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Despite the severe but localized spring floods, cereal harvest prospects remain good

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Afghanistan
  • May 2012
Despite the severe but localized spring floods, cereal harvest prospects remain good

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In contrast to last year, the continuity of precipitation during the latter part of the wet season is likely to lead to an average to above average rainfed wheat harvest.  

    • The localized but sometimes devastating 2012 spring floods have had severe impacts at the levels of the valleys and districts where floods have taken place, particularly in northern Afghanistan. However, the likely impact on the overall, national cereal harvest will be minimal.

    • Despite the Iran and Pakistan current fertilizer-wheat barter deal, no disruptions to wheat or wheat flour trade are anticipated. Demand for imported wheat flour will likely decrease compared to last year due to the expected average to above average wheat harvest that has just started.

    Seasonal progress

    There have been no significant deviations from the assumptions developed in the April Afghanistan outlook report. However, while the assumption was that average levels of precipitation would continue in April and May, precipitation totals have been above average across much of Afghanistan. The spatial distribution of precipitation has also been relatively even with pasture, rainfed areas, and irrigated areas receiving above-average precipitation. This precipitation has ensured the normal growth of rainfed crops. Rainfall in rainfed areas was sufficient during the key middle to late April period which supports wheat crop growth (Figure 1). This situation of good precipitation to support rainfed crop growth contrasts to  last year when rainfed crops failed across much of northern Afghanistan.

    Sufficient irrigation water remains available for irrigated crops, and the continuity of rainfall is able to support further growth of the rainfed crops (See figure 4). The overall above-average seasonal rainfall along with a large amount of planted area is likely to result in an average to above average cereal harvest in 2012 all over the country. The above average harvest is likely to reduce Afghanistan’s imports of wheat from regional suppliers. Early estimates are that cereal imports may be reduced by half compared to last year. Even with Pakistan likely bartering wheat for fertilizer and other supplies with Iran, so far, no disruptions to wheat or wheat flour trade are anticipated though demand will likely decrease. The increase of local cereal availability means that many households will increase their reliance on their own production instead of market purchases of imported wheat and wheat flour. They will be less dependent on markets compared to last year. Poor agricultural households will have greatly improved access to food this year.

    A few areas will be exceptions to this general rule. In Jaji Maidan district in Paktya province, hail has severely damaged the standing wheat crop. In addition, in some higher altitudes districts of the central highlands and the extreme Northeast, wheat crops were affected by extreme low temperatures. Wheat production in Jaji Maidan district of Paktya provinces and higher altitudes districts of central highlands and extreme northeast do not typically contribute a significant surplus to overall, domestically traded wheat production. However, at the local level, wheat production typically contributes three to four months of wheat and wheat flour supply for household food needs. As neither areas surrounding Jaji Maidan district nor lower elevation areas where the poor of the high altitudes of the central highlands and the extreme Northeast typically labor were affected by the hail storms or frost, households will probably need to rely on finding additional harvest labor opportunities in surrounding districts. This will substitute for some of their lost production. Some poor households will also  increase their reliance on remittances.  Remittances levels have been reported to be reducing in some areas of Afghanistan, and further examination of remittance trends is necessary.

    In the case of landless households, the above average harvest is offering sufficient labor income opportunities. Households will procure current and near future food needs by providing harvest labor. Currently, the labor wage has increased by up to 50 percent compared to last year. During the harvest, the high demand is expected to further increase the labor rates. The harvest has already started in the lowlands of the East and the South, and it will continue through September at the higher elevations. After the harvests and the winter wheat planting periods from September to December, demand for daily labor will decline normally for the winter.

    Agropastoralists’ access to food is also improving as the term of trade between livestock and wheat has improved. Livestock prices have doubled since last year in some markets while wheat flour prices have remained nearly flat. Due to good pasture conditions supporting healthy body conditions, livestock prices are likely to remain relatively high until the onset of winter in November.

    Spring flooding

    The localized but sometimes devastating 2012 spring floods have had severe impacts at the levels of the valleys and districts where floods have taken places, particularly in northern Afghanistan. However, the impact on the overall, national cereal harvest will likely be minimal. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock’s data, at the national level, an estimated of 15,000 hectares (ha) of cultivated lands have been damaged by 2012 spring floods. The damaged areas are around a half of a percent of the estimated, national cultivated area of three million ha. At the provincial level, in most provinces, flood damage has impacted between half of a percent and three percent of the cultivated area. Flooding has most severely affect households in Jawzjan and Daikundi provinces where the flood-damaged area affected five and eight percent of cultivated area, respectively (Figure 5).

