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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook Update

Poor rangeland conditions and below-average water availability will limit seasonal improvements

April 2018

April - May 2018

June - September 2018

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Below-average precipitation throughout most of the country during the October 2017 – May 2018 wet season has led to very low snowpack in most hydrological basins. Low irrigation water availability is likely to have an adverse impact on yields for winter wheat and other main season and second season staples (barley, maize, and others), particularly in downstream areas in regions with limited rainfall. Preliminary 2018 production estimates for wheat indicate a likely harvest of 3.5 MMT, nearly 20 percent below last year’s final production estimate and 27 percent below the five-year average.

  • The poor performance of the wet season and above-average temperatures have exacerbated dry rangeland conditions in many areas, particularly in Badghis Province and parts of Faryab, Jawzjan, Sari Pul, Kunduz, and Baghlan Provinces. Pastoralists and agropastoralists in these areas will likely attempt to migrate to areas with better pasture and water availability or sell livestock at below-average prices. Although sheep prices in major markets monitored have remained stable, field reports indicate significant declines in selling prices in some local markets, including in Badghis.

  • Nearly 70,000 people have been displaced by conflict in 2018 through April 15th, which has been particularly intense in northern, northeastern, and eastern regions. Approximately 1,240,000 people have been displaced since January 2016. Although the rate of new displacement in 2018 has been lower than during the previous two years, conflict remains widespread and further displacement is likely. The provinces hosting the greatest numbers of newly displaced people in 2018 are Kunduz (~13,900) and Faryab (~9,700). Most newly displaced people have received assistance from humanitarian partners.

  • Although food security outcomes will improve seasonally during the outlook period through September, the number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes is estimated to be greater than the same period of last year and other recent years. Large assistance needs will remain throughout the period, including for households who are not displaced but who have been impacted by weak labor opportunities, poor rainfed staple production, and conflict-related disruptions to normal livelihoods.

Current situation

The October 2017 to May 2018 wet season started somewhat later than normal in many areas. Total rainfall prior to the onset of the winter months was low, leading to a reduction in area planted under winter wheat (irrigated) as compared to the previous year. Cumulative precipitation remained well below-average through early March, with some hydrological basins registering the lowest snowpack in the 15-year record.

Since early March, much of the country has received regular, well-distributed rainfall, with snow in higher elevation areas (Figure 2). Despite the increase in precipitation since early March, seasonal accumulation remains below average in most areas, except for eastern Afghanistan (Figure 1). Spring temperatures have remained significantly above-average, limiting the snow cover extent, as well as snow water equivalent in most basins. As of late April, the snow accumulation is already into the recession period over most basins. With average to below-average spring precipitation and above-average temperatures expected, water availability in the remaining snowpack is expected to diminish sooner than normal and may provide insufficient water for main season (April-May) irrigation.

The impacts of below-average snowpack on staple production are likely to be mixed. In some key surplus-producing areas, such as Kunduz Province and parts of the eastern region, snowpack in basins that supply irrigation channels has reached near-average conditions, which is likely to allow for normal crop development in areas under cultivation. However, in many regions, irrigated production in downstream areas is likely to be adversely affected by reduced availability of irrigation water. There is elevated concern for the availability of irrigation water for second (dry) season crops, such as rice, cotton, and maize, as farmers who cultivate during this season are completely dependent on the availability of irrigation water to support crop development.

Early qualitative estimates for area planted under winter wheat indicate a reduction in area from the previous year, and yield prospects for 2018 are generally below average. Similarly, area planted under spring, rainfed wheat is likely to be smaller than last year, as field reports indicate that some agropastoralists are using rainfed areas for livestock grazing. Although cumulative rainfall in March and April has been generally near average in many key rainfed areas, field reports indicate that the temporal distribution of the rains and elevated air temperatures have not been favorable for crop development. Rainfall has been particularly erratic in the north-eastern part of the country, which is a key region for rainfed as well as irrigated wheat production, among other crops.

The terms of trade for sheep (one-year-old female) to wheat, used as a proxy indicator for the purchasing capacity of those households relying primarily or significantly on income from livestock, was above average during the month of March 2018 in all markets with data available. However, field reports in April from some smaller markets where rangeland conditions are poor have indicated a significant drop in sheep prices compared to last year, reflecting poor body conditions and atypical selling of livestock. Rainfall in March and April was not sufficient in these areas to recuperate poor rangeland conditions, and some pastoralists have attempted to migrate their herds to other areas with better rangeland conditions.

Typically, farmers plant spring wheat in March and early April. This year, planting took place earlier in March in many areas, particularly in northern, northeastern, and northwestern Afghanistan, largely due to above-average temperatures in lower elevation areas since late January. Early reports indicate that planted area under spring wheat is lower than last year. Nevertheless, spring wheat sowing in rainfed areas throughout the country, particularly in northern and northwestern Afghanistan, has increased labor opportunities, facilitating market purchases of food for poor households.

