Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

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Post-COVID constraints for Afghan food systems

2 min

Noragric blog, 19 January 2021

This blog entry by agriculture and development specialists Gry Synnevåg and Karim Merchant warns against severe long-term food supply-related consequences as a result of the ongoing Covid19 crisis for an already impoverished population in Afghanistan where

80-90% of the population rely on self-employment and derive their livelihood and income from agriculture, the agri-food chain and small businesses. Most farmers are small-scale, relying on natural resources, crops and livestock for their survival, making their livelihoods vulnerable to climate, conflict and health related shocks.

The article further says that the pandemic has “reduced income from farming up to 20 %, and as a coping mechanism farmers are now taking on more debt and falling deeper into poverty.” Also, the “historically… major coping mechanism” of “seeking work abroad for remittances” is severely reduced because of the COVID-induced border closures. “Now, many more families are becoming dependent on humanitarian assistance such as food and cash distribution for their survival.”

It further warns about further “reducing market access to district and province commercial centres  in northern Afghanistan, just as… at the beginning of the spring harvest.”

Lower prices resulted due to traders being unwilling to bulk buy with the aim of exporting to neighboring countries. With limited post-harvest storage available for many cash crops, much will go to waste and create greater indebtedness, as farmers have to dump produce as the result of supply chain problems.  Larger livestock herders are similarly affected by the lack of quality fodder and reduced offtake reducing income and increasing distress sales.

Although “Block Grants to CDCs… in areas identified as most heavily impacted by poor productive infrastructure … will contribute to a reduction of households shifting from acute to chronic food insecurity”, the authors also warn against similar negative consequences as in earlier food-for-work programmes, as most of them “will probably focus on local-level infrastructure where the quality of work is of a low standard with compacted gravel roads and rapidly rehabilitated surface water infrastructure returning to their previous condition very quickly.”