Mainstreaming climate change in the National Natural Resource Management Strategy in Afghanistan

Two Afghan boys head home from their farms at dusk on November 13, 2010 in Kandahar Province Afghanistan. Photo credit: Nate Derrick

What is the problem?

The climate change agenda in Afghanistan is still in its infancy as the country continues to overcome the effects of more than three decades of conflict that have displaced millions of people, destroyed critical infrastructure, and weakened institutions. Climate change will bring more frequent drought to Afghanistan, which will adversely affect all NRM sectors through lower productivity. Agriculture, water resources and forests are most likely to be severely impacted by these changes.

There will be increasing impact on the most vulnerable in society, particularly the estimated 20 million rural poor. These impacts will also have effects on economic  development and national security. Building climate resilience and encouraging adaptation to change needs to be mainstreamed into national policies and planning processes, starting with natural resource sectors, especially agriculture and forestry. The benefits of doing this as soon as possible will pay off in terms of more resilient livelihoods, improved job opportunities, an enhanced natural resource base, and more resilient communities.

What is ACT doing about it?

ACT has supported the Afghanistan government to reach its twin imperatives of economic growth and development, which would be seriously jeopardized unless adaptation to climate change is mainstreamed into natural resource policies and sectors. Supporting the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) to incorporate adaptation planning into resource management strategies was seen to be central in sustaining rural livelihoods, by buffering them against impacts of climate change.

This intervention involved taking an early draft of a national Strategy on NRM, and radically improving it with appropriate technical support. Through a very participatory process with stakeholders throughout the country, climate change adaptation was mainstreamed throughout and two other important themes – gender and pro-poor – were also mainstreamed.

How does government benefit?

MAIL is a large and important ministry in Afghanistan, with a staff of nearly 10,000 throughout the country. It is in the process of transition from a traditional line ministry with direct involvement in production promoting activities including government farms and delivery of free extension and input provision into a modern, streamlined ministry providing public sector services and facilitating private sector development in the agriculture sector. It has very significant political influence within government, and ACT’s interventions are thus high profile.
MAIL had already started work on development of the NRM Strategy when the ACT project began work in the country. Senior government staff recognized the potential benefit of having access to the high quality international experience that ACT can supply, and were also keen to grasp the opportunity to mainstream climate change in their document. The production of the Strategy is seen within government as a success, and it is very likely that this activity will be adopted by other ministries, possibly starting with the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW). ACT will continue to support this.

How do the poor and vulnerable benefit?

 The poor are always the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which will aggravate existing food insecurity and impact heavily on those dependent on the agricultural economy. Proportionally these effects will be felt more by subsistence agriculturists and pastoralists, and women and children will be at the bottom of the pecking order. Over half of the population in Afghanistan live just above the poverty line; nearly three quarters are food insecure; some 90% are illiterate; and all rely heavily on agriculture, livestock other non-farm activities. Climatic shocks will tip a large number over the edge and into poverty.

The NRM Strategy will help poor people as it provides government with a tool with which it can leverage funds for development activities and projects. Funds will mainly come from outside, including multilateral, bilateral sources, with an increasing focus on global funds. ACT is also supporting the Government of Afghanistan to develop a Climate Finance Unit, and it will be the primary objective of this unit to access these funds.

What happens next? 

The NRM Strategy provides guidance for climate change adaptation interventions at the national level. The next step is to begin implementation, once funding is found. This will be conducted mainly at local government level, where the mandate in Afghanistan is to work for communities. At this level, local government technical staff must be equipped with knowledge and skills to address climate change problems effectively. Currently the level of knowledge and skills relating to climate change is low.

As an entry point for climate change adaptation interventions there is a need to build capacity of staff working in the field. Short courses, training workshops and on-the-job training are needed to ensure that capacity of the local government authorities regarding climate change aspects is improved. A manual that can offer guidance for practitioners would be a useful tool to develop. ACT will continue to support these activities.

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