KABUL– In July, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged $100 million to develop agriculture in Afghanistan. The funds will be used to support agricultural development programs, farmer field schools and other on-farm training programs.
“We will try to pay attention to farmers,” said Assadullah Zamir, Afghan Minister of Agriculture. The funds will be used to support agriculture development programs, farmer field schools and other on-farm training programs.
More than three-quarters of Afghanistan’s population relies on agriculture for survival, and many Afghans have suffered from life-threatening acute malnutrition for decades due to the country’s ongoing conflicts.
Over the past several years, many international organizations have committed to ensure that agriculture in Afghanistan will flourish and citizens will have adequate food supplies in the future. Since 2002, USAID has poured at least $1.9 billion into agricultural seed and irrigation projects in Afghanistan.
In addition to this, the Afghanistan Agricultural Extension Project, organized by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), has developed 10 provincial model teaching farms, 185 farmer schools and hundreds of on-farm training programs in topics such as nutrition, grain storage, food safety and water resource management.
Other programs such as Feed the Future have also aimed to provide specialized agricultural training to farmers in the country.
According to a recently issued country brief by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Improved seed availability, through private companies together with subsidized imported seeds to farmers by the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock [also]assisted crop productivity.”
This year, Afghan farmers harvested some 4.55 million tons of wheat, significantly alleviating the country’s food shortage problem.
In a press release, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva emphasized that “Addressing hunger can be a meaningful contribution to peacebuilding.”
Many security strategists maintain that worldwide food stability will reduce threats to U.S. national security. Eric Ahlness, a retired National Guard Colonel, testified before the House Agriculture Committee in July that food instability could add more unnecessary pressure to regions in conflict.
“[Starving] people are more likely to become extremists,” said Ahlness, who led an agribusiness development team to Afghanistan in 2011. The team taught local farmers to build co-ops and acquire alternative farming methods.
“The end goal is not only making Afghanistan self-sustainable but also creating a stable trading partner to the United States,” Ahlness said.
A World Bank report concluded that Afghanistan could potentially collect revenues of up to 17 percent of GDP, given its inherent economic capacity. To increase revenues, concerted efforts are needed to unleash new sources of growth.
USAID vowed to support agriculture in Afghanistan in upcoming years and to maximize its growth potential. Mission Director Herbie Smith expressed the organization’s thoughts.
“We know that agriculture is going to be the centerpiece for the unity government’s national development strategy,” Smith said.
– Yvie Yao