Constraints to Forage Production and Rangeland Management in Afghanistan
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Afghanistan covers an area of 65.3 million ha of steep and mountainous land which is not very conducive to farming. The availability of land and water resources for agricultural production is limited and marginal at best. Crop production is mostly confined to pockets of irrigated land, with some rain-fed areas in the north of the country and at higher elevations. Yet, agriculture is the main livelihood that provides resilience to poor farmers and is a major contributor to the war-torn Afghan economy. Livestock is the most important farming component and about 8 million farmers depend entirely on a crop-livestock system for their livelihoods. The prevalent livestock production systems are: sedentary villagers; settled transhumance; and nomadic pastoral. Insufficient feed production and availability is the key constraint for the livestock sector. The lack of forage of sufficient quality limits productivity, and the effect worsens during drought. While meager, rangelands and cultivated forages are the two major feed sources for livestock. Overgrazing, land tenure issues, conversion of rangelands into rain-fed cropping systems, and climate change, including drought, have caused widespread rangeland degradation (Pittroff, 2011). Improving the supply of quality fodder could contribute to reducing household food insecurity and poverty in Afghanistan. Although substantial investments have been made in the development of agriculture in Afghanistan (Pittroff, 2011), forage development has drawn limited attention by donors and implementing agencies (Motamed, 2008). This paper outlines the major constraints to forage production and rangeland improvement in Afghanistan.