    At the national level, around 1,450 houses have been partially or completely damaged by spring flooding. The highest number of damaged houses was the 651 reported in Kunduz province. This is followed by Badghis province where 265 houses were damaged. Also, around 345 irrigation water intakes have been destroyed by spring floods. Out of this number, 220 of the destroyed irrigation water intakes were  in Bamyan province. In that province, the damaged irrigation infrastructure will  complicate the planting and cultivation of second crops following the wheat harvest. In the East-Central Mountainous Agropastoral livelihood zone which includes most of Bamian province, households typically plant potatoes, beans, and vegetables following and during the wheat harvest. If the irrigation intakes are not repaired by October and November, this could also result in lower planted area for winter wheat.  

    The recent late May floods reported from Saripul province indicate that around four thousand houses have been damaged in the province’s central districts and in Sayad district. Out of these, three houses have been completely destroyed resulting in new displacements.

    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 6 months due to instability in their sources of food and income as a result of the floods. As the above average rains may lead to additional floods, additional impacts could be even more severe over the remainder of the season.   

    Internally displaced persons (IDPs)

    Despite the forthcoming average to above average harvest, IDPs who have been driven from their homes by conflict are one of the other segments of the Afghan population whose food security outcomes are likely to be Stressed (IPC phase 2) through September. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), around 108,000 people or 15,000 households have been displaced since December 2011. The IDPs normal sources of food and incomes have been disrupted, and until they find alternative livelihoods, these households heavily rely on external assistance including new or former neighbors, extended family, and humanitarian agencies. Very few IDPs recently displaced by conflict are likely to return to their places of origin in the near future.

    Amu River Irrigated Cereals and Oilseed livelihood zone

    The primary source of income and food in the Amu River

    Irrigated Cereals and Oilseed livelihood zone is through 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. The northern parts of this zone are at a high risk of land erosion into the river. Planted crops, arable land, and houses are likely to be washed away by the Amu River. 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.

    In most likely scenario, over June to August,  when the water level in the Amu River increases to its highest point, around 800 households may be displaced due to  erosion. More households will be forced to resettle this year due to erosion. Affected households will be displaced from their houses and agriculture lands. Until these households find alternative livelihoods or new land, they will be heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance. Households typically do not lose livestock to erosion, so this source of food or income will likely be available following displacement. For households who choose to resettle to urban areas, livestock sales for cash will be an important way to fund market purchases of food and/or to rent housing, but this source of income is limited and unlikely to last very long. As a result, the affected households are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September. However, the majority of this livelihood zone’s population will continue to be classified as No Acute Food Insecurity (IPC Phase 1) due to the upcoming harvest, good water availability, and average demand for agricultural labor.

    Extreme northern Badakhshan and the Wakhan Corridor

    Road access to extreme northern Badakhshan and the Wakhan Corridor typically  improves by late spring. However, extreme weather conditions such as continued snow and below average temperatures have hampered road access this year. It is expected that these areas have very limited access to new, external food supplies.

    In extreme northern Badakhshan and the Wakhan Corridor, the primary source of both food and income comes from animal husbandry. Livestock in these high elevation regions were significantly affected by the harsh 2011/12 winter. Field reports indicate significant numbers of livestock deaths over the winter. In these areas, poor households typically depend very heavily on milk and milk products this time of year. Access to milk and milk products is reduced significantly as result of livestock deaths and the poor health of livestock due to harsh winter conditions. Arable land is very limited in this part of the country, and production, primarily of potatoes, typically only supplies two to three months of food. During the 2011/12 winter, an above average number of avalanches took place in this region. This cut off road access from the primary markets in the province and continues to isolate these populations. As the harvest of potatoes and vegetables will not be until September and milk availability and access to labor are below average, these areas are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) over the coming 6 months. Local food availability starts to improve in August and September unless frost has severely damaged the crops after they are planted, and it is expected that market supplies will improve as road conditions improve and temperatures rise over the next three months.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET Afghanistan

    Estimated rainfall (RFE2) difference in millimeters (mm) from  April 11 to 20, 2012 more than in 2011

    Figure 2

    Estimated rainfall (RFE2) difference in millimeters (mm) from April 11 to 20, 2012 more than in 2011

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Accumulated seasonal precipitation

    Figure 3

    Accumulated seasonal precipitation

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Cultivated area compared to flood-damaged area

    Figure 4

    Cultivated area compared to flood-damaged area

    Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL)

    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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