Farmers in war-torn Afghanistan hit by worst drought in decades

  • Sunday 12, August 2018 in 11:33 AM
Sharjah24 – AFP: After his wheat crop failed and wells dried up, Ghulam Abbas sold his animals and joined thousands of other farmers migrating to cities as Afghanistan's worst drought in living memory ravages the war-torn country.
A huge shortfall in snow and rain across much of the country over the normally wet colder months decimated the winter harvest, threatening the already precarious livelihoods of millions of farmers and sparking warnings of severe food shortages.
 
Like hundreds of farming families in Charkint village in the normally fertile northern province of Balkh, Abbas, 45, has moved with 11 family members to the provincial capital Mazar-i-Sharif to find work.
 
"I don't remember a drought as severe as this year's," Abbas, who has been a farmer for more than three decades, told AFP.
 
"We never had to leave our village or sell our animals because of a drought in the past."
 
As dry conditions and high temperatures persist, there are growing concerns about the spring and summer crops that will be harvested later this year.
 
Afghanistan's 2018 wheat harvest is already expected to be the lowest since at least 2011, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, set up by USAID in 1985.
 
Faced with an estimated shortfall of 2.5 million tonnes of wheat this year, more than two million people could become "severely food insecure" and would be in "desperate need" of humanitarian assistance in the next six months, the United Nations has warned.
 
Tens of thousands of sheep and goats have died and many farmers have eaten the seeds for the next planting season, as rivers and wells dry up and pastures turn to dust.
 
"If the authorities and the international community don't step up to this challenge now, Afghanistan could face a calamity as we head into the next winter," UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan Toby Lanzer told AFP recently.
 
But thousands of farmers like Abbas have already given up hope, abandoning their land and moving their families to towns and cities to survive.
 
The UN estimates more than 70,000 people have been displaced to urban areas due to the drought.