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In rural areas, food security outcomes improve only temporarily given poor crop production

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Afghanistan
  • June 2022
In rural areas, food security outcomes improve only temporarily given poor crop production

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  • Key Messages
  • CURRENT AND PROJECTED ANOMALIES
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2023
  • Key Messages
    • As of late June, the harvest has reportedly concluded early across most of the country, except in the higher elevation areas where harvesting is ongoing or has not yet started. At the national level, both rainfed and irrigated wheat production is likely to be below average, with northern and northeastern rainfed areas expected to experience the greatest deficits. Additionally, below-average snowfall during the 2021/22 wet season has led to below-average irrigation water availability. This will likely lead to below-average production of second season crops (including rice, maize, vegetables, and cash crops), with downstream areas worst affected.

    • Pasture conditions are likely below normal in most rangeland areas due to below-average precipitation in the 2021/22 wet season. Many pastoralist households are likely struggling to find sufficient pasture, particularly given increased competition for available pasture in higher elevation areas. Livestock prices are currently above average and are expected to increase further with Eid ul-Adha in the second week of July. However, purchasing power for pastoralists remains below average due to significantly above-average food prices.

    • In most rural areas, the harvest has likely improved households’ food consumption given increased availability of own crops and increased access to income from harvesting labor opportunities, with area-level outcomes expected to have improved to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). However, due to drought conditions, crop and livestock production is expected to be below average in many areas. A growing number of households who receive poor harvests are likely to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between August/September 2022 and January 2023. In higher elevation rural areas, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with the harvest around August.

    • Availability of income-earning opportunities remains below normal, and prices of food and essential non-food commodities are significantly above average. Poor households in urban areas are highly dependent on markets for a large share of their food. Given below-average purchasing power, most of these poor households are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the absence of assistance or Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes supported by assistance, with Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes now expected at the area level.


