Why might there be a drought in Afghanistan?

This year, communities across Afghanistan are once again concerned that another drought may be on the way. With the La Niña weather phenomenon bringing below-average, irregular rain and snowfall which resulted in drought-like conditions across much of the country, the wellbeing of 31 million Afghans who depend on agriculture to make ends meet is threatened once again. In Kabul, where Afghanaid's headquarters are located, snowfall was absent until the beginning of February, when typically the city would see snowfall from mid-November.  

With three of the last four years being marred by severe drought, food security and livelihoods have been severely impacted, and many communities will be considerably concerned about the prospect of returning drought conditions having never recovered from previous ones.

These seasonal shifts could deepen water scarcity, forcing families members to travel long distances in search of water. 67% of households in Afghanistan reported difficulty accessing water in the last year. Crop planting and harvest systems could also be severely disrupted. With just under 80% of the population depending on agriculture to earn an income, families simply cannot afford for their crops to fail. If unable to grow or purchase food, farmers in rural areas have little or no alternative employment opportunities, further exacerbating the cycle of poverty that many ordinary Afghan families know all too well. 

Does it snow in Afghanistan?

Typically, mountainous Afghanistan sees heavy snowfall each winter, with its intensity varying depending on location and altitude. Temperatures in the peak winter season often remain well below freezing, and can reach as low as -25°C in some areas. Sadly, during the peak winter period in 2023-2024, these precipitation levels have dropped to just 45-60% of previous years' figures.

Why is heavy snowfall so important?

In the remote, mountainous provinces in which we work, farming communities expect large amounts of snow. Whilst brutal and unyielding, this snowfall becomes a vital source of water when it melts, replenishing mountain ecosystems and watering crops. When this environmental cycle is disrupted, it can cause a range of challenges.

Whilst also hampering efforts to recover, rebuild, and flourish, instances of drought can cause acute need in families reliant on agriculture. Qasim Ali is one of the many farmers who last year was unable to make ends meet due to the enormous impact of drought on his livelihood over the past few years. Living in Daykundi province with his family of six, he told us: 

Several recurrent years of drought affected our farming practices, and I was not able to harvest enough to cover our household necessities including providing the farm inputs…I was not able to support my family to provide our food.

Recognising the emergency situation he faced, Qasim Ali contacted his local Afghanaid team to receive emergency food assistance. Supporting 1566 households affected by drought, this project ensured agricultural families in Qasim Ali's area were able to feed their families despite these climatic shocks. “We have enough food available for more than a year ahead of us now." Qasim Ali told us, "Thanks to Afghanaid, our life situation has improved and we no longer live in fear of hunger.”

Is drought caused by climate change?

Increasing evidence shows how climate change is influencing rainfall patterns and seasonal temperatures across the world. Afghanistan, one of the world's most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, is bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, yet it is currently manifesting as a water crisis.

Read our explainer

How can we help?

With your support, we can ensure communities across Afghanistan, most importantly farming households, are able to build resilience against droughts and other disasters. Through donating what you can, you can ensure they receive the tools they need to diversify their livelihoods, access clean water and tackle food insecurity: 

Please select a donation amount (required)
Set up a regular payment Donate