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AFGHANISTAN

PUBLIC POLICY
POLICY
AFGHANISTAN
PUBLIC
RESEARCH
ORGANIZATION
RESEARCH
ORGANIZATION
www.appro.org.af

Policy Brief
October 2016

www.appro.org.af

Food Insecurity in
Afghanistan

About APPRO:

Background

Afghanistan Public Policy Research


Organization (APPRO) is an independent social research organization with
a mandate to promote social and
policy learning to benefit development and reconstruction efforts in
Afghanistan and other less developed countries through conducting
applied research, monitoring and
evaluation, and training and mentoring. APPRO is registered with the
Ministry of Economy in Afghanistan
as a non-profit, non-government organization. APPRO is headquartered
in Kabul, Afghanistan, with offices in
Mazar-e Shrif (north), Herat (west),
Kandahar (south), Jalalabad (east),
and Bamyan (center). APPRO is also
the founding organization of APPROEurope, registered in Belgium.

Statistics on food insecurity in Afghanistan tell a troubling story. Roughly


9.3 million people making up an
estimated quarter of the Afghan
population are in need of food
assistance.1 Six percent of the population are severely food insecure, both
in terms of current consumption and
coping capacity.2 Female-headed
households are more likely than others
to be severely food insecure and to
subsist on a generally poor diet. Internally displaced people, particularly
those living in tents, also represent a
high share of the food insecure population.3 Children are disproportionately
affected by food insecurity forty
percent of children under five years
of age are thought to be chronically
malnourished.4

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http://appro.org.af/briefs/

There are significant variations in


levels, causes, and repercussions of
food insecurity across geographic and
economic groups in the country.5 There
is, for example, a correlation between
food insecurity and terrain characteristics. In high elevation locations, access
to food and livelihood alternatives
1 World Food Program Afghanistan Country Brief
(2016), available at http://documents.wfp.org/stellent/
groups/public/documents/ep/wfp269062.pdf?_ga=1.1
37140848.1756028040.1461494867
2 Poncin, Amandine (2015), Seasonal Food Security
Assessment, Food Security and Agriculture Cluster
Afghanistan.
3 Poncin, Amandine (2015).
4 World Food Program Afghanistan Country Brief
(2016).
5 Famine Early Warning Systems Network (2007),
Afghanistan Food Security Conditions and Causes.

remains limited. This is reflected in the


fact that the Central Highlands and the
extreme Northeast consistently suffer
food insecurity.6 Also, food insecurity
is more pronounced in rural areas
where an estimated 80 percent of the
countrys population resides.
The drivers of rural food insecurity are
insufficient access to land, declining
land fertility, drought, and the extent
to which support to those in need of
food is provided by different communities. At the same time, however,
urban food insecurity is growing
among migrating rural residents,
returning immigrants from neighboring
countries, and the internally displaced
who continue to come to cities to
seek employment opportunities, have
better access to basic services, escape
hardship related to lack of access to
land and water, and escape armed
conflict.
Afghanistan has one of the fastest
urbanization rates in the world, with
an annual urban growth rate of 3.14
percent. For Kabul the annual growth
rate is 10 percent. The number of
urban residents in Afghanistan has
surged from 4.6 million in 2001, to 7.1
million in 2012, to upwards of 9 million
or more in 2015, contributing to more
food insecurity in cities, especially
among impoverished and displaced
households.
The principal causes of food insecurity
6 World Bank (2012), Poverty and Food Security in
Afghanistan.

Food insecurity
occurs when people
do not have reliable
access to a sufficient
quantity of affordable
nutritious food.

The number of urban


residents in Afghanistan has surged
from 4.6 million in
2001, to 7.1 million in
2012, to upwards of
9 million or more in
2015, contributing to
more food insecurity
in cities, especially
among impoverished
and displaced households.

