KABUL - European Union Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs arrived Sunday in Afghanistan, for a visit designed to discuss the next steps of EU cooperation with the country. Commissioner Piebalgs, accompanied by Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas, Head of the EU Delegation to Afghanistan and EU Special Representative, Ghani Ghuriani, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and Mohibullah Halimi, Director General for Livestock and Veterinary, visited the Central Veterinary Diagnostic & Research Laboratory (CVDRL), to get an illustration of the results of the EU support to the rehabilitation and development of the agricultural sector, as part of its efforts to boost the national economy.
The Commissioner's visit has particular focus on the areas of good governance, including civil police reform, justice, public administration and the need to improve public finance management. The EU is ready to commit 200 M Euro in 2011 to these sectors; all of which are crucial to the country's long-term growth and development. Moreover, big part of the funds will be invested in rural development. A new commitment of 110 million euro for agriculture is now being prepared with MAIL.
Commissioner Piebalgs said: "Afghanistan has already made considerable progress in areas like rural development and health, but over half of the Afghan population still live below the poverty line. We now need to continue to build on our partnership to ensure that even more is done to make the country as efficient, stable, and well-run as possible and that the lives of the Afghan people, especially the most vulnerable ones, are improved as a result."
CVDRL is an achievement of the EU and the Afghan Government's joint strategy to improve agricultural production in quantity and quality. It is a tangible example of the EU support to the rehabilitation and development of the agricultural sector, as part of wider efforts to boost the national economy. CVDRL infrastructure is a key for promoting the animal health sector in Afghanistan from a technical, institutional and educational point of view.
Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Two thirds of its people live in rural areas, most of them below poverty line. About 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture and associated forms of rural production. Seasonal and chronic unemployment is common and increasing. The result is food insecurity, a socio-economic environment that is conductive to instability, an illicit economy, and extreme poverty.
In agriculture, the EU has invested in long-term research, private sector development and institutional support. Subsistence agriculture can ensure food security by producing the basic food requirements for the family. There are increasing signs that more progressive farmers are beginning to diversify in order to capture new opportunities for generating income from diversified production including livestock. The EU stands with them in their efforts to improve their future.
The EU is one of the major donors to Afghanistan – providing some €1 billion -with contributions from Member States- each year and dedicated to support the Government over the long term to improve the life of its citizens.
The visit to Afghanistan is part of a joint trip to the region with the German Development Minister, Dirk Niebel. (PR)