Since the Soviet invasion of 1979, Afghanistan has struggled with the challenges of conflict, drought and floods. The economy of this semi-arid, landlocked country is rural based, and more than three quarters of the people live in rural areas.
Poverty is widespread throughout the country, which has a high population growth rate. An estimated 21 per cent of the rural population lives in extreme poverty and 38 per cent of rural households face food shortages.
Agricultural production is the main source of rural livelihoods. The years of conflict have hampered development of the agriculture sector, which also suffers from natural disasters and insufficient investment. Landholdings are small, so agriculture is rarely the family’s main source of food or income. About two thirds of rural households own some livestock, and farmers also sell their labour.
IFAD works with small farmers and vulnerable and marginalized socioeconomic groups, particularly women and ethnic minorities, in rural and mountain environments. IFAD's current work in Afghanistan takes into account the difficult security situation in most of the country.
The results-based country strategic opportunities programme for Afghanistan for the period 2008-2012 was the first that IFAD has developed for the country. An updated version is being reviewed.
Formulated in close consultation with Afghan authorities and development partners, the programme aims to support and complement the pro-poor policies and programmes of the Government and other international and national development partners, as reflected in the Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy.
The programme’s objective is to reduce gender disparities and increase the social and economic status of vulnerable and marginalized communities. Its specific objectives are to:
- strengthen the capacity of local development institutions, entrepreneurs and government agencies for planning, enterprise development and economic growth;
- increase access to financial services in rural areas;
- enhance the assets, skills and productivity of rural households.
Afghanistan is a rural economy and about 73 per cent of the population lives in rural areas.
Agriculture in Afghanistan is traditionally the major activity for a large portion of the population, but the sector has suffered from nearly 30 years of conflict, low investment and natural disasters.
An estimated 21 per cent of rural people live in extreme poverty and 38 per cent of rural households face food shortages.