Building resilience and livelihoods in the aftermath of war
31 Mar 2015 by Benjamin Larroquette, Regional Technical Advisor, Climate Change Adaptation
Travelling through Afghanistan, one can see that the country is struggling to recover from 30 years of war. Poverty is especially apparent when you leave Kabul and travel to other parts of the country. UNDP has been in Afghanistan for more than 50 years, working closely with the Afghan government to operate projects across the country’s 34 provinces, but despite significant steps forward, this is a country that faces enormous recovery needs after decades of war, natural disasters and a continuing cycle of violence.
After months of preparation, we at UNDP are now starting to implement the “Strengthening the Resilience of Rural Livelihood Options for Afghan Communities” project, the first climate change adaptation project in this country. UNDP is now helping Afghan communities withstand the effects of climate change, and we are focusing on building awareness and planning capacity, as well as demonstrating adaptation activities such as livelihood diversification, resilient water and irrigation infrastructure, and improved agriculture practices.
This is a crucial project for poverty reduction in Afghanistan. Sixty percent of the Afghan workforce is employed in agriculture, but climate change impact has been making their lives difficult. Due to prolonged droughts, erratic rainfall and extreme temperatures, the most cultivable land receives less than 400mm of precipitation per year and productivity has been lowered significantly.
During the project’s preparation, I travelled to the mountainous region of Panshir where the impacts of climate change are clear. Floods have damaged property and people are very vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as droughts, hail storms and snow, the land and soil they live on become more and more unreliable.
In the north of the country, I met with stakeholders in the ancient city of Masar-i-sharif, in Balkh province. This region faces regular droughts. Rehabilitating the irrigation infrastructure (sometimes centuries old underground channels called Karezes) is vital for the largest part of the rural population living on subsistence farming.
One of the key things UNDP will invest in is restoring ecological infrastructure, such as rangelands. Rangelands are vital to the Afghan economy since they support livestock production and provide natural products such as fruits and nuts. By restoring and enhancing the ecosystems, climate change-induced disaster events are likely to be more gradual and less severe.
Together with the government of Afghanistan, we will invest in small-scale rural infrastructure such as water management and irrigation, which will contribute to higher food security and poverty reduction for those currently operating on rain-fed land.
The country’s fragile security situation has posed serious hurdles in the delivery of vital assistance in many areas, yet we are committed to help the government of Afghanistan to raise awareness and create a more robust knowledge base of climate change impacts.