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Below-average wheat harvest in Badghis Province to lead to Stressed outcomes

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Afghanistan
  • October 2014
Below-average wheat harvest in Badghis Province to lead to Stressed outcomes

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that could Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • An above-average wheat harvest in most of Afghanistan, normal production and sales of second season crops, and other typical income sources are helping a majority of households stock normally for the winter and lean season. Most areas of the country are likely to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through the winter and lean season.

    • Below-average precipitation in Badghis Province during March and April and cold weather during crop vegetative stage led to a below-average harvest. Poor households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from November 2014 through March 2015.

    • Nearly 33,000 displaced Pakistani families, primarily in Khost and Paktika Provinces, are in need of food and non-food assistance this winter. These households will move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) if additional food assistance is not delivered beyond November 2014.

    • Households displaced in 2014 due to conflict, flash floods, and landslides will require food and non-food assistance during the winter, and will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3), depending on access to humanitarian assistance.


    National Overview
    Current Situation
     
    Wheat was harvested throughout Afghanistan between May and September 2014. Production at the national level was reported to be slightly higher than last year, which was already above the five-year average. Most provinces had average to above-average wheat production, with the exception of Badghis Province where production was reported to be adversely affected by below-average precipitation and cold temperatures during key stages of crop development.
     
    The harvest of second-season crops such as cotton, maize, and rice is underway in irrigated areas of the country, with field reports indicating normal production. In the eastern region, vegetables such as cucumber, okra, eggplant, tomato, and onion have been harvested with normal production reported. Similarly, production of melons, watermelons, and grapes has increased as compared to last year. Soy beans were introduced to several districts of Balkh Province four years ago and have developed normally on more than 5,000 hectares. They are used for various purposes including extracting flour, milk, and forage for livestock.
     
    October marked the beginning of the 2014/15 wet season in Afghanistan. Most of the country received precipitation, with the heaviest in eastern and northeastern provinces. Some districts in the southeastern region, particularly in Khost Province, received heavy rainfall and hail that damaged hundreds of hectares of crops including maize, rice, and vegetables. With the start of the wet season, farmers started preparing land for winter crops such as wheat and vegetables in lowland areas. In relatively insecure areas including Helmand Province, thousands of hectares of land have been prepared for poppy cultivation. With the arrival of October, households in the highlands started to stock basic food and non-food items to be prepared for the upcoming winter, as most high-elevation areas are cut off from major markets during the winter.
     
    Despite favorable wheat production, wheat grain prices did not decrease significantly as expected after the conclusion of the harvest throughout the country. The average national price remains nearly 14 percent higher than the respective 2013 levels, while prices in some major markets are up to 26 percent higher year-on-year, particularly in Hirat and Mazar markets. Similarly, wheat flour prices are up to 17 percent higher than last year in some major markets such as Jalalabad and Mazar. Wheat grain and flour prices in Afghanistan have experienced upward pressure due to decreased flow of imported food commodities during the prolonged presidential election process. Local wheat grain and flour are reported to be substituting for the decreased flow of Pakistani and Kazakhstani wheat flour.
     
    Above-average agricultural production during 2014 increased demand for agricultural labor. Average agricultural wages increased compared to the previous year by nine percent. Similarly, more spring precipitation than last year, mainly in the central regions and the central highlands, improved pasture conditions and forage availability, resulting in improved livestock body conditions, higher prices, and increased income for pastoralists and livestock owners. Livestock prices are similar or higher in many markets except in Kabul and Jalalabad. However, some pastoralists in insecure areas experienced restricted access to pasture due to conflict.
     