For optimal performance, the water requirement of winter wheat is about one-third of the Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) at the early and harvesting stages of the crop. The requirement is the highest (about 100-115% of PET) in the mid-stages of the crop’s growth. Qualitative field reports indicate signs of water stress in winter wheat crops in some areas. Under the prevailing weather circumstances, it is very likely that there will be water stress for this crop’s development at the later stages also.

Spring flooding affects some households every year, primarily in eastern and northern Afghanistan. The regular rains in March have led to some flooding in northern and northeastern Afghanistan. Households affected by natural disasters and who are not receiving assistance, including those displaced by flooding or who have lost valuable assets, are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

Consecutive years of below-average rainfed staple production, with particularly poor harvests in 2017, have also adversely impacted the availability of labor opportunities in major production areas. Many poor households who typically rely on market purchases with labor wages for food access are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse through the end of the lean season, between May and July depending on the area.

Despite below-average income opportunities in casual labor markets, the typical seasonal improvement in wage rates has been reflected in data from major markets in March 2018. The average terms of trade for casual wage labor to wheat for the month of March was 12.7 KG of wheat/day, an improvement of 6 percent from the previous month. The largest improvements occurred in Maimana (12.7 percent), Mazar-i-Sharif (9.1 percent), Kabul (~8 percent), and Nili (8.3 percent), reflecting both a decrease in wheat price and an increase in wage rates. Average prices for wheat flour in major markets in March 2018 were 6.6 percent lower than the five-year average for the same month (March 2013 - 2017). Compared to the same month last year, the average price decreased slightly, by 5.4 percent.

Updated assumptions

Most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of February to September 2018 remain unchanged. However, the following assumption has been modified:

  • Livestock prices in parts of northwest, north, and northeast regions will be below normal seasonal levels throughout the scenario period, due to poor pasture conditions and poor access to grazing areas.

Projected outlook through September 2018

The availability of irrigation water during the grain-filling period of crop development in the months of March and April is crucial for good production of wheat. In some areas, water availability has remained below normal during this period, with likely adverse impacts on wheat yields. Although light to moderate showers in recent weeks have increased soil moisture for rainfed crops as well as winter wheat and vegetative spring crops, below-average soil moisture conditions remain. Area cultivated under rainfed wheat, which has substantial year-to-year variation but on average accounts for approximately 25 percent of domestic wheat production, shows a declining trend in almost all provinces, due to below average precipitation in most areas.

With below-average precipitation and above-average temperatures, pasture conditions will likely be poorer than usual throughout the spring months, which will negatively impact livestock body conditions. However, these conditions have also led to early pasture growth in lower elevation areas, leading pastoralists and agro-pastoralists to move livestock into spring grazing areas nearly a month earlier than normal. Many livestock will calve, kid, or lamb during the spring, increasing herd sizes. However, livestock births are reported to be lower than last year due to insufficient availability of fodder during the winter, which has deteriorated livestock body conditions.

The seasonal availability of milk and income from the sale of livestock and livestock products will continue to improve food access, which started in February in some lowland areas and will increase through May in the highlands. Access to labor opportunities will also increase seasonally, helping to slowly move households into food purchases prior to the harvests, instead of relying primarily on their own stocks.

Until the main staple harvests, which last from May through September depending on elevation and area, food consumption needs will be primarily satisfied by household reserves or through purchases with savings from earlier in the year, or from year-round sources of income such as formal employment with various branches of the government including the military, the police, or, in some cases, remittances.

Prices for wheat grain and wheat flour are likely to remain mostly stable through June, after which they will experience a seasonal decline due to the main season harvests. Traders are expected to continue to import normally from Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Along with continued displacement due to conflict and insecurity, road access will also remain difficult for trade and the provision of humanitarian assistance. The seasonal increase in the incidence of human diseases is likely to lead to increased prevalence of acute malnutrition between April and July.

According to UNHCR, more than 11,000 Afghan nationals have returned to the country since the beginning of 2018, primarily from Pakistan. Considering the current political climate between Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is anticipated that the number of Afghan nationals repatriating from Pakistan this year may be similar to 2016, due to the recently expressed intention of the Pakistani government for forced repatriation. It is a concern that the influx of Afghan nationals and displaced people may increase the supply of labor during 2018, suppressing wages.

Conflict-induced displacement is likely to increase from April to September 2018, as conflict is typically more intense and widespread during the warmer months. In some areas, newly displaced households will likely enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the period, despite harvests and seasonal improvements in labor demand. Although conflict was widespread throughout much of the country in 2017 and difficult to predict, early indications during the spring suggest that provinces that could be of elevated concern for conflict-induced displacement include parts of Jawzjan, Sar-i-Pul, Balkh, Badghis, Badakhshan, Kunar, Nuristan, Hilmand, Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar.

With weak casual labor markets and poor staple production and livestock conditions in some areas, the ongoing conflict between various insurgent groups (primarily the Taliban and IS) and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will make it more difficult than is seasonally typical for poor households to earn sufficient income to support dietary needs during the coming months. Most areas are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the scenario period, with many households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 34 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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