    CURRENT AND PROJECTED ANOMALIES

    ZONE

    CURRENT ANOMALIES

    PROJECTED ANOMALIES

    National

    • According to CHIRPS data, cumulative precipitation for the 2021/22 wet season from October 2021 to May 2022 was below average across the majority of Afghanistan and significantly below average in many northern, northeastern, and central areas. The March to May spring rains were beneficial but below average and did not erase earlier deficits. This is the second consecutive drought year in many areas.
    • According to the satellite-based Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, vegetation conditions are below average across most of the country (Figure 1). Conditions are significantly below average across much of the rainfed wheat production belt—from the west to the northeast—except in parts of Badakhshan and Herat provinces. Vegetation conditions are also below average in the irrigated wheat production areas that dominate the downstream plains.
    • According to key informants, the wheat harvest generally started early, in late April and early May, due to below-average precipitation and above-average temperatures which shortened the wheat life cycle. As of late June, the harvest has reportedly already concluded across most of the country, except in the higher elevation areas where harvesting is ongoing or has not yet started. Overall, 2021/22 wheat production is likely below average at the national level, with the worst deficits likely in the northern and northeastern rainfed production belt.
    • Due to below-average precipitation in the 2021/22 wet season, pasture conditions are likely below normal except in some localized high elevation areas. As such, it is expected that nomadic pastoralist households are moving their livestock to high elevations in search of grazing areas, likely resulting in high competition for limited available pasture. Additionally, according to local news reports, around 2,000 livestock that were moved to high elevation areas of Nuristan were lost due to snowfall in late June.
    • The exchange rate has been relatively stable since the Afghani regained some of its value in early 2022. However, the value of the Afghani against the USD remains below average and less than at the same time last year. In the current poor economic climate, availability of income-earning opportunities remains significantly reduced.
    • Diesel prices remain significantly higher than last year and average levels. According to data from WFP, across eight key reference markets of Afghanistan, diesel prices in May 2022 were 6 percent higher than in April, 65 percent higher than the same time last year, and 77 percent higher than the five-year average. Elevated fuel prices are contributing substantially to higher food prices in Afghanistan.
    • Despite the harvesting season, prices of staple wheat grain and wheat flour increased by 3 percent from April to May, reaching levels similar to the record-high prices recorded in January 2022. On average across eight key reference markets in Afghanistan, wheat flour prices in May were 63 percent above the five-year average and 49 percent higher than same time last year. Despite the stable exchange rate, price increases in recent months are being driven by higher export prices from Kazakhstan, higher transportation costs due to rising fuel prices, and poor domestic harvest prospects.
    • After declining in February, prices of both imported and local rice have been increasing again and, as of May 2022, had reached levels similar to the record high prices recorded at the beginning of the calendar year. Meanwhile, cooking oil prices have been increasing consistently since late 2020. In May 2022, cooking oil prices were more than double the five-year average and were the highest on record since January 2007.
    • Casual labor wages have seasonally increased with the warming weather but in May remained seven percent less than the five-year average across eight key reference markets. Additionally, above-average food prices are still significantly constraining purchasing power among market-dependent households across the country. Due mainly to higher wheat flour prices, an unskilled laborer could buy only 6.4 kilograms of wheat flour from one day’s work in May, at average wage rates and prices. This is 44 percent below the five-year average and is approaching the low 5.1 kilograms recorded during the 2007/08 food price crisis.
    • According to data from WFP, sheep prices in May 2022 were 11 percent higher than last year and 30 percent above average across eight key reference markets. However, the amount of wheat flour a pastoralist household could buy from the sale of one sheep was 22 percent lower than the five-year average due to significantly above-average wheat flour prices.
    • According to ACLED data, 1,491 security-related incidents and 1,867 associated fatalities occurred in the first half of 2022. These totals are 77 percent and 92 percent lower, respectively, than in the same time period of last year. Meanwhile, according to OCHA, 1,155 individuals were displaced due to conflict in Afghanistan from January to June 2022. Similarly, this is a tremendous reduction from the 278,292 individuals displaced due to conflict in the same time period of 2021. The majority of displacements in 2022 occurred in Baghlan and Panjsher provinces. Many recently displaced households have likely been separated from assets and typical food and income sources, with worst-affected poor households likely to face consumption gaps in the absence food assistance.
    • According to OCHA, 46,263 individuals were impacted by natural disasters from January 1 to June 26, 2022. This total is almost double the number impacted during the same time period of last year but is less than in previous years. The majority of impacted individuals in 2022 were reported in the west region due to earthquakes in January and February of 2022. On June 12, 2022, an earthquake of 5.9 magnitude struck southeastern Afghanistan, with Paktika and Khost provinces worst impacted. The earthquake reportedly killed 770 individuals and injured about 1,500. Though impacts are still being evaluated, thousands of households are expected to have lost their homes and livestock.
    • WFP reports targeting 10 million people with humanitarian assistance (expected to include mostly emergency food assistance as well as some livelihoods and nutrition assistance) in June 2022. This represents a notable scale-down from the 18 million targeted in May alongside reduced needs during the harvesting season. However, this target is still more than five times the number assisted in June of the past two years. In Balkhab district of Sari Pul, WFP suspended assistance for 18,900 people in June due to risk of armed conflict.
    • Wheat production is likely to be below average at the national level, with the worst deficits expected in rainfed production areas. Irrigated wheat production is also expected to be below average due to below-average area planted and some reductions in yield.
    • According to international forecasts, above-average mean temperatures are most likely throughout most of the country through at least January 2023.
    • Production of second season crops such as rice, maize, vegetables, and cash crops is expected to be below average due to below-average precipitation, below-average irrigation water availability driven by below-average snow accumulation and early snow melt, and competition with cash crops.
    • According to international forecasts, precipitation in the beginning of Afghanistan’s 2022/23 winter wet season, from October 2022 to January 2023, is most likely to be below average given forecast La Niña conditions, though a variety of outcomes are possible given the long lead-time of the forecast. Should this forecast manifest, it could lead to a third consecutive drought year in parts of Afghanistan.
    • Due to high global fuel prices and disruptions to supply chains, fuel prices are expected to remain high or further increase and are expected to remain significantly above average throughout the projection period.
    • Due to high transportation costs and high global prices, food prices are likely to remain significantly above average throughout the projection period. Below-average national production and higher regional prices will also contribute to above-average wheat flour prices, which are generally expected to increase throughout the winter and lean season. 
    • Livestock prices are expected to increase through Eid al-Adha, expected on July 9, given seasonally high demand. However, pasture conditions are expected to deteriorate during the dry season and remain below average through at least the start of the 2022/23 wet season, pressuring pastoralist households.
    • Clashes between the Taliban and anti-Taliban groups—primarily led by the National Resistance Forces—are likely to continue to increase in frequency and scale as the weather warms in the coming months. Panjsher and neighboring provinces are likely to be worst affected as resistance groups seek to gain control of Taliban-held districts. With the onset of winter, levels of conflict will likely decline again. Overall, levels of conflict and civilian impact will likely remain significantly lower than in recent years.
    • As of April, the World Bank expected Afghanistan’s economy to contract further in 2022, with real GDP per capita expected to decline by around 30 percent from the end of 2020 to the end of 2022. Due to reduced investment and economic activity, labor opportunities and wages will likely remain below average during the projection period.
    • Foreign remittances will likely remain above average as the diaspora continues to respond to reduced purchasing power and high levels of need in Afghanistan. However, remittances from Iran will likely be below normal due to fewer Afghan workers in the country.
    • Humanitarian assistance provision will likely remain significantly higher than in recent years. WFP plans to reach 10 million people each month from June to September. Following this, given historical trends, WFP will most likely scale up assistance provision during the winter and lean seasons. However, overall development funding will likely remain significantly below average due to less interaction between the donor community and the Taliban government.

    PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2023

    In most rural areas, seasonal improvements in access to food and income from crop and livestock production along with increased income from casual and agricultural labor opportunities will likely continue enabling most rural households to meet their basic food needs in the coming months. However, given overall below-average income-earning opportunities and below-average purchasing power due to high prices, many poor rural households are likely to remain unable to meet all their essential non-food needs, with area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes likely to persist in the June to September period. Additionally, poor rural households who realize significantly reduced crop production due to drought and who are not receiving humanitarian assistance will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during this time.

    In higher elevation rural areas where the harvest has not started yet, many poor households are likely benefiting from seasonal availability of some livestock products, but at levels insufficient to meet all their food needs, particularly for households typically more dependent on crop production. As such, area-level Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are likely to persist before increased availability of food from the harvest improves outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) around August. However, worst-affected poor households who are not receiving assistance will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    As the winter and lean seasons progress, an increasing number of agricultural households will exhaust stocks atypically early due to the poor production season. At the same time, seasonal availability of income-earning opportunities will decline, and high fuel prices will strain livelihoods and increase households’ expenditure requirements for heating during the winter. As such, many poor rural households will again begin to face consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes from October 2022 to January 2023. Additionally, the below-average precipitation forecast for the start of the 2022/23 wet season could impact planting and reduce availability of agricultural labor opportunities, depending on the timing and distribution of precipitation received, though the worst impacts of another below-average precipitation season will be felt beyond the projection period.

    In urban areas, despite some seasonal improvements in labor availability and wages, many poor households are facing continued hardship due to reduced economic activity, increased unemployment, below-average labor demand and wages, and significantly above-average food prices. Given significantly reduced household purchasing power, most poor households will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of assistance and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) in the presence of assistance throughout the projection period, with an increasing number likely to face gaps in their ability to meet their needs as income-earning opportunities reduce and food prices rise during the winter and lean seasons. At the area level, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected throughout the projection period.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario:

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

    Localized rural areas

    Drought conditions result in significantly below-average crop and livestock production

    Poor households in affected areas would likely not experience normal seasonal improvements in access to food and income from crop production, labor, and livestock. Some agricultural households may harvest little or nothing. Livestock production could be significantly reduced, and many pastoralist households would likely engage in atypically early livestock sales at lower prices, reducing income earned for the season. Area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes would likely re-emerge in affected areas in the October 2022 to January 2023 period.

    Figures This is a map of Afghanistan showing most of the country in brown, indicating below normal vegetation conditions. The norther

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: USGS/NOAA

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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