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Publication | 2021

Afghanistan: Agricultural livelihoods and food security in the context of COVID-19

Key highlights

  • COVID-19 and other shocks In the 12 provinces surveyed, 61 percent of the interviewed agricultural households faced various forms of idiosyncratic and covariate shocks between July and October 2020. Sickness and deaths in the family (from the coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] or other causes) was the most reported shock, followed by loss of income and employment as a direct result of COVID-19-related restriction measures. Additionally, the agricultural households reported having suffered from high prices of food and non-food items, increased costs of production and insecurity arising from ongoing conflict.
  • Impacts of shocks on agricultural livelihoods Sixty percent of the surveyed crop producers faced difficulties with their production during the reporting period, mainly due to pest and crop diseases and climatic hazards. The total area planted by these producers remained more or less the same as the area planted last year, and almost half of them reported a higher or an equal level of production compared to last year. One-third of the surveyed crop producers reported having faced problems in accessing seeds in the three months preceding the survey, mainly due to high seed prices and the availability of only low-quality seeds. More than one-third of surveyed livestock producers also faced production difficulties, mostly arising from a lack of access to veterinary services. Also, 43 percent of livestock producers reported that the number of animals they held had decreased compared to same period last year, as they had to be sold to buy food (e.g. a negative coping mechanism). One-quarter of the surveyed agricultural producers (both crop and livestock producers) reported having faced difficulties in selling their production in the three months preceding the survey, primarily because they were receiving low prices for their produce. The most prevalent reasons for these low prices were the constrained access to markets and the fact that traders were not coming to buy their produce anymore.
  • Impacts of shocks and disruptions on livelihoods The disruptions on agricultural livelihoods caused by the shocks have resulted in losses of income, as reported by the majority of surveyed households (77 percent) interviewed in the 12 provinces. The agricultural households reported having had to resort to coping strategies that included a reduction in consumption of various food groups, thus affecting their dietary diversity. As such, 72 percent and 40 percent of surveyed households were consuming a smaller amount of meat and fruits, respectively. Similarly, a large proportion of surveyed households reported a reduction in their consumption of pulses and vegetables during the last three months prior to the survey. Against this backdrop, 41 percent of surveyed agricultural households became moderately to severely food insecure, according to the food insecurity experience scale (FIES) estimates, between July and October 2020. Out of this 41 percent households, 72 percent of households only consumed a limited variety of food types, while 59 percent of the households were worried that they would not have enough food to feed their families.
  • Livelihood recovery needs Almost all of surveyed households reported that they needed some form of assistance to support their crop and livestock production, with most producersreporting their particular need for seeds and fertilizers. In this respect, long-term strategies to minimize pest and disease outbreaks, such as the use of disease and pest-resistant crops, crop rotation and adequate cultivation techniques, will ensure proper management of pest and diseases. Also, ensuring that crop producers are able to access high-quality and certified seeds at affordable prices should be a priority. Likewise, immediate livelihood support in the form of food and cash assistance should be provided to ensure that the state of food security among agricultural households does not deteriorate any further.