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Tackling food shortages in Afghanistan with smart agricultural solutions

Story Food systems
Afghanistan -

A collapsing economy, natural disasters and high food prices lead to food insecurity for millions of Afghans. Cordaid works with rural families to restore destroyed agricultural land, promote the local economy and increase food production.

The Afghan people are living in a protracted and severe humanitarian crisis. Almost everyone lacks basic services like safe drinking water, health care and education. Now, an acute food shortage is threatening the lives of many Afghans.

Flooding and landslides

After a long drought, several parts of the country started experiencing heavy rainfall, causing catastrophic flooding and landslides. In these conditions, farmers cannot produce enough grain, increasing the dependency on imports to meet food demand. However, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the wheat supply has become very uncertain.


Results & Indicators

  • 40 million population of Afghanistan

  • 60% working in agriculture

  • 47% living in extreme poverty

  • 97% living close to the poverty line

Desperate measures

Many farmers resort to desperate measures, often causing them even more problems. They sell their belongings, skip meals and take their children out of school to put them to work. In some cases, families move to urban areas searching for work, where they often end up in slums to find even more hardship.

In collaboration with partner Rural Rehabilitation Association for Afghanistan (RRAA), Cordaid works with rural families in central Afghanistan to restore destroyed agricultural land, promote the local economy and increase food production. This helps communities tackle food shortages and promotes self-reliance by efficiently using the available land and skills.

61-year-old Anwar Zagomi lives with his wife and twelve children in the village of Deh Shaikh. ‘A few years ago we earned enough money to provide for ourselves,’ he says. ‘In addition to our harvest, we sold goods in my store. As a government employee, my son also contributed to the family income. Now I don’t know what to do anymore. We don’t have enough to eat. My son is unemployed and I had to close down my store.’

Afghan farmers in their field.
Anwar Zagomi (right) in his damaged field. The programme helps people like Anwar to overcome challenges and build a sustainable life. Image: Cordaid

Before Anwar and the other farmers in the region can use their land again, the streams, canals and river dams must be restored. Anwar: ‘Now we are forced to buy water for irrigation from the farmers who still have enough in their wells. Furthermore, we need seeds and fertilisers suitable for our climate.’

Cash for Work

In the project, RRAA works with farmers like Anwar to restore irrigation systems and other crucial infrastructure, such as underground water channels and wells destroyed by the floods. The project pays the 1,548 participants to clean 126 kilometres of clogged canals, which gives all farmers in the region renewed access to water for irrigation.

Participants working in the canals to clean up the clogged irrigation system receive cash for their work. Image: Cordaid

The programme staff supply seeds and fertilisers to 1,478 farmers and provide technical support and training. 850 female farmers will receive equipment and support to start poultry farming.

Participants who do not have access to land and cannot do physical work, such as the elderly and people with disabilities, receive vouchers they can exchange for food.


Results & Indicators

  • 1,548 participants in the Cash for Work programme

  • 1,478 farmers receive training and important resources and tools for agriculture

  • 24,150 people receive direct or indirect support from the project

  • 850 female farmers receive equipment and support to start poultry farming

‘Our crops have flourished remarkably this year’, says Abdul Ghaffaar, a wheat farmer from the village of Dehnaw. ‘There have been noticeable changes compared to previous years. Water was scarce because of the damaged canal. Now it has been cleaned, we have plenty. We are optimistic about increasing our production in the future.’

Afghan wheat farmer.
Abdul Ghaffaar. Image: Cordaid

Abdul Wudood, a 48-year-old farmer from Hesarak, recounts his struggles with poor yields in previous years. With funding from Cordaid, RRAA provided Abdul with 50 kg of certified wheat seeds, 100 kg of fertiliser, and comprehensive training on wheat cultivation techniques.

The assistance enables one household to yield between 1.2 and 1.4 tonnes of wheat, which can sustain an average Afghan family for a whole year.

Afghan wheat farmer.
Abdul Wudood on his land. With the increased production, Abdul does not only expect to feed his family but also to generate an additional income. Moreover, he plans to reserve a portion of the harvest for the following season, to become more resilient to unforeseen challenges in the future. Image: Cordaid

In 2024, RRAA aims to extend its support to 1,522 farmers by bolstering crop production and livelihoods in the region.

Cordaid has been active in Afghanistan since 2001 and has established many long-term and durable relationships with local communities and organisations. Since the Taliban seized power in August 2021, Cordaid has carried out eleven emergency relief programmes throughout the country.

This programme is funded by the National Postcode Lottery.

Header image: A wheat farmer and one of the participants of the project in Logar. Image: Cordaid