UN agency launches country-wide rural development program in Afghanistan
Forty percent of rural Afghan households have difficulty accessing food. (AFP/File)
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A UN agency has signed an agreement with the government of Afghanistan to help ensure food security and improved economic status of thousands of rural households suffering from frequent food shortages in the war-torn country.
The financing agreement was signed recently by Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD, and Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, Minister for Finance of Afghanistan, a statement from the UN agency said on Monday.
Under the deal, the Support to National Priority Programme, designed to improve livelihoods and access to food for approximately 57,000 households in six districts in Balkh, Herat and Nangarhar provinces, will include US$48.5 million in financing from IFAD.
The Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan will provide $2.5 million and another $3.8 million will be financed by the government and the beneficiaries, the statement said.
The new initiative will focus on strengthening Afghanistan's institutional capacity to provide agricultural development services, as well as improve productivity, infrastructure and market linkages to increase smallholder farmers' incomes.
In addition, the initiative will help nomadic herders -- known as Kuchis -- and rural women engage in crop production and livestock management.
This is the first initiative in a 15-year programme to support the country’s rural development efforts. "Three-quarters of the Afghan population lives in rural areas, and 40 per cent of rural households suffer from shortages of food," said Omer Zafar, IFAD Country Program Manager for Afghanistan. "Supporting improved access to food and economic opportunities is fundamental in the effort to lift Afghanistan out of poverty."
In Afghanistan, rural families are often forced to cope with a multitude of challenges including conflict, economic and political crisis, and natural disasters. To survive, most rural households reduce essential consumption and food quality, purchase food on trader credit and take out high-interest loans to pay for daily necessities.
IFAD has been working in Afghanistan since 1979. Currently, the Fund is investing a total $136.4 million in three programmes, with a total cost of $152.4 million including co-financing, reaching more than 276,500 rural households.
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