New agricultural information and early warning system to help Afghanistan

13 January 2003, Kabul - Afghanistan is establishing an agricultural information and early warning system with support from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) the two food agencies announced today. The system will help the Afghan government monitor crops in an effort to increase food security.
The project to establish a comprehensive food security and information system is being overseen by Afghanistan's Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and the Ministry of Reconstruction and Rural Development.

Pre-Winter Agricultural Field Survey

A pre-winter survey on food and agriculture is being conducted in more than 500 villages, covering all major watersheds and agro-ecological zones in the country.

"This assessment will allow an updated measurement of the 2001-2002 crop season after the recent harvest of the spring crops and a forecast of cultivated areas and cropping patterns for the 2002-2003 season," according to Hector Maletta, FAO's senior food security advisor.

An average of 10 farm households will be surveyed per village or a total of about 5 000 farms. The assessment will cover all agricultural zones in over 100 selected districts. More than 100 surveyors and supervisors will be mobilized for this operation including all FAO and WFP field offices and provincial ministerial offices.

"The system will develop increasingly accurate crop forecasts," said Maletta. "The availability of timely predictions of food shortages and information about agricultural practices and the food security situation of rural households will help to improve food security throughout the country."

According to Maletta, the field work will be finished in January 2003, except in a few remote areas where it may take a little longer. The survey is closely connected to WFP's recently concluded Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping exercise and it will combine analysis of village-level data with information from farm households.

Agro-meteorological Service to forecast crop production

In support of improved seasonal monitory and crop production forecasting, some 60 gauges are being installed across Afghanistan to measure precipitation.

The Ministry of Agriculture has selected six agricultural research stations in Kabul, Kunduz, Baghlan, Mazar-I-Sharif, Herat and Jalalabad, where complete agro-meteorological stations will be set up. Once completed, the agro-meteorological office will provide agro-climatic information on the seven agro-ecological zones of Afghanistan such as rainfall, air and soil temperature and humidity, wind speed, radiation, snow and frost coverage.

FAO agro-meteorologist Rabah Lekhal said: "We aim to improve conditions of food security among the Afghan people, particularly amid the most vulnerable segments of the population."

A bulletin will be issued every 10 days analyzing the agro-meteorological situation and its repercussions on yields and production of major crops such as wheat, maize, barley and rice.

Lekhal explained that two training workshops will take place at the Ministry of Agriculture on the installation of rain gauges and rain observation. The trainees, with the knowledge and equipment provided through FAO, will become part of a fully operational agro-meteorological service in Afghanistan.


Etienne Careme, Information Officer, UN FAO Afghanistan: 070 28 50 54