Afghanistan Drought Risk Management Strategy

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1.1 Rationale for long-term drought risk management strategy

The 2018-drought directly affected more than two-thirds of Afghanistan (22 out of total 34 provinces) with around 10.5 million people being most severely affected (of the total 17 million in these 22 provinces). 13.5 million people were facing “Crisis” or worse levels of food insecurity in September 2018 and at least 300,000 people internally displaced due to drought. This was one of the most severe droughts in recent times in Afghanistan. Several strands of scientific analyses and experiential evidence from Afghanistan indicate the increasing frequency, scale, duration, and impacts of drought in the country; a trend that is set to intensify in the future according to all climate change scenarios for Afghanistan. These increasingly recurrent droughts not only have adverse impacts at household and community levels - in terms of food nutrition security, livelihood security, water, sanitation and health, and coping capacities - but also on ecosystems (especially on land and water resources) as well as at macro levels in terms of drought-induced displacements, conflicts over depleting / scarce natural resources and straining fiscal and policy space.

Efforts over the years to address these adverse impacts of drought have largely focussed on ‘management’ of drought event per se, wherein drought-impacted populace and (to certain extent) stress to ecosystems has been addressed through response and recovery actions. However, these efforts didn’t focus on systematically addressing the causal drivers of risks of drought and underlying vulnerabilities of the communities and ecosystems, which coupled with climate change effects and impacts of human / development actions, has left people and ecosystems highly exposed to drought. There is thus a growing realization amongst Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) and development partners that drought risks are becoming increasingly complex and deep-rooted are eroding development gains as well as worsening the already alarming levels of water and food insecurity in the country - a fact that was evident during the 2018-drought in Afghanistan. Further, a lot of financial and other resources get used for the much-needed humanitarian responses to droughts; however this strains the fiscal space and diverts resources from long-term risk prevention, mitigation and reduction work that, if done systematically, will ultimately reduce the impacts of drought and thereby the requirements of humanitarian responses.

Even though drought risks are cross-sectoral, there isn’t any institution of GoIRA that is mandated to work on the issue of drought in a cross-sectoral manner.

The Supreme Council of Land, Water and Environment (SCLWE) is mandated to provide strategic direction to land, water and environment sectors and issues thereof as well as ensure coordination of concerned sectoral ministries.

However, this has not yet translated into collective envisioning on systematically addressing the risks of droughts by either the respective ministries or the SCLWE. Further, the National Commission on Disaster Management (NCDM), including its technical secretariat of Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), is mandated to oversee management of all disasters in Afghanistan. This mandate, till date, has mostly been fulfilled through management of disasters in ex-post and reactive manner rather than ex-ante and proactive risk management manner. Drought management has been especially reactive wherein the focus has been mainly on humanitarian response. There is a lack of: (i) data / analysis of past droughts, (ii) hazard, vulnerability and exposure mapping of drought, (iii) formal definition and declaration process, (iv) long term programmes for drought mitigation and risk reduction, and (v) lack of clear mandates across pertinent sectoral ministries to address long term risks of drought in a collective coordinated manner in Afghanistan.

This has thus necessitated a long-term strategy that not only enhances ongoing drought management - through strengthened response and recovery actions - but also focuses on addressing the underlying risks and vulnerabilities to drought of communities and ecosystems. Given the complexities of the causal drivers of drought risks and its interactions with development deficits, climate change and conflicts, a long-term (at least 10 years) perspective is needed for effective drought risk management. It is to be noted here that drought risk management includes: (i) prevention of new and exacerbation of existing risks, (ii) mitigation and reduction of existing risks, (iii) management of residual risks through preparedness, early actions and rapid response, and (iv) risk-informed recovery and integrating drought mitigation actions in sectoral annual work-planning and budgeting. This long-term drought risk management strategy thus focuses on all these aspects of drought management and not just drought preparedness and response management.