Paucity of UN funds threatens Afghan agriculture
ISLAMABAD, Jan 28 (Reuters) - A cash crisis is threatening a crucial agriculture and livestock programme in Afghanistan run by the United Nations, U.N. officials said on Friday.
``We are in a critical situation...The funding runs out in June, 2000,'' Terence Barker, manager of a livestock programme run by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told a news conference.
``Without funding we cannot continue...,'' he said of a $10 million programme without which war-torn Afghanistan may see a serious slowdown in crop production and livestock rearing.
Knut Ostby, senior deputy resident representative for the U.N. Development Programme for Afghanistan, said funds were trickling in from donor countries but the $10 million needed to run the scheme each year was not yet in sight.
Barker said donor countries must realise that if the U.N. projects, which aim to boost agriculture and cattle and sheep herds in Afghanistan, were closed down, U.N. humanitarian aid would have to be increased to compensate for the food losses.
Afghanistan is already heavily dependent on U.N. and other non-government organisations for basic needs.
``It means the food security situation will deteriorate, making need for more humanitarian relief (funding),'' he said.
Funding shortages have affected several other United Nations programmes in Afghanistan but U.N. officials said the FAO was providing crucial help in maintaining and improving agriculture, badly affected by 20 years of war.
They say closure of the projects -- which will become imminent if funding is not received by June -- would mean a worsening food situation in an already poor country which heavily relies on wheat imports from Pakistan.
The operations include raising livestock numbers, vaccination of animals, providing veterinary help, producing wheat seedstock, encouraging commercial production of fruits and dozens of other areas.
``Afghanistan is known as a place full of problems,'' said Ostby. ``But we would like to discuss the opportunities that are being missed,'' he said, referring to the potential of agriculture sector to meet and exceed all Afghan food needs.
The United Nations launched a consolidated appeal for $221 million for Afghanistan in November, but past appeals have fallen far short of their targets, hit by donor fatigue and distaste for the hardline policies of the Taleban.
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