The Planning of Emergency Seed Supply for Afghanistan in 2002 and Beyond
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Contents Findings Part I Part II Part III References Abbreviations/Glossary Appendix 1 2 3 4 5 Maps
Part I : Context of Providing Seed Aid to Afghanistan « previous page | next page »
1.0 - Introduction
1.1 - Food Production
1.2 - Recent Wheat Improvement Efforts
1.3 - Are different strategies needed for the irrigated and non-irrigated areas?

1.2 - Food Production

Afghanistan is a country where 85% of the population depends for their livelihood on agriculture (FAO,2001). 75% of the population is characterized as rural. Only 12% of the land is arable (Cooperative Institute for Applied Meteorology at University of Missouri-Columbia), and 50% of agriculture is located north of the Hindu Kush mountains. Wheat provides the bulk of calorie intake in Afghanistan accounting for about 75% of food grain production.

The highlands of Afghanistan have some of the most marginalized areas and poorest communities of the region. Crops are grown under harsh conditions, on shallow soils, with minimum inputs and often under severe biotic and abiotic stresses including cold and drought. A map entitled, hypsometry, at, shows that much of central and northern Afghanistan lies between 2000 and 5000 feet AGL. National wheat production was estimated to be 2.9 million tons in 1976 (Nyrop& Seekins), dropping to 1.7 million tons in 1993 (ICARDA), and rising back to 2.8 (2.124 Tunwar) million tons in 1998 (FAO,2000). Often bread and yogurt alone constitute a full meal in rural areas. Paddy rice is usually sold by farmers and not retained for family consumption. Maize is used mainly as feed, while potatoes and various fruit crops are produced for both domestic consumption and as cash crops. Afghan dried fruits and nuts (mainly almonds and apricots) accounted for 60 percent of the world market in 1982, but declined to around 16 percent by 1990; the share is much lower now, but these products are still important foreign exchange earners.

Barley after wheat, appears the most important food crop in the Lalmi, or rainfed, areas and traditionally occupying about 300,000 ha. A map and graphs of winter wheat production can be found in the at this site (see "satellite vegetation index).

The maps Cereal I and Cereal II at show the distribution of wheat, barley, maize, rice, and sorghum production in the early 1980s.

Rural Afghanistan is characterized by abysmally low income levels, not even adequate to ensure a minimum quality of life compatible with physical well being(FAO,2001). Drought and political instability have devastated Afghan agriculture especially in the rain-fed areas. The drought affected almost each and every sector of the farming i.e., the draft oxen, fertilizer use, sheep, goats, etc. (FAO,2001). Small holders, especially in rain-fed (non favored environments) "have lost all worldly possessions and are waiting for some miracle"(FAO,2001). Nearly 50 percent of the arable land is irrigated and three-quarters of it is located north of the Hindu Kush Mountains. The irrigated areas are known as "Abi" and the dry farmed areas are called "Lalmi." The General Economic Map at shows lalmi areas in yellow. The map, water resources and irrigation, shows the local of irrigation systems as well surface water availability.

According to pre-1978 figures, irrigated area provides roughly 77 percent of all wheat and 85% of all food and industrial crops (Tunwar. 1998. p. 3). According to FAO's Land Cover Atlas of Afghanistan and FAO AQUASTAT data, annual irrigated land amounts to some 2.5 million hectares.

This is in contrast to earlier figures that note: "Of Afghanistan's surface area of 63 million hectares, only 8 million were arable, the remainder being high mountain land and arid wasteland. The arable land was scattered throughout the country, primarily in valleys along rivers and other water sources. The total irrigable area was about 5.3 million hectares, of which half was irrigated annually while the other half remained fallow. Only 1.4 million hectares of the land irrigated in sequence had sufficient water throughout the year to allow double cropping. Before 1978 the irrigated land area provided Afghanistan with 85 percent of all food and industrial crops produced. Another 1.4 million hectares of cultivated rain-fed land supplemented the irrigated areas. Thus, about 4 million hectares of land were cultivated annually before 1978 by 1.2 million farm families" Reference:

The pre-1978 figures need adjustment as an estimated 30 percent of all irrigation systems are believed to have been damaged or destroyed by the war. Adding in the effects of abandonment, neglect and lack of maintenance, another 15 to 20 percent of the irrigation infrastructure is probably unusable for agricultural purposes. Hence, the actual irrigated land amounts to about 1.2-1.3 million hectares, decreasing every year. The decline in irrigation availability and efficiency has exacerbated the already-failing crop production. Reference:

Climate Change? Further adjustment may need to be made for the effects of three years of drought. Even if rains in the 2001-2002 cropping season and the following year are normal, water table recharge in many parts of Afghanistan may take several years to return to normal. Weather predictions based on surface sea temperatures in September 2001 were neutral for the fall-winter season in Afghanistan. Reference: But, as of Sept. 2001, precipitation in Southwest Asia since 1998 remained at less than 55% of long-term averages. In some areas this has been the worse drought seen in 50 years. Planners of relief aid cannot rule out the possibility that global warming climate change could have persisting adverse affects on Afghanistan's agricultural potential. Drought and salinity tolerance in crop cultivars may be more important than yield potential.

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