The principal causes


of food insecurity
in Afghanistan
are widespread
poverty, lack of job
opportunities, low
household income,
insufficient domestic
agricultural production, land and water
scarcity, climate
related issues such as
droughts, increasing
population, conflict
and insecurity, and
displacement due
to any or all these
preceding factors.

are widespread poverty, lack of job opportunities especially in rural areas, low or
nonexistent household savings, conflict and
insecurity, increasing population, and insufficient agricultural production. While a severe
problem in itself, food insecurity also results
in a host of negative consequences, such
as the forced sale of land and other assets,
family conflicts, poor health outcomes,
early marriages of girls, begging, and taking
children out of school in order to send them
to work. Some of these consequences are
used as coping strategies that although they
might solve the immediate problem of food
insecurity for families, create to additional
hardships in the future that are even more
difficult to overcome.
Around 76 percent of rural households
in Afghanistan are directly dependent on
land for food and livelihoods.7 Agricultural
production has declined relatively, due to a
growing population and absolutely, due to
land scarcity, insufficient water for irrigation,
and technical and logistical challenges to
increasing production and income generation
through agriculture. Environmental degradation is also negatively impacting agricultural
productivity. Uncontrolled grazing, pastureland encroachment, and loss of forested
lands and ground cover have compounded
drought conditions, particularly the availability of water for irrigation.
Food aid programs do not fully meet the
growing food needs of great swathes of
the population since they typically support
people in acute crises such as natural and
human-made disasters. In Kandahar, for
example, severely food insecure people tend
to have access to one meal per day, often
consisting solely of bread. Children and
pregnant women suffering form malnutrition
are targeted beneficiaries of some food aid
programs, however.
Other forms of assistance come from the
tradition whereby wealthier families in a
community assist their poorer neighbors
and relatives through food and clothing
donations. This tradition is more common
in rural areas, due to closely knit ties within
extended families, than in urban areas. This
assistance, however, is ad hoc and can be
unreliable. Another source of locally based
food assistance in some communities is
the use of zakat, an Islamic tax, which is
collected by the elders and distributed to the
extremely poor.
7 Poncin, Amandine (2015).

Many mosques make announcements


during Friday prayers seeking donations for
individuals or families facing a tragedy such
as a funeral. During the month of Ramadan,
mosques provide Iftar free of charge for
everyone, including the food insecure.
At other times of the year, the poor may
congregate outside mosques to beg for food
and money. Mosques do not play a direct,
ongoing role in feeding the poor, however.

Recommendations
Prioritize Food Security on Development Agenda: Aid agencies and the
government should recognize the
degree to which food insecurity can
feed into discontent and criminality and
prioritize food security in development
interventions. Media should be enlisted
to disseminate information about the
seriousness of food insecurity and to
increase awareness about sources of
relief.
Enlist Assistance from Mosques and
Religious Leaders for Food Security: As
trusted traditional institutions, mosques
should be encouraged to take an active
role in providing food assistance to the
needy. Setting up community kitchens
within mosques by using funds from
donations and zakat, for example, could
help alleviate some of the hardship.
Mosques could also act as a medium
to relay the most acute forms of food
insecurity in their communities to
relevant authorities. The traditional
system of ad hoc assistance in which
wealthier families provide food and
other supports to the poor could also
be channeled through mosques to
augment other efforts.
Prioritize Food Security in Agricultural
Extension: Three-quarters of rural
households rely on agriculture for their
livelihoods. These are generally smallscale farmers engaged in near-subsistence agriculture with limited capacity
to improve and increase agricultural
yield without external support. Interventions to improve livelihoods should
place particular emphasis on food
security as a precondition for better
livelihoods.
Support Community-based Arrangements for Food Security: The traditional
system of ad hoc help, where wealthier

Food insecurity
results in a host
of negative consequences, such as
the forced sale
of land and other
assets, family
conflicts, poor
health outcomes,
early marriages of
girls, begging, and
taking children out
of school in order to
send them to work.

families and business community provide


food and other assistance to poor, should
be coordinated and organized in collaboration with mosques, to ensure the
provision of food for the most vulnerable
in the community.
Identify and Utilize New Sources of
Food: In coordination with local authorities and cooperation with mosques
and businesses, left over food from
hotels and larger restaurants, especially
in major cities and provincial centers,
should be collected and sorted hygienically and distributed to the urban poor
and the most food insecure.

Accurate and Up-to-date Data on Food


Insecurity: There should be active
coordination among aid agencies,
mosques, and community authorities
for identifying the most acute and
chronic situations of food insecurity and
designing responses to alleviate them.
Use Media to Increase Awareness
on Food Insecurity: Media should
be alerted to the seriousness of food
insecurity throughout Afghanistan
and guided in its public awareness
messaging on the need for, or availability of, sources of relief such as
mosques and community kitchens and
distribution centers.