As the world grapples with the growing impacts of the climate crisis, few regions are as vulnerable as Afghanistan. In 2024, communities across the country continue to grapple a varying set of challenges which are intensified by the changing climate.

This Earth Day, we're highlighting how for vulnerable Afghan families, the climate crisis is one of the most pressing emergencies they face, severely impacting their ability to feed themselves, earn an income, access water, stay safe and keep healthy. We also highlight how through targeted initiatives to revitalise Afghan landscapes and build resilience to climatic changes, we can tackle the root causes of humanitarian emergencies, instead of simply responding when they do occur. 

Food Insecurity and Loss of Income

One of the most immediate and pressing consequences of the climate crisis in Afghanistan is its impact on food security across the country. With the country's economy reliant on agricultural production, particularly rain-fed agriculture, changes in precipitation patterns and extreme weather events have an extremely detrimental effect to the health of soil, crops and livestock.

Climate change has made erratic rainfall, prolonged droughts, unseasonal frosts and flash floods increasingly common in Afghanistan and Central Asia, wreaking havoc on food production. These deficits mean rural producers are unable to feed their families from their land, and is driving up market prices. The current price of wheat across the country is over 25% more expensive than the average price over the previous three years.

Farmers tend to sow their wheat in the month of November - and they expect the growth to happen immediately after the snowfall of December and January. But these predictable weather patterns that rural families could once rely on have been irregular in recent years, and if the timing of sowing seeds and then irrigating those seeds no longer matches, then we have a problem for large numbers of farmers dependent on rainfall for their crop.

Afghanaid's Deputy Director for Climate Action, Guru Naik

Read our full interview with Guru Naik

In 2024, over 15 million people in Afghanistan are facing emergency levels of food insecurity, and 3.2 million children under 5 are experiencing acute malnutrition. Climate-induced crop failures and dwindling pasture lands have pushed many rural communities to a point where they don't know where their next meal is coming from, with little support to adapt their farmlands to shifting weather patterns. With agriculture serving as the primary source of livelihood for approximately 80% of the Afghan population, crop failure and low yields quickly result in extreme poverty for millions of families.

Father and farmer Mohammad Rasul told us how droughts impacted his livelihood:

“As a result of the recent drought, I have not been able to grow much on my own land and my family has been in an extremely difficult situation. Because the economy in Afghanistan is not strong, families like ours have really struggled this past year. We had no idea how we would survive.”

When Afghanaid visited his community and spoke to households about their challenges, Afghanaid launched a project providing training sessions for 200 local farmers on disaster risk reduction practices on agricultural land, as well as providing updated training on the sustainable use of natural resources amidst a changing climate. 

As well as this, Afghanaid provided short-term cash for work opportunities for local men like Mohammad Rasul, digging trenches in the mountainside to improve water retention. This crucial income supported Mohammad Rasul to also diversify his income sources.

“Eight months ago I purchased a cow for 35000 AFN so that I could provide my children with nutritious milk and yogurt" he told us proudly, "the wage I received for digging the trenches enabled me to pay off the final instalment, and came at such a helpful time. I am so grateful from the bottom of my heart. Huge appreciation and thanks to Afghanaid for being with us in such tough times.”

Shelter and Vulnerability

After decades of conflict and instability, the living conditions for millions of Afghans are already extremely precarious. The climate crisis exacerbates these vulnerabilities, with extreme weather events having the ability to displace entire communities. With no social safety nets to support families to stay in their communities when disasters strike, households are often forced to relocate in search of safety, and frequently have to find shelter in temporary and unsafe accommodation such as tents or dilapidated buildings. With disasters such as floods increasing in frequency and severity, this is only set to worsen. Climate disasters in Afghanistan directly impact an average of 200,000 people each year.

For widow Suhaila, extreme damage to her home caused by flooding meant her house was no longer safe. However, with nowhere else to stay, Suhaila and her children had no other choice but to stay there. She told us more about that difficult time: 

"It was midnight and my children were sleeping. Suddenly, a voice in the village raised, "Help, help, and help!" I woke up and saw the flood inside my house, it had destroyed the house's surrounding wall and gate... For 2 years my house had no gate or surrounding wall, and I did not have the financial ability to restore the destroyed house. At night we were very afraid of thieves and criminals.”

When Suhaila got in contact with Afghanaid, she was immediately enrolled in a project to help her repair the damage to her home.

Alongside meeting this immediate need for shelter, our teams strengthened communities in Samangan's resilience to floods and other environmental disasters, implementing ecological disaster risk reduction techniques through watershed management and irrigation measures, which improved erosion protection, and helped communities redirect and store rainwater runoff. 

Over the past month, this risk has become a reality for families in Daykundi province, where flash flooding has decimated roads, agricultural fields and houses. Read our latest update here.

Breaking the Cycle

It is clear that the climate crisis in Afghanistan is not just an environmental emergency. It is a humanitarian crisis that threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

Addressing the climate crisis in Afghanistan requires a multifaceted approach that integrates environmental conservation, disaster risk reduction, and livelihood protection. These long term, sustainable solutions play an enormous role in reducing urgent need, decreasing the incidence rates of deadly environmental disasters and building community resilience to climatic and economic shocks, breaking the perpetual cycle of disaster and poverty.

Investments in climate-resilient agriculture, sustainable land management practices, and renewable energy infrastructure are critical for enhancing the resilience of vulnerable communities and reducing aid dependency. Furthermore, enhancing early warning systems, strengthening disaster preparedness and response mechanisms, and promoting community-led adaptation measures can help mitigate the impacts of climate-induced disasters, reduce the vulnerability of marginalised populations, and enable households to take an active role in restoring and protecting their local environments.

Only through these green interventions can Afghanistan confront the humanitarian challenges posed by the climate crisis, and build a more sustainable and prosperous future for its people. You can be integral in facilitating that change: 

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