Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Debate on Agriculture Development and Food Security

Statement  of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Delivered by
Mr. Enayet Madani

Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations

on Agenda Item (25)

Debate on Agriculture Development and Food Security:

Mr. Chairman,

To begin, let me thank you for convening this extremely pertinent and important debate. With the ongoing famine in the horn of Africa, and a looming food crisis in my own country, the issue of agriculture development and food security should be high on our agendas.

Afghanistan aligns itself with the statements delivered by the distinguished representatives of Argentina on behalf of G77 and China and Nepal on behalf of LDCs. My delegation also expresses its appreciation to the Secretary-General for his Report on Agriculture Development and Food Security, which will guide our deliberations?

Mr. Chairman,

As we discuss agriculture and food security, we must recognise the inextricable interconnections between agricultural development and poverty. The world’s poorest countries depend heavily on their rural and agricultural economies. Agriculture development is therefore a crucial means of combating both hunger and poverty.

In Afghanistan, 80% of our population is dependent on agriculture and related sectors for their livelihoods. Afghanistan is known for producing some of the finest fruits, especially pomegranates, apricots, grapes, melons, and mulberries. Several provinces in the north of the country are also known for pistachio cultivation. However, proper marketing and processing services are lacking, and agricultural production is also constrained by an almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water. We have therefore made agriculture development the number one priority in our current Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

Mr. Chairman,

As result of more than three decades of conflict, infrastructure in Afghanistan, including in the agricultural sector, has been severely damaged. In response, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of Afghanistan, with the support of international partners and the UN system, has launched a number of innovative programmes aimed at supporting the agriculture sector. For instance, one such initiative is the establishment of an Agriculture Development Fund with a US$ 100 million grant provided by the United States Agency for International Development to the Government of Afghanistan. The ADF supplies agricultural credit, providing much-needed access to credit to small commercial farmers, agribusinesses, producers of high-value crops, and processors and exporters of agricultural products. Other policies as part of the ANDS include establishing land tenure security, improving rural transportation and irrigation infrastructure, and providing access to drought-resistant crop varieties.

We call on the international community to provide greater support for such agriculture development efforts, particularly in the poorest countries, by increasing investment in agriculture and the transfer of agricultural technology and expertise, and also by addressing unjust economic policies such as subsidies which disadvantage poor, small-scale farmers.

Mr. Chairman,

Turning now to the more pressing issue of food security, one major underlying driver of the problem, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, is climate change. Climate change can alter weather patterns, leading to increased desertification, destructive flooding and devastating drought, like the one we are currently experiencing. These changes adversely affect food production and the entire rural economy. Furthermore, increasing temperatures from climate change and decreasing water availability can directly reduce crop yields, further reducing food production.

To address this challenge, we call on all states to take effective and immediate action to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based realistically on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Mr. Chairman,

Food insecurity is not just a matter of food production. The distribution and economic availability of food are also crucial factors that we must address. As our Minister of Agriculture recently commented, “Global food supplies are sufficient, but 24 percent more costly than last year”. Last month, the FAO Food Price Index stood at 225, slightly lower than its February all-time high but still above even the levels of the 2008 food crisis. With our national production greatly reduced this year due to the current drought, domestic prices are significantly higher

Besides natural hazards, food prices are being artificially distorted by high energy prices, the diversion of food crops for biofuels, and in particular irresponsible financial practices such as import dumping and reckless commodity speculation. We call for an immediate end to all such practices which could undermine food security. The right to sufficient food for an adequate standard of living is a fundamental human right, and must be protected as such. We cannot alleviate poverty and improve the situation of developing countries until basic food security can be guaranteed.

We further stress that agriculture development and food security must be integrated with the broader goal of sustainable development. In this connection, we sincerely hope that food and agriculture will be given due attention at next year’s Rio + 20 Conference. Sustainable agriculture is a cornerstone of any ‘green economy’, and explicitly addressing agriculture development and food security will give the conference’s green economy theme a heightened relevance for poorer developing countries.

