large-scale support is provided soon to protect these people and their livelihoods, famine could very well occur in 2022. Following are the three main drivers behind the current crisis of Afghanistan:
The Taliban Take Over & Economic Crisis
A total of $9.5 billion in national assets has been frozen since the Taliban took over. Banks in Afghanistan are in crisis, inflation is high, the Afghani, the country’s currency, is depreciating, and job losses are making the people desperate. The purchasing power of many previously employed people has been reduced as a result of not receiving their salaries for months. According to the WFP market and price monitoring, the number of casual workers in urban areas has fallen by 50% between July 2021 and September 2021.
According to the World Bank estimates, 40 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from foreign aid. According to the October 2021 assessment by the United Nations Development Program, 97% of Afghan families may fall below the poverty line by mid-2022 if their economic crisis is not addressed.
The agricultural production in Afghanistan is among the most sensitive to climate change. Afghans are the world’s leading producers of opium, as well as rice, corn, watermelons, pomegranates, and saffron through subsistence farming. As reported by the WFP and UNEP, 2016 has already brought severe climate-related flooding to Afghanistan due to heavy rains within a short period of time and rapidly melting snow in northern and central mountain areas.
Seventy-eight million Afghans were adversely affected by climate shocks including floods and droughts in 2017. According to estimates, Afghanistan warmed by about two degrees Celsius between 1950 and 2010. A combination of these factors, along with a political transition, has led to soaring prices for essential commodities such as wheat flour and cooking oil.
Following the trend, in Afghanistan, the drought season is again worsening the food stocks and supplies in the rural areas, where about 70% of the population resides.
Hunger As Wepon
Hunger has long been weaponized by terrorists groups, especially the Taliban. Due to the conflict intensifying during the harvest period, poverty and humanitarian crisis increased, which led to a larger displacement of Afghans.
Forced migration negatively impacts food security over the long term. Conflict and other related factors displaced 6.6 lakh people as of September 2021. Regional and local supply chains have been disrupted, adding to the current crisis.
An International Effort
Many countries have realized that borders cannot prevent migration in the event of a long-term crisis arising from violence, war, or economic distress. A large number of desperate migrants are trying to cross into Europe and the US from Africa and Latin America, which highlights the need for peace, stability, and economic growth everywhere.
The Taliban have failed to form an inclusive government or earn international recognition, which is the core cause of the current crisis. The Taliban have so far shown no sign of including minority and women communities in their government, despite the demands of the international community.
Taliban’s desperate need of gaining international recognition as Afghanistan’s government can only come from welfare programs for common Afghans. As a responsible authority, they have to ensure the food security of its people, including women and minority communities.