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Grain harvest above-average for third consecutive year

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Afghanistan
  • July - December 2014
Grain harvest above-average for third consecutive year

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Could Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The wheat harvest concluded in most of Afghanistan. Farmers and observers report higher production than last year. High elevation areas will harvest through September depending on elevation. For the second crops, planted area is mostly normal, and the crops are developing normally.
    • From late April through early June heavy spring rains trigged flash flooding in the northwestern and northeastern provinces, affected 140,000 individuals. Humanitarian assistance has been provided for two to three months, but without further assistance later in the year, households will likely move from Stressed to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
    • The above-average harvest will allow many households to stock sufficient grain for winter and the lean season in 2015. The vast majority of households are able to maintain food purchases and essential non-food expenditures. Most areas are likely to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through at least December 2014.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    The wet season started slowly in 2013 and in late 2013 and early 2014 was drier than normal, much like the previous wet season. However, in February and onwards, precipitation became more regular in frequency and the amounts of rain increased. Accumulated precipitation from October 2013 to June 2014 was, overall, less than the 2002 to 2012 average in most of Afghanistan, particularly northern provinces (Figure 1). It was above-average in eastern and some central areas. Precipitation was mostly similar to last wet season 2012/2013.

    Winter and spring precipitation provided enough irrigation water for winter crops, and the spring rains supported the growth of spring crops. A strong start of the spring rains resulted in higher planted area for spring wheat on rainfed land, particularly in the Northeast. The rains continued to occur regularly during the spring though at times temperatures were lower than normal, leading to mostly normal or slightly slower than usual crop growth over the course of the season. The wheat harvest started in late May in the lowlands, and by the end of July, most areas had harvested except in high elevation areas such as the central highlands and Badakhshan Province where the harvest is later. In areas where wheat has been harvested, famers and other local observers are reporting adequate to above-average quality and production.

    Heavy precipitation led to wheat to rust in some parts of the eastern and central provinces including areas in Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Parwan, and Kapisa Provinces. However, wheat rust was most prevalent at the later stages of crop development, so it did not significantly reduce yields.

    Temperatures were warmer than usual at start of 2013/2014 wet season from October to December 2013. Then temperatures were colder than average from February to May. They returned to more seasonal temperatures in June and July. Several cold snaps and the dramatic variation in temperature reduced production of some tree crops including stone fruit and almonds. As almonds bloom earlier than other tree crops, many were damaged by cold temperatures. Low temperatures and hail damaged some hilly fields in the Northwest including parts of Sari Pul Province and the Southeast. In these areas the cold and hail damaged some wheat and vegetables. Similarly, low temperatures over the spring have delayed the harvest by a couple of weeks. They also halted or slowed the usual, accelerated snow melting at higher elevations in the spring, which reduced the occurrence of floods which usually begin with start of spring season in Afghanistan in some of the more typically flood-prone areas of the East.

    Whereas heavy precipitation supported the development of spring crops, it also triggered flash flooding in many parts of the country, particularly the Northeast and Northwest. Steady precipitation during last part of wet season in May and June provided sufficient irrigation water for planting second crops like rice, vegetables, melons, and watermelon. For example, planted area under melon was doubled from 3,000 hectares last year to 6,000 hectares this year in Jawzjan Province, which is the provice that had the most flooding this year.

    Increased precipitation during the spring improved pasture conditions and availability throughout Afghanistan. As a result, body conditions of livestock are better than last year. Similarly, livestock prices in April and May were higher than last year in almost all surveyed areas during the Pre-Harvest Assessment, particularly for sheep. Sheep prices increased by AFN 1,000 to

    AFN 1,500 per head compared to last year. Among the areas with noticeable price increases were the Northwest and Northeast, which both have a large number of pastoralists (kuchi) living in them. Agricultural labor wages are mostly similar to last year, and they increased during the wheat harvest in rural areas. Increased rainfed-area production also provided some work opportunities for the flood-affected.

