Statement delivered by, Mr. Enayet Madani, Counsellor
At the Second Committee
Debate on Agenda Item 60: Agriculture development and food security
on behalf of H.E. Zahir Tanin
I would first like to thank you for convening this meeting, and align myself with the statement delivered by distinguished delegate of Sudan on behalf of the G77 and China my delegation as well voice a support for the statement delivered by distinguished representative of Nepal on behalf of LDCs I take this opportunity to thank the UN secretary General for his report on agriculture development and food security. I would also like to thank the UN system, and particularly the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization for their continued aid and support to Afghanistan. We also appreciate their efforts in research and development, as well as technical assistance on global agriculture and food security.
We welcome the recent L’Aquila Initiative on Global Food Security which both prioritizes the urgency of addressing food security, agriculture, and food price trends in developing countries, such as Afghanistan, and acknowledges the importance of continued financial and technical assistance. We recognize and are thankful to those who have taken the lead to keep food security challenges at the top of the global agenda.
Afghanistan once had a very abundant and robust agricultural economy and was a self-sufficient producer of wheat, fruits, nuts, barley, sugarcane, and wool, before conflict engulfed the country. Today, our agricultural productivity has significantly declined, necessary physical infrastructure has been destroyed, and droughts and price fluctuations have created food shortages and left millions of Afghans starving. It is of the utmost importance that we restore our agricultural sector to what is once was, while also ensuring its sustainability by adapting to new environmental and political circumstances.
Although only 12% of Afghanistan’s land is fertile for agriculture, eighty percent of our country’s population lives in rural areas and is dependent on sustenance farming for survival and livelihood. Furthermore, agriculture accounts for half of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product and thus is closely linked to our economic growth. However, war has left much of our population, particularly farmers, dependent on international assistance. Thus, it is vital to continue humanitarian assistance and create food safety nets for those most vulnerable, while at the same time re-structuring and investing in our agricultural sector so self-sufficiency can be achieved.
In the past few years, we have experienced some of the worst droughts in Afghanistan’s history. In 2008 and 2009, droughts led to a 60% reduction in wheat production from the previous year. Increasing water scarcity affects both rain-fed and irrigated lands. While 40% of the sector has irrigation systems, many of these irrigation systems were largely destroyed during the past few decades of war. More pressing, 85% of our irrigated land is dependent on water from the mountains, which are sensitive to climate change and shifting rainfall patterns.
As a result of conflict and draught, malnutrition in Afghanistan is a growing problem. An average of 50% of children under 3 are moderately or severely stunted from poor nutrition, and 80-90% of households are considered to have very poor dietary diversity. This prohibits us from achieving the first Millennium Development Goal without substantial efforts to restructure of our agricultural sector with the support of the international community.
Small farmers and women, those who are most vulnerable to political and economic instability, must be at the center of our food and agriculture policy. Women bear the responsibility of providing food and nutrition to the family, and are critical to successfully tackling food security issues. Farmers, particularly small landowners must have access to financing and technology, so agriculture can be a viable source of their livelihoods. Farmers, civil society groups, and the government all play a vital role in ensuring these plans are implemented.
To re-build Afghanistan’s agricultural sector, and ensure food security, several key steps are necessary:
First, we need to improve our agricultural productivity without succumbing to wasteful or unsustainable agricultural practices. This includes improving water conservation and minimizing soil and ecosystem degradation. Food security can only occur with sustainable usage of water and natural resources.
Second, Afghanistan’s agriculture sector demands more research on and funding for drought resistant crops and seed varieties to build our resiliency against climate change and volatile price fluctuations. Technology transfer can play a role in achieving this.
Third, our infrastructure must be re-built, with the support of the international community. Rehabilitation of water wells, reservoirs, and irrigation technologies is a first step in re-building our physical systems. This will also ensure socioeconomic development as it has also been found that poverty rates tend to be higher in areas lacking irrigation, demonstrating the strong connection between agriculture and Afghan livelihoods.
Fourth, policies for food pricing should be established. In the beginning of 2008, FAO index of prices spiked, increasing by 40% and leading to severe food shortages in Afghanistan. High food prices and corresponding food shortages require emergency food assistance. Safety nets during these times must be established so the most vulnerable sectors of our society do not suffer the fallouts of unstable food and financial markets
As the reconstruction of Afghanistan continues, we see an enormous opportunity to secure our food resources and restore our position as a self-sufficient agricultural producer. Reducing hunger and stabilizing our food security is closely tied with women’s rights, poverty alleviation, and economic growth. We also see the opportunity to increase Afghan farmers’ capability to adapt agricultural practices in response to climate change and economic conditions. We ask the World Food Programme, USDA, FAO and other funders continue aiding us in overcoming the obstacles Afghanistan faces, and for the international community as a whole to continue supporting and collaborating with us on achieving food security.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.