    Conflict during the spring and summer caused causalities and economic hardship. It displaced thousands of people. For example between 1 June and 15 August, the United Nations recorded over 5,000 security-related incidents across the country, representing an increase of 10 percent over the same period in 2013 and an increase of 18 percent over the same period in 2012. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 755,000 individuals are classified as internally displaced persons (IDPs) as of the end of September 2014, of which over 142,800 have been displaced during the last 12 months. In September 2014 alone, 33,200 individuals were displaced. During recent conflicts in Helmand Province, locals reported that markets were not functioning for several days. Farmers found it difficult to harvest their crops. Temporarily displaced households lost access to protected water sources and were obliged to drink from unprotected sources that further exacerbated their health conditions. Recently displaced households are in need of food and non-food assistance. Displaced households receiving assistance are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), but only due to humanitarian support, and those displaced households who have not received assistance are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    During May and June 2014, flash floods and landslides affected areas of northern and northeastern Afghanistan, damaging crops on thousands of hectares, destroying thousands of houses, and displacing hundreds of families. The most recent damage assessment identified nearly 7,800 houses that were completely destroyed. Out of this number approximately 1,000 houses are inaccessible due to security. Food and non-food items were distributed by humanitarian agencies to the affected households but only for two months. Displaced households living in IDP camps started leaving the camps as their temporary shelters were inadequate for the coming winter temperatures. Most families who lost shelters and crops from flash floods and landslides and have not received food and non-food assistance are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Households who were not affected by natural and man-made disasters are at None (IPC Phase 1) as most food and income sources are normal. Production of winter crops such as wheat and barley and spring crops such as rice, maize, vegetables, and fruit is average to above-average at the national level. Remittance flows from the Persian Gulf countries are normal, constituting a significant source of income for many households, particularly in the southeastern provinces. Though decreased labor opportunities and depreciation of the Iranian riyal (IRR) have made Iran a less profitable option for labor migration from Afghanistan, many households still receive remittances from relatives in Iran.

    Assumptions

    The October 2014 to March 2015 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • The October 2014 to May 2015 wet season is expected to have average to above-average amounts of rainfall and snowfall. Average precipitation is forecast for October to December 2014 while for January to March 2015 above-average precipitation is expected.
    • It is expected that trade flows to and from Afghanistan will return to normal conditions now that a president has been sworn in. Imports of wheat flour from Pakistan and Kazakhstan will continue at seasonally normal rates for the foreseeable future. However, flows of Kazakhstani wheat flour may decrease slightly due to somewhat lower wheat production in Kazakhstan than last year.
    • Remittances sent from the Persian Gulf countries will be at normal levels during the winter. However, due to decreased work availability in Iran and the lower purchasing power of the Iranian riyal, households with members working in Iran will have less remittances than during a normal year.
    • Pakistan has agreed to continue to accommodate Afghan refugees through 2015. Iran has not indicated that it would force repatriation. Voluntary repatriations are at a minimum during the winter months. Those who returned recently to Afghanistan will be assisted by humanitarian agencies, as needed.
    • Conflict and insecurity are expected to decrease during the winter months. Further displacement by conflict may be limited from December 2014 to March 2015. Most of those who have been displaced during the last 12 months will be assisted with food and non-food items.
    • No further large-scale influx of displaced persons is anticipated from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Displaced households may not be able to go back to their places of origin this winter as the military operation is still ongoing in North Waziristan Agency. It is expected that displaced households may receive food assistance until the end of November and non-food items during winter from humanitarian agencies.
    • It is expected that foreign and domestic investments will start again following the resolution of the presidential election dispute and the formation of the new administration. Local businesses will reinvest in trade activities, and prices of many food commodities will decrease to normal from their current above-average levels as trade resumes.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Farmers will plant winter wheat in November and December, primarily in irrigated areas but also in some rainfed areas. Planting will progress normally in the majority of the country due to normal availability of irrigation water after normal conditions during the previous wet season. Some reports from the Directorates of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (DAILs) indicate that their budgets for the subsidizing improved wheat seeds and fertilizers had decreased. This is primarily because of the reduced level of donor funding. For example, the DAIL in Balkh Province reported that its budget for the purchase of improved wheat seed and fertilizers is 40 percent less than last year at 29 million afghanis (USD 502,000). However, subsidies have not been available historically with any regularity to all farmers, and many households have saved seeds or will be able to purchase seeds from other sources.

