KABUL, Afghanistan, July
28, 2003 (ENS): Afghani farmers have produced their largest
wheat harvest in recent memory, according to Serge Verniau, the
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Kabul.
In a July 24 statement, Verniau said, "This is a very encouraging
development considering that the country suffered greatly from armed
conflicts and a four year drought."
"We are expecting that the harvest will amount to more than
four million tonnes," he said. "The country will still
need to import an estimated one million tonnes," of wheat Verniau
"I would say that FAO's emergency activities, such as the
delivery of seeds, fertilizers and tools and the successful control
of potentially damaging locust outbreaks in the North, contributed
to this success," Verniau added.
Production of opium poppies has increased by almost 20 percent
compared to last year, Verniau said. The possibilities of introducing
alternatives to poppy production such as the rehabilitation of fruit
tree nurseries and vegetable seed production exist, but poppy production
offers income and employment opportunities. "It will take time
to build credible alternatives. In addition, the conditions for
law enforcement and controls have to be created," said Verniau.
Around 85 percent of the Afghani people depend on agriculture.
Chronic undernutrition and micronutrient deficiency disorders continue
to be a major problem in Afghanistan, according to the FAO spokesman.
Particularly hard hit are small children, women, refugees and people
in remote mountain areas.
"The diets of many people are unbalanced," Verniau said.
"They lack energy, but most often variety. The diets are poor
in micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron and iodine. There are
also pockets of scurvy due to vitamin C deficiency affecting people
in the northern mountains during winter months."
Poverty is still widespread in the country and people have no access
to a nutritious diet, or cannot afford it. They often live just
on bread and tea, small quantities of milk and yogurt and some legumes.
The intake of fruits, vegetables and meat is still very low. People
are not starving, but diets are not rich enough for children to
grow and to develop mentally and for adults to be productive, Verniau
The situation of Afghan livestock farmers has not really improved.
The outbreaks of livestock diseases such as foot and mouth disease
are still occurring and pose a "serious threat" to neighboring
countries, the FAO says.
"It is clear that without a sound animal health strategy run
by farmers and livestock agencies, livestock production could remain
low and constrained by disease. FAO will run a livestock vaccination
campaign to keep the worst outbreaks in selected areas under control,"
The FAO has undertaken a countrywide livestock census to get a
clear picture about how many farm animals remain after the conflict
and drought in Afghanistan and under what conditions farmers are
producing. This is the first census for many years.
The FAO has received fresh funding commitments from donors but
is still facing a gap of $10 to 15 million to provide a comprehensive
program of rehabilitation of agriculture in the coming months. The
European Commission, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands,
Italy and the UK are the main donors.