Peace Day 2009: Food for Peace
KABUL - As Peace Day 21 September approaches UNAMA is featuring articles from UN agencies on the work the UN is doing for peace in Afghanistan. 1: The Food and Agriculture Organization.
As long as people go hungry without any possibility of shaping their own future, there can be no sustainable peace.
As the international community has come to realize that there can be no security without food security, agriculture has again taken centre stage. In close cooperation with the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) addresses immediate hunger and long-term development simultaneously by helping Afghan farmers help themselves.
Projects covering core issues such as seed production, seed distribution, irrigation, reforestation and fighting animal and plant disease all feed into each other to break the vicious cycle of drought, hunger and conflict.
In 2007, a total of 37 countries worldwide were facing food crisis due to conflicts and disaster. This, fuelled by dramatic increase in food prices, led to food riots across the globe in developing nations from Egypt to Haiti.
In December 2007, FAO urged governments and the international community to implement immediate measures in support of poor countries hit hard by dramatic food price increases. In response, the EU established its so-called Food Facility, a regulation adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in December 2008. The Food Facility commits the European Commission to spend € 1 billion in developing countries over three years.
Part of this effort is the funding of a €14-million project launched by MAIL and implemented by FAO to support seed enterprises in several provinces in Afghanistan.
The two-year project, called Expanding Certified Seed Production and Utilization in Afghanistan, will be implemented alongside the ongoing “Variety and Seed Industry Development” project also funded by the EU.
The overarching goal is to produce and sell diversified certified seed of staple crops on a sustainable basis. Using improved varieties of certified seed could potentially boost wheat yields in Afghanistan by about 30 per cent in irrigated areas, helping to feed more people and replenish seed stocks.
Existing EU-funded seed projects have already produced tangible results. One such success story is to be found in the Northern region of Sar-i-Pul where FAO launched a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project worth US$ 500 000.
In collaboration with the local non-government organization SOFAR, 149 tons of each certified wheat seed, plus DAP fertilizer and urea were distributed to 2,980 of the hardest-hit farming families.
Blessed with good weather conditions and high-quality seed, the result was a surplus of seeds for the next planting season. With the wheels in motion, the increased yield produced more straw for animal feed. Farmers who had sold off land, animals and other family assets to buy seed from one season to the next are now able to invest in livestock, school material and construction work.
Moreover, in participating in the project, the selected beneficiaries are in fact also giving back to their entire community. SOFAR has collected its own contribution of 20 per cent for the seed packages it received. This money is now being spent to construct an artificial insemination centre in Sar-i-Pul, to be handed over to the Department of Agriculture in October.
The story of Sar-i-Pul’s farmers goes to show the tremendous synergy that can be drawn from a well-composed set of measures to reduce vulnerability among farming families.
Further droughts are likely in the future. While the foundation exists, a concerted and sustained effort is now needed to ensure that future disasters do not produce yet another devastating setback.
By Sam Kugbei, Acting Representative and Team Leader of the FAO Seed Project