    Most households will use food stocks from the previous two cropping seasons during the winter months. This year is the third consecutive year of above-average wheat production, so households have above-normal stocks for the winter and for the January to April lean season. Income and food from second crop harvests including rice, maize, vegetables, and fruit will be used over the coming months. However, some stone-fruits including almond sustained damages from late spring freezes, requiring affected households to cope with the decreased level of income from this source. Most areas will be able to secure their basic food needs between October 2014 and March 2015 through normal food and income sources and will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

    Most households displaced by conflict will need food and non-food assistance for several months, particularly during the winter as cold weather will also require appropriate shelter and adequate warm clothing. Recently displaced households will not be able to adjust immediately to their new environments, and they may lack access to the sources of income and the coping strategies they would use in their places of origin. Similarly, households living in tents and other temporary shelter in Kabul’s informal settlements (KIS) will require food and non-food items for the winter, particularly heating fuel. The humanitarian community will support those people recently displaced by natural and man-made disasters during the winter, and they will provide basic food and non-food items, including support to 49,000 individuals living in KIS. Displaced households will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) from now until March 2015, but only due to committed support from humanitarian partners.

    Households who lost shelter due to flash floods and landslides in the spring of 2014 in the northern and northeastern provinces and have not yet been able to reconstruct their homes will face significant difficulties this winter. The majority of them will require assistance in non-food items, including warm clothing and heating fuel. Most of these households are expected to spend winter in their partially repaired houses, sharing rooms with relatives, or in rented houses where available. It is anticipated that a majority of remaining reconstruction planned by humanitarian agencies will not be completed before the winter. Those disaster-affected households that will not receive food and other non-food items during the winter will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until March 2015.


    Areas of Concern

    Badghis Province

    Current Situation

    Rainfall was below-average in Badghis Province during the 2013/14 wet season at 66 percent of the 2002 to 2011 average. Furthermore, the province received less precipitation during March and April, a critical period for rainfed crops that typically cover more than 80 percent of cultivated land. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) shows poor vegetation level for both rainfed and irrigated areas compared to the last two years and the 2001-to-2010 mean. Wheat is the major staple crop that occupies more than 85 percent of all cultivated land, mostly in rainfed areas.
     
    According to reports received from DAIL in Badghis Province, wheat production is estimated to be 64 percent below last year’s harvest, with estimated 2014 production of 29,400 metric tons. The causes cited for low production are low and untimely precipitation, cold temperatures during the vegetative stage, and flash flooding, especially in Muqur, Ab Kamari, Qadis, and Qala-e-Naw Districts. Melons and watermelons, as well as some vegetables, which are a source of income to many households, were also affected by reduced precipitation and the prevalence of plant diseases that led to lower quantities and poorer quality. Cumin (zeera), which is also a source of income to some households and is cultivated on rainfed, hilly land, was also stunted by the below-average precipitation. Reports indicate that livestock rearing, which is a significant source of food and income in this Northwest Agropastoral livelihood zone, has been affected by decreased availability of forage, as well as limited access to pasture due to the occupation of some areas by anti-government elements who are not allowing livestock grazing. The MAIL Statistics Department reports September wheat grain and flour prices were up to 37 percent and 14 percent higher than last year, respectively. Compared to the five-year average (2009-2013) wheat grain and flour prices are up by 14 and 11 percent, respectively. In September, the price of a male sheep was 23 percent less than last year and that of a one year old female sheep was 29 percent less. Similarly, the mutton price was 23 percent less than last year, reflecting additional sheep sales.
     
    Households are currently consuming food stocks from last year and their limited harvested cereal crops from this year as well as meat from livestock slaughters. Households typically sell a portion of their livestock to procure and stock food and non-food items before the start of winter, as most of the area in this province has poor road access and mountainous terrain. Some poor households are receiving income by shelling pistachios. Conflict has also affected many households in Badghis, with nearly 5,000 people displaced since the start of 2014, mostly from Muqur, Jawand, Bala Murghab, and Ab Kamari Districts to t Qala-e-Naw. Increasing insecurity hinders access to pasture. However, it has also permitted increased poppy cultivation, which has consistently increased over the past several years. According to the Afghanistan Opium Survey conducted in 2013 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Ministry of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan, more than 2,300 hectares of land in Badghis Province was cultivated under poppy in 2012/2013, the most recent year for which data is available. This represents a 23 percent increase as compared to the previous year and nearly double the five-year average. Income generated from poppy goes primarily to better-off households, but is still a source of income for many households who provide labor during the harvest. This province currently remains in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) due to the availability of some limited grains from this year’s harvest and income from different sources.
     
