FAO helps 5 000 Kuchi households in southern Afghanistan

News and Press Release
Originally published
Kabul, 6 February 2003 - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is currently funding two projects to support the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry in Afghanistan.
Emergency Protection of Kuchi Livelihoods through Providing Feed and Veterinary Care to Nucleus Breeding Flocks

Targeted on the Kuchi nomads group, a US$398 000 project will permit the assistance of 5 000 Kuchi households, comprising about 57 000 persons, who have been severely afflicted by the successive droughts. The aim is to assist the survival of their nucleus breeding flocks during the critical period of winter and early spring in a way to maintain their transhumant livestock production system, rebuild their animal numbers and assure their continue livelihood.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and FAO will provide emergency concentrate feed at 250 kg per household. It will ensure the survival of 20 -- 25 ewes over a period of two months, assuming a little natural grazing. Supplementary feeding will begin no later than mid-February. Veterinary prophylactic treatment against endemic diseases and internal/external parasites will also be provided.

The herds will spend the winter on the desert fringe, arriving in December-January and leaving in late March to mid April, depending on the state of pastures and the traditional migration routes of the individual families. The most critical period for their nutrition is the later part of winter and early spring when the feed is at its scarcest and many of the small ruminants are heavily pregnant. Providing supplementary concentrate feed at that time would help improve the survival of the Kuchi's breeding flocks and thus allow them to start building up their herds once more. For feed to be efficiently utilized the stock must be in good health and not burdened by parasites; assistance with disease and parasite control is therefore an essential complement to winter emergency feeding. Livestock numbers are still being reassessed after the present year's drought but in general the nomadic flocks account for about one third of the small ruminants in the country. They are important for food security as providers of meat to other communities. Transhumant grazing is currently the only productive use that can be made of the extensive grazing land, which accounts for about 70 percent of the country's area.

There are important concentrations of Kuchi winter camps in southwest Afghanistan especially in Kandahar, Zabul and Helmand provinces, which will be the target of the activities. The beneficiaries will be selected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry in collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and the Ministry of Frontiers and Tribal Affairs.

The livelihoods of Kuchi herders will be assured and the livestock production maintained from natural grazing land by providing strategic late-winter feeding supplemented by veterinary care. In cooperation with the different ministries, the relations between the nomadic communities and the Government institutions will be strengthened in a way to investigate needs and opportunities for a future livelihood rebuilding programme.

Emergency monitoring and control of locusts in northern Afghanistan

A US$391,000 project will mitigate locust damage to food crops and, to a lesser extent, to pastures, during the forthcoming locust campaign and to safeguard food security in Northern Afghanistan. The direct beneficiaries are the farmers and livestock owners of the infested areas who stand to lose their crops.

Every farmer in the region is afraid of the prospect of a locust outbreak. The semi-arid areas of Northern Afghanistan are the traditional habitat for two locust species: the Moroccan (Dociostaurus maroccanus) and the Italian Locust (Calliptamus italicus). Locust infestations occur from time to time representing a threat to pasture and cereal crops and causing significant damage. These infestations result from suitable ecological conditions and can be accentuated by the deterioration of the national capacities.

The scale and intensity of the infestations are variable from one year to another and outbreaks can last several years. The wingless hopper stage (lasting 27-36 days, in the Moroccan Locust) can cause intense damage, but only during outbreak periods, when the eggs have been laid in or near to cultivated land. The winged adults, however, may migrate up to 100 km, sometimes causing damage to maturing crops late in the season, before laying eggs which will be the source of infestations in the following year.

Throughout the locust campaign, from March to June, survey and monitoring of the locust infested areas will be carried out in order to carefully assess the current locust situation. In addition, the project will reestablish the FAO system of survey and reporting, using standardized report forms and building a computerized database. A medium term plan for a sustainable locust management strategy will also be drawn up for consideration by stakeholders. On-the-spot training will be given to technical and field staff in survey, reporting and the safe and effective use of the pesticides and equipment provided. Training will be given to farmers in mechanical control.

In March 2002, FAO launched a US$850 000 campaign to combat the worst locust plague to hit Afghanistan for thirty years. The exceptionally high locust population, which threatened over 200 000 hectares of agricultural land and over 70 percent of crop production in the north, was the result of two years without control and favorable breeding conditions created by the drought. Three out of the nine northern provinces, Baghlan, Samangan and Kunduz, were particularly hard hit. Prompt action by FAO, in collaboration with the provincial authorities, NGOs and other UN agencies, effectively controlled locust attacks in just under 240 000 hectares of productive land. Overall losses in the region, the breadbasket of the war-torn country, were estimated to not have exceeded seven percent.

The two projects were presented to the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Mr Sayed Hussain Anwary, on Thursday 6 February 2003 by the FAO Representative in Afghanistan, Serge Verniau, for signature.

For more information on FAO's activities in Afghanistan please visit:

or contact:

Etienne Careme, Information Officer, UNFAO Afghanistan
Mobile: + (international) / 070.285054 (local)
Address: Foreign Office Road, UNDP Compound, P.O. Box 5, Kabul, Afghanistan