Mr. Chairman,

As we speak, nearly 12 million people in my country are facing food shortages due to drought conditions earlier this year. This drought is our worst since 2001, and is even worse than that last devastating disaster; we will need to assist 61 percent of the population in some of the 14 provinces currently affected.  While we are not suffering conditions as severe as the ongoing famine in the horn of Africa, millions of Afghans are nonetheless going hungry, and facing malnutrition and under-nourishment.

We have appealed for an additional $142 million in disaster aid through the World Food Programme earlier this month, to help tide affected farmers through the coming difficult months of winter. We sincerely and humbly urge all of you to stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan in this hour of need.

Mr. Chairman,

Before closing, let me take this opportunity to thank the UN; in particular, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization and all other partners for their continued support to the people of Afghanistan. I reiterate Afghanistan’s firm commitment to working in cooperation with all of you to advance the cause of sustainable development and food security for all.

I thank you.

Security Council Debates Afghanistan with a Focus on Transition


On 6 July, the United Nations Security Council held a debate on the Situation in Afghanistan. The debate began with a briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, was given the floor after the SRSG’s remarks.

Continue Press Release

Both the SRSG and Ambassador Tanin focused on the “critical juncture,” as Ambassador Tanin put it, of transition to Afghan ownership and leadership of the country’s security. In this transition, according to Ambassador Tanin, continued international support and engagement beyond 2014 is crucial for the future stability of the country, in particular, a “lasting partnership with the UN.” The SRSG pointed out the need to focus beyond security for the transition period and address “social, economic and, frankly, human rights.”

Most participants in the meeting brought up the recent tragedies of the attacks on the hospital in Logar Province and the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Ambassador Tanin referred to the recent campaign as a display of  “promo-psychodrama…a conspicuously well-orchestrated attempt by the enemies of Afghanistan, designed to incite fear among people, to hinder the international support for Afghanistan, and to convince a war-weary audience in some countries that the war is unwinnable…However,” he said, “acts of terror will not shake our determination for securing peace and stability in Afghanistan.” The SRSG highlighted the effectiveness of the Afghan military and police in responding to these attacks, praising their strengthened capacity and improved abilities.

Both Ambassador Tanin and the SRSG emphasised the importance of ongoing reconciliation and reintegration efforts aimed at achieving a political solution to the conflict. In these efforts, the SRSG explained, UNAMA is functioning as a confidence-builder, as substantive discussion on these matters is the purview of the Afghan government. In this regard, he praised the Security Council’s ongoing de-listing of ex-Taliban militants from sanctions lists as a move in the right direction.

In addition, the SRSG praised progress on bilateral, multilateral and regional cooperation, as well as improvements in the human rights, including women’s rights and the protection of children – though both the SRSG and Ambassador Tanin noted that civilian casualties from Taliban action continue to increase.

The other delegates of the Security Council, along with representatives from the EU, Japan, Pakistan, Canada and Turkey, expressed concern over recent escalations in the level of civilian casualties, and unanimously condemned violence against UN personnel. Nevertheless, they also reaffirmed their faith in the Afghan parliamentary process and pledged continued support of an Afghan-led reconciliation effort.

Photos of the Meeting by U.N.

Video of the meeting by U.N

Agriculture Development and Food Security

Statement delivered by, Mr. Enayet Madani, Counsellor
At the 2nd Committee Debate on Agriculture Development and Food Security:

Mr. Chairperson,

I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for convening this meeting, and align myself with the statement delivered by distinguished representatives of Yemen on behalf of the G77 and China, Nepal on behalf of LDCs and China on behalf of Asia Group. My delegation expresses its appreciation to the Secretary-General for his Report on Agriculture Development and Food Security which will certainly play an important role for our deliberations.

