Afghanistan: Seasonal Food Security Assessment (SFSA) 2017

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The majority of the population in Afghanistan is insecure from the perspective of both food consumption and coping capacity: The data of SFSA 2017 shows that there are 30% of the households are either on the borderline or are poor in terms of their food consumption scores. In other terms, 30% of the households are rated among the food insecure households in the year 2017 at the time of the post-harvest season. As a result of the assessment, it has been found that nationally, about 25% of households are using crisis strategies and 16% are using emergency strategies, while 13% of the households use the stress strategies to cope their livelihoods. In comparison to the SFSA 2016, the situation has depleted as it was about 15% of households are using crisis strategies and 12% are using emergency strategies.

The prioritized income sources are: Agriculture wage labor, cash for work programme, educational services (teacher, professor, school administration), shop-owner, sale of food crops produced by the households, transport or driving, construction work, sale of animals or animal products and army, police or armed groups etc. In this way around 52% of the respondents are engaged with direct agriculture-related business (41% agriculture wage labor, 7% sales of food crops produced by the households and 4% sales of animals or animal products).

The SFSA findings are in line with those reported by the Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey 2014, which found 39% of households are food insecure. The SFSA finds that food security remains again high in the post-harvest season of 2017 due to various other interlinked factors. Looking at the combination of strictly food consumption indicators (Food Consumption Scores and Food Based coping strategies), the situation is relatively stable since 2014. The resort to negative coping strategies in previous years – continuing this year – is hinging on households’ capacity to cater to their basic needs, and to cope with the many shocks that the Afghan context entails: from conflict and physical insecurity to natural hazards or climate shocks.

Afghanistan is facing an increase of food insecurity in urban areas, particularly in terms of economic coping capacities, as a result of pressure on the labor market, loss of employment, reduction in humanitarian aid, along with the huge influx of returnees from the neighboring countries. In both urban and rural areas, the most important characteristics of the food insecure population are their human and physical assets, namely the lack of access to education and landlessness. Recent migrants, women head of household, and households with higher dependency ratio are also considerably more likely to be food insecure. Geographically, a larger share of the population is food insecure in mountain and deserts than in plains and hills, since yields are have been adversely affected due to drought like conditions in these landscapes than the national average. It is evident that only 19% of the respondents throughout the country said that they spent less than 50% of their income on food items, while 30% of the respondents gave the response that they spent 50 to 65% of their monthly income on food items, while 27% of the respondents spent 65-75% of their incomes on food items, while 24 % of the respondents spent more than 75% of their incomes on food items.

Nationally 11% of the respondents said their income has reduced substantially, while 48% experienced some reduction in their incomes. This makes around 59% of the respondents nationally reporting a reduction in income. The households are mostly affected by the prevailing crisis. A large percentage of the poorest households have reported a decrease in their annual income.The rise in unemployment is observed by the ALCS in 2014 is continuing, most severely affecting the casual workers etc. Particularly it is important in terms of urban food insecurities. It is suggested to have in-depth analysis of urban food insecure households. It affects as withdrawal of their children from school, mostly resulting in child labor and sometimes in illegal activities etc.

Various shocks always remain a major factor in food insecurity. In rural areas, food security is mostly dependent on access to land and land size. The most vulnerable rural households are the landless (37%), a quarter of which are severely insecure. This group relies mostly on casual wages or self-employment. Smallholders (29% of the population), owning around 3 Jeribs of land, also rely on these income sources in addition to selling some of their crops. Wheat is the main staple, and its yields are highest in plains, followed by hills, mountains and deserts. There are findings that 79% of the farmers use traditional crop seeds, however continuous use of traditional seeds make the farmers more vulnerable as loss in production is experienced as a result. Access to quality crop inputs and seeds is again a question mark along with other vulnerabilities. Mostly farmers in Afghanistan own small landholdings around 5 Jeribs. Even after controlling for urban residency, unemployment remains significantly correlated with violence and insecurity. This means that among urban areas, the most insecure are those with highest employment rates – and other (rural) areas of high unemployment around 38% and 18% respectively, who are with lesser incomes are more likely to be insecure, as assesses in SFSA 2017.

Livestock is an important asset for 69% of rural households, having a positive effect on their food security, with livestock owners being less likely to be food insecure. the data analysis shows that due to distress sales and negative coping strategies as result of various shocks like fodder shortages etc depletion in animal herds have been faced over the years since 2014. Around 27% of the respondents have reported that they have faced acute shortage of fodder for their animals and 20% have reported that issues were faced in terms of pasture availability and quality of fodder on these pastures etc. It is also an important indicator about the prevalence of livestock diseases that 23% of the respondents have recorded concerns about the livestock diseases and their impacts on animal rearing. Only 3% of the respondents have reported through SFSA 2017 that they didn’t face any issues or difficulties for livestock rearing.

The World Bank Poverty Status update highlighted that Afghan households’ vulnerability to shock was exceptionally high. It is determined by the interaction between the existence of hazards and the ability to deal with such risks. Coping strategies are often harmful and include school withdrawal and asset depletion. Shocks in Afghanistan are logically associated with economic vulnerability – which is increasing, making ever more households in need of humanitarian support. Shocks also vary in their nature according to economic status, with the poorest households most affected by loss of unemployment and increases in food prices, and higher income quintiles more affected by physical insecurity and crop pests and floods (having more land). Price shocks are positively correlated with road blockades, although not all road blockades cause price increases. Households in insecure areas are more vulnerable economically, registering lower wages and a lower number of working days. Nationally around 38% of the respondent households have reported loss of employment as a major shock to their households’ economy, while the current security situation is also driving the rise in internal migration and returnees from the neighboring countries. As a result of SFSA 2017, 67% of the interviewed households are the migrants who are more likely to be food insecure than permanent residents, largely because they rely on unsustainable income sources, such as casual labor or self-employment, and have more difficulties to find work. They also have weaker solidarity networks, being less likely to borrow food from friends and relatives.