Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Is Everyone Fed a Day’s Meal?

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Is Everyone Fed a Day’s Meal?

The agricultural sector in Afghanistan has not been able to fulfill the requirements of the people as it has not been given proper attention by the concerned authorities. Mostly, this sector is highly dependent on the individual farmers and landowners. Most of them grow as much as they require themselves. Further, the growth of narcotics in the country leaves little room for the lands to be used for the cultivation of other necessary items that can fulfill the food requirement of the people. The government does not have any comprehensive strategy regarding the development of the agricultural sector on the basis of modern techniques.

Therefore a large number of people, each year, haveto look at the other countries for help in order to have food to eat. The international organizations in this regard have been fulfilling the food requirements of the country to a large extent, thus making the burden of the government much lighter. But this sort of help can never be permanent and it has already been facing difficulties as the donor countries that have been sponsoring such programs have decreased their contributions to a certain extent.

United Nations food agency has already indicated that there would be almost two to three million people through out Afghanistan who would be in need of extra food support from the September this year. The shortage of food is no doubt the result of poor production on the part of the agricultural sector and the drought that has been persistently hitting the country because of low rainfall and the trouble is doubled as there has not been an active irrigation system to bring the country's water supply in use by the agricultural sector.

Wheat, which is the main crop that can provide ready food to the people, has been affected badly and what remains of it is a poor and insufficient production. According to official estimates wheat crop would be 28 percent or 1.9 million metric tons down on the 2010 yield.To further deteriorate the situation, there is the news that the donor countries have reduced their funding for World Food Program's (WFP) Afghan operations. This action is going to reduce the funding for 2011 to almost 50%, which is really alarming. The reason for this reduction may be the economic crisis that the developed countries themselves have been going through and the relative relaxed attitude of these countries towards Afghanistan with the perspective that things are getting on track. But the reason at the moment is not as important as the impacts of this decision.

According to the WFP there are about 7.3 million people in Afghanistan who suffer from the food insecurity. This makes almost 31% of the population. Food insecurity means that there is no surety that this number of people is really going to have food requirements. And unfortunately, the alternatives are not ready as well. The security concerns and the hardships during the cold weather make the supply of the food from other parts of the country to the regions of the starvation a Herculean task. Another alternate available for the government is to fulfill the deficiencies through government reserves and private sector imports. However, the recovery from these sources has not been up to the mark. And this year's expected food shortage would not be recovered from the mentioned sources.

According to the reports of WFP even after the recovery almost 2 to 3 million people would still be needing food to eat. And with the shortage of funds it would be really difficult for WFP to cover the deficiency. For the last two years, i.e. from 2009 to 2011, WFP had a budget of $400 million annually, while this year it has only been able to collect $198 million so far from international donors.The American contribution has always been the largest. In 2009, America alone contributed$365 million, while this year the American contribution has only been $110 million dollars. The shrink in the American contribution can be best understood by the scrutiny on the overall budget allocation policies in the country.

The food shortage itself is a sure problem, but there are many other problems that are directly linked with the hunger that results from such shortages. Many social evils will find their way in the society and will further deteriorate the country's socio-political scenario. More people would be involved in crimes in order to feed themselves and their families. Two major problems in the country have been greatly strengthened by the continuous hunger and poverty. The first one that has been threatening the whole world is the growing terrorism in the region. The people suffering from hunger and poverty are very much likely to become part of terrorist organizations that are ready to provide them their living.

Who does not know that the suicide bombers are easily available for some hundred dollars through out the region? The second problem that has made the country much notorious like terrorism is the production and trafficking of narcotics. Afghanistan is considered one of the leading countries in this regard. And now the phenomenon has become a part of organized crime in the country, with the involvement of national and international mafia. The poor and hungry people of the country are ready to become a part of this menace instead of suffering because of intense deprivation. They either become a part of its production or trafficking as they are paid handsomely in this regard. Further, the demand of the narcotics also makes many people think of using their lands for poppy cultivation rather than deciding to grow the crops that can yield food for the people.

According the reports of WFP, about 300,000 tons of wheat would be needed by the end of the year. And definitely the WFP would have to show some miracle in order to make that deficiency fulfilled. But, the main point of consideration is, "How long can we rely on international organizations and community to feed us and amend us?"We can be self-reliant in so many areas; all we need is to throw away the begging bowl and use our own resources appropriately and, no doubt, honestly.

Had we been doing that for the last few years, we would now be standing on our own. But unfortunately, the self-centered people among us who have just been filling their own pockets have made our people suffer to a great extent. They do not feel even for those people who do not have a single meal to eat through out a week. Their children die of hunger and unknown diseases and their conscience saunter in the dark alleys of guilt, frustration and revenge.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached atoutlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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