Mr. Chairperson,

We agree and welcome the recent reforms made to the Committee on World Food Security within the Food and Agriculture Organization, which renewed their commitment towards coordination of food security on the international scale, as well as formalize the involvement of an expert panel towards this cause. We recognize the leadership and efforts of those who have kept food security challenges of developing countries on top of the global agenda, and will continue to work with them in improving food security in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairperson,

Prior to the conflicts that disrupted the way of life in the country, Afghanistan had a healthy and self-sufficient agricultural economy, which produced both food as well as economic crops. Current agricultural productivity, however, is not as optimistic given the vast damage done to the physical infrastructure as well as higher dependence on rain-fed agriculture.  As such, millions of Afghans are either starving or threatened with starvation on a daily basis, depending on food assistance for survival. Henceforth, it is critical for us to rapidly revive our agricultural sector through restructuring and investment, while also paying attention to issues of long-term environmental sustainability.

Although crop productivity has improved in the last year from ample and well-distributed rainfall, the droughts of 2008, 2009 still reminds us of our vulnerability. Besides supporting the livelihood of the large rural population (which is 80% of the total population), agriculture also constitutes 53% of our national economy and hence is of vital importance to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. As much as we appreciate international humanitarian assistance in tiding us through our recovery period, we also seek partnerships in building improved and accessible irrigation systems, technology and better agricultural practices.

Mr. Chairperson,

The large fluctuations in crop productivity over the past years highlight the key challenges we face as we tackle the issue of food security. Increased water scarcity coupled with rainfall variability, both possibly augmented by climate change; exemplify the weakness of rural agriculture in Afghanistan. The lack of irrigation infrastructure and low water security correlates strongly with rural poverty, and hence serves as key hurdles in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

37% of our population is in the borderline of food security, and 59% of our children below the age of five, suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The proportion of the population below minimum energy consumption (of 2100 calories) has increased, and seasonality-driven poverty and food shortage have been drawn to our attention. Volatility in global food prices also present significant challenges to the situation.

Mr. Chairperson,

The points of leverage for effective agricultural and rural development lie in small farmer households, and the role of women in food provision and preparation is central to pursuing food security targets. Partnerships forged between the government, communities and the private sector, in directing efforts and investments can facilitate the development process and make rural agricultural communities more robust and resilient.

In the restoration of Afghanistan’s agricultural sector, we are taking these key initiatives under the Afghanistan National Development Strategies with the two broad goals of poverty reduction and livelihoods security:

Firstly, through better water and national resource development, we seek to improve both quantity and quality in our agricultural sector while reducing stress imposed on the natural systems.

Secondly, by identifying gaps in the current agricultural system dealing with inputs and outputs, we aim for comprehensiveness in agricultural production and market development.

Thirdly, taking heed of the close links between rural access and poverty alleviation, our expansion of road and communication networks will empower the rural poor.

Fourthly, local institutions will be strengthened with the establishment of Community Development Councils and civil service expansion.

Mr. Chairperson,

The revival of Afghanistan’s agricultural sector represents an opportunity for Afghanistan to achieve strong growth and food self-sufficiency, and also represents great possibilities for international cooperation and friendship. As we take these steps, we will need stronger partnerships with the UN agencies to facilitate greater investment in physical infrastructure, knowledge sharing as well as technology transfer. These investments and assistance can also be improved through responsive targeting to the needs and priorities of Afghanistan, thereby fast-tracking MDGs.

The targets of poverty alleviation, hunger reduction and stabilizing food security are all tightly interconnected with women’s rights, rural development and economic growth. Our efforts are in building resilience along with growth, and adapt agricultural practices and regimes to developing environmental and economic situations. We ask the World Food Programme, USDA, FAO and other funders to continue their assistance to us, and for the international community to work together on achieving global food security.

Before closing I take this opportunity to thank the UN system; in particular, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization and other all other partners for their continued support to the people of Afghanistan.

I thank you