    Wheat grain prices decreased in many markets when the harvest started in lowland areas in early June and started to enter markets. Wheat flour prices are still stable at a higher level than last year in most markets. This is primarily due to stagnant trade due to the current political uncertainty and associated risks which has led to a lower than usual volume of wheat flour imported from Pakistan.

    Following large-scale military maneuvers in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) of the Federally Administrated Tribal Area (FATA) in Pakistan in mid-June, many people have been displaced. Some have been displaced inside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan, and others have left Pakistan to adjacent areas in Afghanistan, primarily in Khost and Paktika Provinces. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), as of June 30, 833,000 have been displaced from their homes in Pakistan, and (13,000 households, nearly 100,000 people have crossed into Afghanistan (figure 2). The majority are being assisted by local communities in Afghanistan with shelter, food, and water, but this is placing additional demands on these resources in Afghanistan.

    A camp for the displaced was established by the Government of Afghanistan in Gorbuz District of Khost Province. It is now housing approximately 3,000 households. Until July 15, across these areas in Afghanistan, 4,000 households were assisted with packages of essential non-food items (NFI), 2,000 with food items, and 4,000 with tents. The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and partners have an ongoing vaccination campaign for polio and measles for the displaced. To date, more than 41,000 children have been vaccinated against polio in both Khost and Paktika. A preliminary response plan is being prepared for both Khost and Paktika Provinces.

    Deteriorating security and natural disasters displaced many Afghans in the course of 2013/2014. From January to July 2014, nearly 50,000 individuals were displaced due to natural disasters such as floods, flash floods, landslides, mudflows, and other extreme weather conditions. Most of these are in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Jawzjan, Samangan, and Takhar Provinces. 683,000 were displaced by conflict from January to July, of which 109,000 were displaced during last year. In most cases food and NFI packages were provided. Most of the displaced are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only due to access to humanitarian assistance.

    According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, nearly 25 million metric tons (MMT) of wheat were harvested in Pakistan this Rabi season. That is slightly higher than last year and above the five-year average. Pakistan’s wheat export policy towards Afghanistan has not had any noticeable changes recently, and wheat flour imports are continuing into Afghanistan but volumes are somewhat lower than usual as traders are concerned about potential political instability.

    In West Central Highland Agropastoral livelihood zone, agricultural production was far below average last year due to drought. However, this year, the crops have developed normally with mostly normal climatic conditions. Irrigated wheat is nearly ready to harvest, and the harvest is likely to have a much higher volume than last year. Rainfed wheat is flowering, and it has not so far been affected by any noticeable shock. However, it will likely require one to two more rains to reach maturity. Post-emergency and relief operations are ongoing, so agricultural inputs distribution, promoting hygiene practices, and programs to tackle malnutrition in the area continue. Food security has moved from Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only with the presence of humanitarian assistance to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as households have resumed their normal income-earning activities, mainly agricultural labor for the wheat harvest locally and nearby and the poppy harvest in neighboring areas, primarily Helmand. Both wheat and wheat flour prices started declining in June after having been quite high last year (Figure 3). Livestock prices have also started increasing as body conditions have improved with increased pasture availability this spring.

    In general, following two consecutive above-average wheat harvests that resulted in a normal February to April 2014 lean season, resumption of normal livelihood activities during the spring and summer such as agricultural labor, and better livestock body conditions and prices, and favorable climatic factors, most areas are Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in July 2014 (See current food security outcomes map).

