Gearing Up For Afghanistan Lean Season And Beyond
With decades of conflict and a harsh geographical terrain, unemployment is high in Afghanistan. This is tough for families especially during the “lean season,” the months before harvest time when food stocks and employment opportunities often dwindle to nothing.
In cooperation with the Department for Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, WFP supports asset-creation projects to give poor Afghans the chance to earn food for their families, while helping build the overall food security in their community.
30 years of disuse
“Here in Taluqan district in Takhar province, WFP helped our community rehabilitate an irrigation canal that had been out of use for 30 years because of continued conflict,” explains Nazar Mohammad, the engineer who heads the Department of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in Takhar province. “Some 3,000 hectares of additional land will be irrigated – this doesn’t only mean a better harvest, it also gives hope to the people.” He also explains that some refugees from Pakistan have even started returning to the area as a result.
For this six-month project, WFP provided food rations to over 800 families for their work on the seven-kilometer long canal.
Short-term and long-term impact
Mohammad Umer was one of the workers on the project. he is happy to see a direct impact on the land he owns. “With this irrigation system, I’ll be able to grow wheat, cotton, sesame seeds and soybean,” he says.
For Ghulam Hussain – a 50-year-old with nine children – the food he received for his work on the canal was an immediate relief. “The food from WFP will help my family in the short run, and we will be able to get food from irrigating our land in the long run.”
Elsewhere in the country, WFP supports different asset-creation projects. In Badakhshan, the north-eastern province of Afghanistan dominated by the Pamir mountain range, winter lasts for more than half the year. From November until June, 11 districts of the province are largely inaccessible, and people who live in remote, isolated villages struggle to get by. More than 80% of the population is considered food insecure.
WFP provides food assistance to the most food insecure communities in three of these districts: Ishkashim Zebak and Wahkhan. More than 4,000 families work on projects to plant tree saplings in exchange for food rations. Once grown, the trees can be harvested for home improvement or timber that can be sold.
Food for six months
Abdul Majid, from Zebak district of Badakhshan expressed that, “Life is challenging here.” He added that, “I have only a small plot of land; what I can grow is hardly enough to feed my family of seven for two months.” For the remainder of the year, he looks for work as a daily labourer. If there is no work, he borrows food from people in the community. “Sometimes it is difficult even to repay the loan. But with the food from this project, I can cover our food needs for six months of this year.”
In the first six months of 2014, WFP distributed some 1,600 mt of wheat, pulses, vegetable oil and salt for the participants of this project – commodities which WFP was able to provide, thanks to generous contributions from the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands.