Debt piles for Afghan farmers, herders in need of seed, cash amid drought

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The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation said that 18.8 million Afghans are unable to feed themselves every day, and that this number is set to rise to nearly 23 million by the end of the year.

“Catas-trophic and famine-like conditions” hang over Af-ghanistan’s farmers and herders, whose needs con-tinue to rise with the onset of winter, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said on Fri-day.

While humanitarian access has never been better, prices are soaring and needs continue to outpace the resources provided, the FAO explained.

“The situation is disastrous. Every farmer we’ve spoken to has lost almost all of their crops this year, many were forced to sell their livestock, they have accumulated enormous debts and simply have no money,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representa-tive in Afghanistan.

“No farmer wants to leave their land. But when you have no food, you have no grain from the previous harvest, there are no seeds in the fields and your livestock are gone, you have no choice.”

The UN agency said that 18.8 million Afghans are unable to feed themselves every day, and that this number is set to rise to nearly 23 million by the end of the year.

What started as a drought crisis has spiralled into economic disaster, with nine in 10 major urban cen-tres also expected to face extreme hardship, as debts pile up and savings dwindle.

Worryingly, the already widespread drought looks set to worsen in Afghanistan, as farmers and herders brace for a likely second consecutive year of drought in 2022, with La Nina expected to bring drier than normal conditions to Afghanistan in the coming months.

This situation will create a very real famine risk in 2022, unless immediate large-scale support to pro-tect these people and their livelihoods arrive very soon, FAO warned.

“What’s needed now obviously is to get them seeds, get them fertiliser and food assistance that the World Food Programme is providing…but also, it’s cash,” Trenchard insisted.

After visiting Zendajan district in Herat province in the far west of the country – one of 25 provinces that have been hit by drought – the FAO official reported that families had run out of people and institutions they could approach to borrow money. People were even “selling anything then can” to get money, he added.

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