    Assumptions
    • According to many forecasts, the remainder of the June to September Indian monsoon is expected to bring some moderate amounts of rain to eastern Afghanistan. However, the total amount of rainfall will likely be somewhat lower than usual due to the developing El Niño and the slower than usual progress of the monsoon. No unusually heavy rains that would lead to large-scale flooding are expected in eastern Afghanistan.
    • The start of the October 2014 to May 2015 wet season is expected to have average to above average amounts of rainfall and snowfall from October to December, in part due to the developing El Niño.
    • As the presidential election process and transfer of power become clearer over the next several months, it is likely that local and international private sector investors will return to Afghanistan’s markets, especially to investments related to domestic and foreign trade, construction, and other sectors. However, construction labor is not likely to fully recover to the levels seen in recent years.
    • Imports of wheat flour from Pakistan and Kazakhstan will continue at a seasonally normal rates for the foreseeable future.
    • Remittances from July to December sent by domestic labor migrants and civil servants will be at normal levels, as will foreign remittances from the countries of the Persian Gulf including Iran.
    • Pakistan has agreed to continue to accommodate Afghan refugees through 2016. Iran has not indicated that it would force repatriation. Though even without forced repatriation, voluntary repatriations from both countries are expected to continue at their seasonal rate, slowing down as the winter arrives in November/December.
    • Insecurity is likely to increase further over the coming months as armed groups attempt to take advantage of the political transition. Further displacement due to conflict is expected during the remainder of the summer through early September.
    • While there will probably be additional arrivals of displaced people from Pakistan over the coming months, no widespread, large-scale, additional influx of displaced persons is expected from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
    • Humanitarian agencies are likely to continue to provide food and NFIs to the newly displaced.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    As considered likely following the pre-harvest assessment, Afghanistan will likely have an above average grain harvest for third year in row. In areas where grain has not been harvested yet, farmers and other observers report current crop conditions are mostly normal, and they tend to think that more production will come this year, in the absence of any new shocks. Of course, depending on elevation, some areas will not harvest until September. There are five provinces where the harvest is not yet nearing completion and further crop monitoring may be needed in Badakhshan, Bamyan, Daykundi, Ghor, and Ghazni. With higher grain production, rural households could stock more than normal volumes of grain for the coming 2015 lean season and for the winter. Similarly, wheat grain and flour prices will decrease in coming months, and they will be closer to around average from now until December 2014, assisting those households who rely on market purchases. Households engaged in livestock keeping will also likely see higher prices over the coming months, both due to high demand for major holidays/festivals and due to the good body conditions of the livestock.

    Second crops such a rice, vegetables, melons, and watermelons will be harvested starting in September. These crops are also expected to perform better than last year as water availability was sufficient during crop development. Thus far, there has not been a major plant disease outbreak or pest infestation in melons and watermelons unlike in the last several years. Area planted for second crops, mainly melon and watermelon, increased from last year, in part due to increases in some flood-affected areas as households seek to increase production to make up for their loss of the grain harvest to floods.

    Winter wheat is mostly irrigated in Afghanistan, and planting will likely start at the normal time in October/November with the start of the 2014/15 wet season. However, the source of irrigation water for this crop comes primarily from last wet season’s continued snow melting at the highest elevations, which should continue to remain available.

    Those households who lost their stone-fruit trees’ production or almond production are likely to seek other sources of income. However, in areas where they have lost the primary source of income, they are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from now until December. They will generally be able to meet their food requirements, but they will need to reduce essential non-food expenditures due to more limited income.

    Households that were displaced in the past year by conflict or natural disasters and will likely receive food assistance and NFIs for several additional months. They are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only due to expected external humanitarian assistance. Households who lost their shelter and agricultural crops along with key livelihood assets such as tools are likely to stay in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), if they do not continue to receive assistance through at least December 2014. The majority of them have limited ability to cope, and they will have none of their own grain to consume. Even with additional labor, second crops, and other ways of earning income, they will be unable to afford adequate quantities of food on their own through the winter and lean season.

    Most areas which have not had natural disasters or been affected by conflict will remain at Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as households acquire food and non-food items without using coping strategies.


    Areas of Concern

    Flood- and landslide-affected households in northwestern and northeastern provinces

    Current Situation

    From late April through early June, heavy spring rains trigged flash flooding in 132 districts in 27 provinces. They killed at least 187 people and damaged nearly 16,000 shelters. Of those, 8,000 shelters were destroyed completely. The floods have affected more than 140,000 people (Figure 4). Households who lost their shelters entirely are now living in tents while the majority live in their partially damaged houses. Some of them have been displaced to other places and are living with relatives. More than 90 percent of affected households are located in the northwestern and northeastern regions. Approximately 34,000 hectares (ha) of already cultivated agricultural land located in this area had crops washed away completely or damaged. The affected agricultural land is very significant at the village and district levels, but compared to total arable land, it only constitutes two to four percent of land at the provincial or regional level.

