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UN helping farmers in Afghanistan, Africa

world Updated: Apr 29, 2008 10:40 IST

PTI
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Alarmed by adverse impact of climate change on farming and rising food prices, the UN agencies are helping farmers in Afghanistan and Africa to increase their agricultural production.

In Afghanistan, six UN agencies led by the World Food Progamme (WFP) have started a "gardening and literacy" project aimed at reversing damages done to environment by decades of conflict, uncontrolled grazing and enabling the farmers to set up their nurseries.

"These nurseries are making a huge difference to the lives of ordinary Afghan people and also to our environment," said Obaidulla Ghafouri, the programme's coordinator, noting that rural communities and farmers' livelihoods have been impacted by deforestation.

The nurseries, he added, provide regular jobs for ex-combatants and also for women, who can support their families with income earned while attending literacy classes.

More than 500 nurseries have been set up throughout Afghanistan since 2005, and by the end of this year, more than five million plant saplings will be grown and over one million trees planted.

The country is prone to desertification, and this has been exacerbated by limited rainfall, mismanagement, abuse of natural resources, droughts, floods and population growth.

The UN-backed provincial re-forestation centres seeking to boost public awareness on the issue will be established which will serve as both agricultural knowledge centres and high-yield nurseries.

Some 10,000 farmers in five African countries, where crops are expected to be badly affected by climate change, are to receive help from the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

With the help of Spain, WMO will distribute the rain gauges to volunteer farmers in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, and train them in using rainfall data to plan sowing, fertiliser application and harvesting.

The goal of the roving seminars is to support farmers' self-reliance by supplying them with information on weather and climate risk management.

In West Africa, the area suitable for agriculture, especially along the margins of arid and semi-arid areas, are all expected to decrease, according to projections by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In some African countries, yield from rain-fed farming could be reduced by up to 50 per cent by 2020.