    Assumptions
     
    In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about Badghis Province:
     
    • It is expected that households will likely sell additional livestock to obtain basic necessities as forage availability will decrease in coming months.
    • It is expected that households will deplete their food stocks earlier than normal.
     
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
     
    In the coming months, households will try to sell a higher proportion of their livestock in order to obtain food and non-food items. However, this option is not available to all poor households. Labor migration to Iran has become less profitable, but households with members in Iran may still receive remittances. Some households will also try to send their members to Iran to seek additional income. The province will move to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from November 2014 to March 2015 as poor households will have lower food stocks and fewer work opportunities when they enter the winter season.
     
    Khost and Paktika Provinces
     
    Military operations in North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan since June 2014 displaced more than 1 million people in Pakistan and led more than 200,000 individuals (33,000 households) to cross into Khost and Paktika Provinces of Afghanistan, putting additional pressure on already limited local resources. As of October 14, 87 percent of assessed families have been assisted with food, 60 percent with non-food items, and 31 percent with tents. In both provinces, local communities and humanitarian partners have provided support to displaced households. Displaced households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only with the presence of humanitarian assistance.
     
    It is anticipated that households displaced from Pakistan will remain in Afghanistan until the end of the winter season due to continued insecurity in their places of origin. Since being displaced from Pakistan, many have been living in open spaces within the host communities. However, there will likely be a shortage of adequate shelter during winter’s coldest temperatures. Host communities report a lack of resources to support displaced families during the winter when food prices increase seasonally. Based on winterization packages allocated during winter months, Pakistani displaced families are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) though only with the presence of humanitarian assistance through December 2014. Without additional assistance from January to March 2015, these displaced households will likely move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
     
    Casual labor availability and wages
     
    Political uncertainty caused by the prolonged presidential election process that lasted for almost seven months led to decreased investment in many sectors including construction, which is a key employer of casual labor. Similarly, trade, mainly food imports and exports, was less active than recent years, increasing the prices of food commodities. Badakhshan and Balkh Provinces are among those had decreased demand for casual labor, with wage rates in September 23 and 14 percent less than last year, respectively. However, the largest decline in casual labor wage rates was reported in Faryab Province, where September wage rates were 43 percent less than last year and the five-year average. Terms of trade (TOT) between casual labor and wheat flour also decreased in all major cities of Afghanistan. The largest decrease was in Faryab Province, limiting food access for many households involved in this sector. In Faryab Province, one day of casual labor was worth 7 kg of locally produced wheat flour in September. With four days of work availability per week, a casual laborer can obtain 110 kg of wheat flour in a month, which is slightly greater than the average household wheat consumption requirement per month in Afghanistan. With less income, households will have reduced food access.
     
    Meanwhile, due to good agricultural production in rural areas, agricultural labor availability and wages are better than last year in most provinces, with a nine percent increase in average wages as compared to last year.
     

    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

    Badghis Province

    Humanitarian partners provide emergency assistance

    Most humanitarian partners are awaiting further information before planning interventions. If humanitarian agencies provide assistance, households may be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) with the presence of humanitarian assistance during the winter and lean season.

    Northwestern and northeastern provinces

    Additional assistance for those who lost crops and shelters to floods and landslides in the spring

    If additional assistance is provided  affected households are likely to move to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) with the presence of humanitarian assistance during the winter and lean season.

    Nationwide

    Pakistan or Iran forcibly repatriate Afghan refugees

    The government and humanitarian agencies would find it difficult to manage the very large number of returnees, many arriving all at once. In areas where they are concentrated, likely primarily in cities, returnees would put additional pressure on market prices by increasing demand and would also 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 Afghanistan

    IDPs displaced from August 2013 to August 2014 by region

    Figure 2

    IDPs displaced from August 2013 to August 2014 by region

    Source: UNHCR

    Cumulative rainfall estimation (mm) in Badghis Province of 2013/14 wet season compared to 2012/13 and the average.

    Figure 3

    Cumulative rainfall estimation (mm) in Badghis Province of 2013/14 wet season compared to 2012/13 and the average.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 1

    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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