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Early February heavy snowfall decreases precipitation deficit gap significantly

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Afghanistan
  • February 2014
Early February heavy snowfall decreases precipitation deficit gap significantly

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2014
  • Key Messages
    • As a result of sufficient labor availability during the 2013 agricultural season, above normal livestock prices through out the year, and ample food stocking for the lean season from the 2013 above-normal production, food security outcomes are likely to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for the majority of households in the country.
    • The performance during the current wet season had shown increasing precipitation deficits, particularly in northern Afghanistan, however, a heavy snowstorm in early February alleviated potential concerns as the snow reached up to 2.5 meters in mountainous areas.
    • Western Central highlands food security outcomes from January to March are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) as usual seasonal food sources are replaced by external assistance. However, food security outcomes from April to June are expected to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) as seasonal livelihood activities will be resuming with continued external assistance.

    Current Situation
    • The 2013 well above-average national grain production (14 percent higher than the 2010 reference year) has not only improved household reserves for the onging lean season and domestic market supply, but has also provided ample labor opportunies during the main agriculture season from May to September. As a result, landless households were able to procure more than enough food reserves prior to winter.
    • Food prices are typically higher during wintertime. Current wheat flour prices are above their five-year averages in all reference markets, with the most notably highest differences observed in Herat (20 percent above) and Mazar (23 percent above). Recent fluctuations in wheat flour prices are a result of the unstable Afghanistan currency against U.S. dollar exchange rates during 2013, which have impacted prices in recent months, as well as high wheat flour prices from the source market in Kazakhstan as compared to last year. This could affect the purchasing power of IDPs and poor urban households who rely on the market.
    • Livestock availability is a key asset for rural households. Contrary to the norm in winter when sheep prices decline, reference markets showed sheep prices remaining above the five-year average in January 2014, with the exception of Nili market where prices were 26 percent below the five-year average. This is a result of low fodder availability from the poor wheat harvest in the Western Central highlands livelihood zone, leaving sheep with poor body conditions.
    • Wet season performance from October 1, 2013 to February 10, 2014 was average to above average in southwestern, southern, and eastern Afghanistan, while northern Afghanistan continues to face a precipitation deficit. However, the early February heavy snowfall across the country reduced precipitaiton deficits significantly in these areas (Figure 1). This prompted farmers in the northern areas of the country to prepare for normal spring cultivation which will take place imminently in late February/early March.

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used in FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for January to June 2014 remain unchanged.

    Projected Outlook through June 2014
    • Food security outcomes from February to June will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in most parts of the country. Many households will have well above-normal access to food through own above average production and income from well above-average labor wages from the previous agricultural season. Wheat flour prices are not expected to exceed their current level. Livestock prices are likely to remain higher than their five-year averages, which will enable many households to sell livestock with better than current prices starting in March through April in order to avoid any food consumption gaps priort to the next harvest period.
    • The West-Central Highland Agropastoral livelihood zone is likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) from February to March as poor households are meeting their immediate, minimally adequate food needs through provided external assistance.  However, if typical seasonal livelihood activities resume by April and external distribution continues, then this would shift food security outcomes to Minimal (IPC Phase 1!). Normal livelihood activities, including demand for labor on poppy farms in Helmand province from March to April, as well as other local labor opportunities in Herat province  are expected to commence and reduce the strain on livelihoods.
    • Newly internally displaced persons (IDPs) tend to rely heavily on assistance and seasonal construction labor during the summer. They will be meeting their basic needs through external aid and purchasing food, funded in part by daily labor wages earned during the latter half of 2013 and some casual wage labor during wintertime, but their dietary diversity is likely to be inadequate and far lower than when they were displaced. They are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from February to March and when normal daily labor opportunities resume by spring, March, then acute food insecurity is likely to shift to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Merged MODIS 8-Day Snow Cover Extent and AFWA Snow Depth

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Merged MODIS 8-Day Snow Cover Extent and AFWA Snow Depth

    Source: USGS

    Figure 3


    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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