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Households in Badghis Province enter lean season with lower reserves than normal

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Afghanistan
  • February 2015
Households in Badghis Province enter lean season with lower reserves than normal

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated assumptions
  • Projected outlook through June 2015
  • Key Messages
    • Precipitation since the wet season began in October has been well below-average in most of Afghanistan through February. Although irrigation water will likely be sufficient for crops located in upstream areas, there is a risk that shortages may affect crops in areas further downstream during the primary March to July growing season. 

    • Although current snowpack is well below-average in many basins, with a risk of adverse impact on the irrigated grain crop, the development of rainfed crops will depend on April to May rainfall. Although models indicate average precipitation during the season, uncertainty in the forecast poses a risk to rainfed production. A poor rainfed season would increase food insecurity by the end of June, primarily in northern Afghanistan where the majority of rainfed production occurs.

    • Badghis Province is entering the lean season with reduced stocks after below-average harvests in 2014. As households consume their food stocks, the province is expected to move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by the beginning of April.

    • Due to low precipitation levels and above-average temperatures affecting snow accumulation and extent of cover, rice production is likely to be below the average and the 2014 season.

    Current situation
    • The October to May wet season started slightly late in many areas, and cumulative rainfall and snowfall is well below-average across much of Afghanistan through February. However, good precipitation in the month of February allowed some farmers to begin planting spring rainfed wheat. Precipitation in recent weeks brought seasonal totals above the same time last year in much of Afghanistan, with the exception of parts of the western and southern regions, where deficits compared to last year were reduced significantly. However, total wet season precipitation remained well below-average throughout the country, except in the eastern region (Figure).
    • Average to above-average temperatures are likely through June in Afghanistan. However, there will likely be cold spells with below-average temperatures at various points during the remainder of the winter and spring. This could increase the risk of frost damage for fruit trees and crops that reach maturity earlier than normal due to higher temperatures.
    • Wheat flour prices have slightly declined as compared to last year in the majority of reference markets, largely due to a decrease in diesel and petrol prices. The majority of people in rural areas were able to stock normal to slightly above normal amounts of wheat and wheat flour from the above-average 2014 harvest. However, the national average for labor to wheat terms of trade (ToT) in January was 10.2 Kg of wheat for one day of labor, which was nine percent lower than the December 2014 figure and 14 percent below the same time last year (January 2014). Labor to wheat ToT are 30 percent below the five-year average for the month of January.
    • The January 2015 sheep to wheat ToT was nearly stable from the previous month at 224 Kg of wheat per head of sheep, 5.6 percent below January 2014 and 19.2 percent less than the five-year average price for January. Households dependent on sheep sales for wheat purchases, including Kuchi households, have been adversely affected by the reduced value of sheep relative to wheat.
    • Due to low precipitation totals during the month of January and early February, as well as above-average temperatures, fields where winter wheat was planted were irrigated two to three times in January and February in Kabul, Harrirud-Morghab, and Northern river basins, which is not typically necessary this time of year under normal precipitation conditions. Irrigated, winter wheat will need an estimated three to five more irrigation runs prior to the harvest, and could experience reduced yields if sufficient irrigation water is not available.
    • According to the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), reduced water flow has been reported in almost all river basins, including Kabul (including Shamal and Gomal Sub-basins), Harirud, Morghab, Balkhab, Sar-e Pul, Shirin Tagab, Taluqan, and Baghlan river basins. Reduced water levels in these basins could lead to a shortage of irrigation water during the second cropping season in 2015. In the Helmand river basin, there is currently no water flowing below the Kajaki dam, which might impact wheat, watermelon, and other crops.
    • Above-normal temperatures in February and good soil moisture conditions due to heavy rains and snowfall in late February allowed some farmers in parts of Balkh, Takhar, Kunduz, Jawzjan, Faryab, Saripul, and Samangan Provinces to plant spring wheat on rainfed land 10 to 15 days earlier than in a typical year. Initial reports from the field suggest that the area planted under spring rainfed wheat in Afghanistan is less than the same time last year, but this could be improved if good rain continues through mid-March. Land is still being prepared for spring rainfed wheat planting in the northwest, north and in some areas of the east.

    Updated assumptions

    The current situation has not affected most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of January to June 2015. However, the following assumptions have been modified:

    • Total wet season precipitation remains below-average in most areas. Total snowfall for the winter season is unlikely to reach average in most basins monitored in the country, particularly in the southern region. 

    Projected outlook through June 2015
    • Most areas of the country are expected to be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity from February through June, with the exception of some provinces in the northeast and Central Highlands, including Badakhshan, Bamyan, Daykundi, Nuristan, and Ghor Provinces, as well as Badghis Province in the northwest. Food security outcomes following the end of the lean season in March and April will depend heavily on continued normal seasonal progress towards the 2015 grain harvest. In some lowland, rainfed areas, planting has already begun, and indications are that total area planted will be similar to last year. In the northwest, planting of rainfed spring wheat is expected to start in early March. Earlier than normal planting of spring rainfed wheat may result in an early harvest, reducing the time households rely on markets to purchase food.
    • Due to declining food stocks and very poor dietary diversity, primarily resulting from below-average rainfall in 2014 and livestock losses to extreme cold temperatures in the late winter and early spring last year, Badghis Province is expected to move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by early April. However, food security outcomes will begin to improve in May, with improved market access, the resumption of milk production and humanitarian relief, and increased availability of local and migratory labor opportunities.
    • Households who rely almost solely on remittances from Iran in the east-central mountainous agropastoral livelihood zone are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), as there has already been a significant reduction in the level of remittances from Iran. However, the number of poor households that are highly dependent on these remittances is limited.
    • Newly displaced IDPs, households affected by natural disasters, and Pakistani refugees in Khost and Paktika Provinces are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) from February to June, with the help of humanitarian assistance. Households that do not receive assistance or that are newly affected by natural disasters may be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
    • While current forecasts are for near-normal seasonal conditions, there is substantial uncertainty in the seasonal forecast for the spring wet season, given current climatic conditions. If the March to May spring wet season turns out significantly worse than anticipated, with well below-average or poorly distributed rainfall, food security outcomes will deteriorate, especially in the areas of the country that depend on rainfed agriculture, as spring wheat production would be significantly reduced. A very poor grain harvest from rainfed areas would likely elevate wheat grain and flour prices to higher levels and exacerbate any subsequent rises in international wheat prices. The reduced production would also be likely to reduce in-kind payments for agricultural labor, reduce the size of the shares received from sharecropping, reduce agricultural, casual labor wages, and reduce the amount of agricultural, casual labor demanded by larger landowners, especially in rainfed areas. These factors would all reduce household income and subsequently, access to food.
    Figures Accumulated precipitation, October 1, 2014 to February 20, 2015

    Figure 1

    Accumulated precipitation, October 1, 2014 to February 20, 2015

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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