The majority of the Afghanistan population live in rural areas where agriculture is critical for livelihoods. Harnessing the potential of agriculture is important for improving labour productivity, the lives of women, and food security. The high youth population is contributing to unemployment and underemployment. Market participation is currently limited and unpaid family members constitute a large number of the workforce. A 2014 World Bank Afghanistan Review recommends focusing on three agricultural sub-sectors in terms of economic viability: irrigated wheat, horticulture (including fruit, nuts and vegetables), and livestock (including production or milk, eggs and poultry meat). These recommendations are based on their suitability for small intensively irrigated and peri-urban areas. However, recent research highlights difficulties with irrigation for crop agriculture and price stagnation for fruits and nuts. The high potential of horticulture and livestock which is suggested in the literature is not possible to back up with data. Data collection is difficult for a number of reasons including the seasonal and informal nature of jobs in the sector. Around 70 percent of the population live and work in rural areas and 61 percent of all households derive income from agriculture. Agriculture accounted for around one quarter of GDP according to the World Bank Agricultural Sector Review for Afghanistan 2014. The review discusses greater potential for jobs in agriculture. It also emphasises the importance of agriculture for raising labour productivity, improving lives for women (and other disadvantaged groups), and reducing food insecurity in rural areas.
K4D helpdesk reports provide summaries of current research, evidence and lessons learned. This report was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development.
Bolton, L. (2019). Agriculture in Afghanistan – Economic Sustainability and Sub-Sector Viability. K4D Helpdesk Report 574. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies