Food Security Outlook Update

While dry weather has begun, river and irrigation water availability remains above average

June 2012

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

  • The 2012 national cereal harvest is expected to be above average. The above-average harvest is likely to reduce Afghanistan’s wheat and wheat flour imports from regional suppliers. Early estimates are that cereal imports may be reduced by up to half compared to their level from last year. 

  • Dry weather began in June, and it is expected to last until August. However, most rivers and water reservoirs have average to above-average water availability for irrigation. The good availability of irrigation resources has improved the prospects for the second cropping on irrigated land, particularly for rice and cotton cultivation.

  • Food security in a few areas will not benefit from the above-average harvest including the extreme northeast, some higher elevations of the central highlands, spring flood affected areas, and the northern districts of Balkh and Jawzjan provinces where food security is  likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

Seasonal progress

Following an above-average 2011/12 wet season, dry weather appears to have settled in over most of Afghanistan. Dry weather is expected to last from June to August, but most rivers and water reservoirs have average to above-average water availability for irrigation. The good availability of irrigation resources has improved the prospects for the second cropping on irrigated land, particularly for rice and cotton (Figures 3 and 4).

By the beginning of the dry season, the risk of flooding has decreased. Nonetheless, during June to August, the eastern parts of the country may receive summer floods triggered by the Indian monsoon. These floods typically occur in Kunar, Nangahar, Paktya, and Laghman Provinces. However, this year, the likelihood of large-scale summer floods in eastern Afghanistan is relatively low as the rainfall from the Indian monsoon is forecast to be below average.

The onset of the dry season has been accompanied by rising temperatures. Higher temperatures have helped wheat crops mature for an on-time harvest at lower altitudes in northern Afghanistan. The 2012 cereal harvest is delayed for a month in higher elevation areas because of the persistently below-average temperatures during the wet season.

The 2012 national cereal harvest is still expected to be above average. The above-average harvest is likely to reduce Afghanistan’s wheat and wheat flour imports from regional suppliers. Early estimates are that cereal imports may be reduced by up to half from last year. Even with Pakistan likely bartering wheat for fertilizer and other supplies with Iran, so far, no major disruptions to wheat or wheat flour trade are anticipated though demand will likely decrease compared to last year.

The expected increase of local cereal availability following the completion of the harvest will cause many households to rely more on their own production and rely less on market purchases of imported wheat and wheat flour. In most of Afghanistan, market dependency is expected to be reduced from last year with exceptions including extreme northern Badakhshan and the Wakhan Corridor, the higher elevations of the central highlands, household affected by the spring floods, internally displaced persons (IDPs) affected by conflict, and households who lose their land to flooding in the Amu River Irrigated Cereals and Oilseeds livelihood zone.

Extreme northern Badakhshan (Ishkshim, Darwaz, and Shugnan Provinces) and the Wakhan Corridor

Following the failure of the rainfed crops last year due to poor precipitation, the 2012 crop prospects for extreme northern Badakhshan and the Wakhan Corridor remains unfavorable. The above normal precipitation volume over the course of the wet season delayed the planting of spring crops. The rains and low temperatures have also reduced crop growth compared to a typical year.

In a normal year such as 2010, for poor household with access to land, agricultural production contributes five to seven months of food. However, based on FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance’s recent study, in 2011, affected households were only able to get one to two months of their food from their own agricultural production. The second largest source of food is animal production which households rely heavily on from March to August when milk is available. However, this year, this source of food has not been as available due to both livestock death and distress sales. According to the survey, on average, twelve percent of livestock herds died from October to June because of extreme cold and lack of fodder during the 2011/2012 winter. A large number of households reported that they have exhausted their livestock herds; they no longer own livestock.

Affected households have been conducting distress sales of their livestock in order to procure their past winter and their current food needs from the market. Other reported strategies coping strategies included spending savings, borrowing money from relatives, food for work (FFW), and unseasonal labor migration to other cities of Afghanistan during the summer time which people usually spend in their villages of origin.

As result of the unusually cold weather and poor agricultural and livestock conditions, local labor opportunities this spring have diminished. However, despite the transportation problems from low temperature and heavy snows, wheat flour prices in the region are not that high compared to other parts of the country. The average price of a kilogram (kg) of wheat across the districts of Badakshan is only AFN 25 which is broadly similar to prices across the country.

Given last year’s poor agricultural and livestock production and the poor prospects for the upcoming local harvest in August or September, these areas are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

Higher elevations of the central highlands

The prevalence of below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation throughout the wet season delayed spring planting and has impeded crop growth. As a result, crop prospects were very mixed early in the season. However, as temperatures had risen at the beginning of dry season in May and June, crop growth has improved. Many farmers now expect a near average harvest in these areas. Ground observations by NGO staff in the area and interviews with farmers in Day Kundi province indicate that the irrigated wheat crop condition in Day Kundi is better than last year. However, the harvest is likely to be delayed for a month because of below normal temperatures. This may prevent the planting of a second crop, which tends to be maize in these areas. Nonetheless, while an important source of fodder and food, the contribution of the maize from the second crop to households’ own food consumption is relatively low, so the failure to plant a second crop, in a year with an average wheat harvest, may not have large, immediate food security impacts.

There are still fears among some highland farmers concerning the rainfed wheat crop prospects. Planting in some of these areas was late. The highland wheat crop growth is slower than normal this year because of low temperatures. However, current temperatures and precipitation conditions still may result in a sufficient harvest. The International Research Institute for Climate and Society’s (IRI) forecast indicates above normal temperatures over the next three months for most of Afghanistan including the central highlands.

Normally, poor households heavily rely on markets while the households’ own agricultural production contributes three to four months of their food in these livelihood zones. The vast majority of poor households receive money from household members who are labor migrants in Iran. This income is a key income source for the market purchases by which poor households procure their food. Due to the international financial embargo on Iran, Iran’s economic prosperity has decreased, which negatively affected the level of remittances to Afghanistan from Iran. However, recent field work indicates that the reduction of remittance is not to the extent that would prevent poor household from buying sufficient quantities of food. Households though may have reduced savings or investments in their livelihoods such as buying additional livestock.

However, if temperatures remain below normal and wheat crops fail to mature, several districts of the central highlands are at risk of poor, rainfed wheat production this season. These include Behsud-1 district of Wardak Province, Panjaw and Waras districts of Bamyan Province, and Ishterlay, Sang-i-Takhat, Khaider, and Sharistan districts of Day Kundi Province. In addition to the mentioned areas, the northern districts of Ghor province are also at risk of poor production in a scenario with cold temperatures remaining in July. While the contribution of these areas to total national wheat production is very minimal, local livelihoods would be harmed by the poor production.

Spring flood affected households

The localized, but quite heavy 2012 spring floods have had a large impact at the level of the valleys and districts where the floods have taken places, particularly in northern Afghanistan. However, the impact on the overall, national cereal harvest will likely be minimal. According to the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority’s data, at the national level, an estimated of 39,500 hectares (ha) of cultivated lands have been damaged by the 2012 spring floods. The damaged areas are around one percent of the estimated, national cultivated area of three million ha. Altogether, around 22,000 households have been affected.

At the national level, around 7,000, houses have been completely damaged by spring flooding. Also, around 400 irrigation canals have been destroyed by the spring floods. These could have potential implications for the 2012/13 winter wheat planting if these canals cannot be rehabilitated by the communities before the winter.

The government of Afghanistan and humanitarian agencies have responded to the floods using their emergency mechanisms. Affected households have received both food and non-food items in a timely manner. However, because of the loss of houses, cultivated crops, livestock, and human life, flood-affected households are likely to be Stressed (IPC phase 2) over the course of the coming six months due to instability in their sources of food and income as a result of the floods.

Amu River Irrigated Cereals and Oilseed livelihood zone

During June to August, the water level in the Amu River reaches its peak. It washes away agricultural land and residential houses, particularly in the northern parts of the zone which is located in very close proximity to the Amu River. Areas located further from the river are affected by the rising water table during June to August when it sometimes even reaches the surface because of infiltration from the river and the permeable structure of the soil in this zone. This affects the standing crops as well as increases salinity which reduces soil fertility for subsequent seasons. The primary source of income and food in the Amu River Irrigated Cereals and Oilseed livelihood zone is agricultural production. However, due to the above normal precipitation across most parts of the Central Asia region, flows into the Amu River from snowmelt and rain are well above average. Based on recent interviews with districts governors, over the past month, around 140 households were displaced because of land and houses eroding into the river. The affected villages were Jow Wakeel, Aroghbator, Jangol Aregh, Bozaregh, Dade, and Iaslam Olya in Shortepa district of Balkh province and Khoja Kakulader, Booz Areq, Taza Areq, and Areq Ayab in Kaldar district of Balkh province.

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 28 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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