Feb 26, 2008
More than 300,000 animals in Afghanistan have become prey to cold temperatures, severely devastating the livelihood of local farmers. Such extreme weather conditions are causing unprecedented miseries in the country, where more than 900 people have died due to cold this winter.
Faryab, Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s livestock sector has been badly shaken after unusually cold temperatures have killed more than 300,000 animals.
“We don’t have fodder for our sheep,” Muhammad Amin, a local herder, said from outside the Ganj bazaar in the country’s northwestern Faryab province.
“Livestock prices have plummeted. As the sheep are hungry and in snow, we have no choice but to bring them here to sell,” he said.
But for ordinary Afghans, many of whom keep livestock and are already living on the brink of poverty, selling their animals is proving difficult.
“I want to sell them, but there is no one to buy them,” said Muhammad Sharif from south-central Ghor province. “If I can’t sell them they will die. This is the only income for my family. I have nothing else to feed them.”
316,000 animals perish
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) has reported that more than 316,000 animals nationwide have died since December after a cold snap saw temperatures drop below minus 20 degrees Celsius in some places.
In Badghis province alone, over 24,000 animals have perished, devastating the livelihoods of local farmers.
“I used to have 100 sheep, but now I have just 60; most of which are now sick,” Assadullah, a local herder from Moqar district, said.
However, in the capital, Kabul, the repercussions of cold weather on livestock are still not being felt.
“There is no shortage of animals here, but I’ve heard there is a problem in the north,” Mohammad Gul said from outside the Kolola Pushta square livestock market. He added that livestock prices traditionally rise at this time of year due to heavy snows and the inability of farmers to bring their animals to market.
With so many animals dying over such a short period of time, the possibility of meat prices rising further is now greater.
“We are very concerned. Many of these farmers are already vulnerable. This will make them more vulnerable and more food insecure,” said Tekeste Tekie, country representative for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Kabul.
In response, FAO, in collaboration with the Afghan government, has dispatched 20 metric tonnes (mt) of feed to Herat, one of the worst affected provinces.
“This is a reasonable amount because we need about one kilogramme of grain per day per cow or half a kilogramme for smaller animals,” Tekie said, adding that the grain would be mixed with fodder herders already have. “Traditionally, Herat is not so cold, but this year it has been unusually cold – and people were less prepared this time around.”
FAO is also in the process of sending 60mt of feed to Bamyan province and has appealed to donors for another 1,500 mt.
In addition, the agency is working towards procuring antibiotics to treat up to one million animals in those areas where animals have caught infectious diseases because of the cold.
MAIL has already made an urgent appeal for US$4 million for the country’s affected livestock owners, but maintains that an additional US$15 million will be needed.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this has been one of the harshest winters in 30 years in Afghanistan, with close to 900 winter-related human deaths in Herat, Farah, Badghis and Ghor provinces being reported.
With road access to many affected areas still blocked by snow, the true fallout of this year’s winter is yet to be realised.