    While the wet season started off slowly in October/November 2013, since February, steady precipitation resulted in normal crop development in both rainfed and irrigated land. Wheat has been harvest in lower elevations, and outside of the flood-affected areas, production has been higher than the last two years and is above-average. Agricultural labor wages are currently similar to last year, and households have been able to participate in labor though some have had to travel farther than normal to find labor opportunties. Spring rainfall improved pasture conditions that resulted in higher livestock prices, particularly for sheep, which are generally above last year and their five-year averages. Sheep prices are AFN 1,500 to AFN 2,000 higher than last year in most of the North. Few livestock were lost in the floods, so this source of income remains available to many households.

    Following the floods, humanitarian agencies have provided food rations for two to three months to over 80 percent of the affected households. They have also established camps to house displaced households near the heavily affected area such as in Khwaja Dukoh District, the worst affected district in Jawzjan Province. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) kits have also provided to affected individuals. In some places, partially damaged houses are being repaired by their owners using proceeds of food- and cash-for-works programs. Over 7,800 shelters have been targeted for reconstruction, but funding for only just over 1,400 shelters is currently allocated. Agencies are prioritizing highland areas in the Northeast where winter starts earlier, but actual construction has not started yet.

    Households are using several sources of food and income to provide for themselves including receiving food aid, consuming or selling own produced crops that were not lost in flooding, in-kind payments from doing agricultural labor, remittances, government employment, and selling their in-kind grain payments from agricultural labor. With their own coping and some assistance, households are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only due to the presence of humanitarian assistance.

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about flood- and landslide-affected households in northwestern and northeastern provinces:

    • Additional food aid for affected households has not been assumed.
    • No additional flooding is likely between now and December 2014.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    To earn additional income to buy food, households will likely send members to areas where the grain harvest will start in coming months in high elevation areas. They will also seek agricultural labor opportunities related to weeding and harvesting second crops such as rice. The opportunities will bring in-kind or cash payments. Migration to other places outside the country, mainly Iran, will be another option for some households, and those household members will send back remittances. However, wages in Iran are less than they once were, both due to weakening of the Iranian economy and due to depreciation of the Iranian rial (IRR) against the Afghanistan afghani (AFN). Many replanted some of their fields with melons and watermelons, which are providng some additional income.

    From July to September 2014, households will likely be able to meet their minimal food requirements with provided food and non-food assistance and using coping mechanisms such as seeking additional labor opportunities. They are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) with the presence of humanitarian assistance. However, from October to December, when most of these labor opportunities become less available, and other food and income sources decrease, flood-affected households may enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3), if additional external assistance is not provided.

    Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

    Current Situation

    Spring and summer tend to have more active conflict and fighting than other times of year. This year has been no difference, and there have been a large number of casualties. According to United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mid-year report, in the first half of 2014, there was a 24 percent increase from last year in the number of civilians who were killed or injured by conflict. The increase has primarily been attributed to both government and insurgent forces moving active conflict closer to populated areas. As the conflict continues, many households continue to be displaced by conflict.

    As of June 30, 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) documented 683,301 IDPs who had been displaced by conflict. The highest concentrations were in Helmand Province in the South and Herat Province in the West. The Central highlands region (CHR) defined as Bamyan and Daykundi Provinces was the only region where displacement did not take place in the past year. 108,974 individuals were displaced by conflict in the past year, the highest displacement was recorded in the central and western regions (figure 5).

    Fighting between government forces and insurgents in Sangin, Musa Qala, Kajaki, Nawzad, and Marja Districts of Helmand Province caused 3,000 households to leave. The majority fled to central Lashkargah District in Helmand or to Gereshk town in Nahr-e- Saraj District. They are living with the host community. While some emergency health care has been provided, other assistance has not yet arrived, primarily due to limited access humanitarian agencies have to the affected area. Stocks of food and NFIs are pre-positioned nearby.

    Usually, UNHCR and other humanitarian partners provide food and non-food assistance to IDPs for a couple of months. Displaced people have lost their livelihoods while fleeing their area, and they temporarily become entirely dependent on external assistance. With the passage of time, IDPs adapt to the host communities’ opportunities and establish local livelihoods, often involving seeking daily, causal labor opportunities. However, due to decreased construction work across Afghanistan, much of this work is decreasing in availability. New IDPs who received external assistance are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) due to the presence of humanitarian assistance. Those who have not received external assistance are likely in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about IDPs:

    • The number of newly displaced people is likely to increase in coming months with continued conflict.
    • New IDPs are likely to receive external assistance at least once after being displaced.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    With casual labor demand for construction work being lower than recent years, this will be a significantly reduced source of income. This is primarily due to low investment in the construction sector with anticipated withdrawal of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). While investment in construction is likely to increase, the seasonal decline in winter and lower demand than recent years mean wages and availability of opportunities will likely not be what they have been in recent years.

    Mostly newly displaced IDPs will find difficult to secure reliable sources of food and income and will depend on external assistance to meet some of their needs. However, once they have exhausted the assistance, they are likely to enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from October to December 2014 as casual labor opportunities are less available at this time of year and their costs for heating and other essential non-food expenses increase.


    Events that Could Change the Outlook

    Table 1: Possible events over the next six months that could change the most-likely scenario.

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

    Northwestern and northeastern provinces

    Flood-affected households receive continued assistance

    If humanitarian and government organizations fully response to assist flood-affected households before the start of winter, they would be able to consume minimally adequate amounts of food and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) with the presence of humanitarian assistance.

    Northwestern and northeastern provinces

    Additional shelters are reconstructed before winter starts

    Sufficient funding for timely reconstruction of destroyed shelters before winter, particularly in Badakhshan, would assist affected households to protect themselves from cold weather in winter and lessen the burden on the host communities, improving the food security of both the host communities and the displaced.

    Nationwide

    No resolution of presidential election results or democratic transfer of power

    Political disorder would likely lead to increasing levels of conflict as armed groups attempt to take advantage of the disorder. This would affect all livelihood zones, especially if there were to be any disruption of salaries for government workers or the national police or army as these salaries reach every district.

    IDP camps

    Displaced people do not receive food assistance before winter

    If food assistance and supplies for winter are not distributed in IDP camps, mainly for the newly displaced, these households are likely to have food gaps and rising malnutrition with few income-earning opportunities at that time of year and the high costs of heating.

    Nationwide

    Pakistan or Iran forcibly repatriate Afghan refugees

    The government and humanitarian agencies would find it difficult to manage of the very large number of returnees, many arriving all at once. In areas where they concentrate, likely primarily in cities, returnees would put additional pressure on market prices by increasing demand and they would increase the supply of labor, with labor supply already typically outstripping demand during the winter.

     

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, July 2014

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, July 2014

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Cumulative October 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 precipitation (RFE2) by province

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Cumulative October 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 precipitation (RFE2) by province

    Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Cross-border displacement from Pakistan, as of July 15 2014

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Cross-border displacement from Pakistan, as of July 15 2014

    Source: OCHA

    Figure 3. Nominal retail prices in Nili, January 2013 to June 2014, Afghanistan afghani (AFN) per kilogram (kg)

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Nominal retail prices in Nili, January 2013 to June 2014, Afghanistan afghani (AFN) per kilogram (kg)

    Source: World Food Program (WFP) Afghanistan

    Figure 4. Natural disaster-affected individuals by province, January to June 2014, includes flood-affected individuals

    Figure 6

    Figure 4. Natural disaster-affected individuals by province, January to June 2014, includes flood-affected individuals

    Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

    Figure 5. IDPs displaced from July 2013 to June 2014 by region

    Figure 7

    Figure 5. IDPs displaced from July 2013 to June 2014 by region

    Source: UNHCR

    Figure 2

    Source:

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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