The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced Tuesday it has donated $25 million USD to the United Nations World Food Program’s (WFP’s) Afghanistan Protractive Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) to provide cash-based and food assistance to nearly 1.7 million Afghans.
Most of these Afghans are women and children affected by conflict, natural disasters, and seasonal hunger.
USAID Mission Director Herbert Smith said: "This contribution will meet immediate food needs and will allow WFP to work with communities to sow the seeds for community recovery with interventions that empower vulnerable Afghan families, rebuild livelihoods, and prepare for future shocks."
USAID is the largest donor to the WFP in Afghanistan.
Since 2017, USAID has provided $89 million USD to WFP to support emergency food and nutrition operations in Afghanistan.
USAID works with 16 UN and NGO partners to save lives and reduce the suffering of communities affected by ongoing complex emergencies and its humanitarian assistance is also meeting the acute needs of highly vulnerable Afghans in water, sanitation, and hygiene; emergency basic health; shelter and non-food items; and food and nutrition assistance.
This announcement comes just a day after the WFP raised concerns over the growing number of people facing a serious risk in terms of food security in Afghanistan.
David Beasley, Executive Director of World Food Program (WFP) has said that currently about 40 percent of the population in Afghanistan has no food security.
Referring to the UN’s concerns about the rising number of people suffering from hunger, WFP officials said that over the past three years, four million more people now face a lack of food security, bringing the total number to 13 million out of about 30 million in the country.
Farmers in northwestern Samangan province complain thousands of acres of wheat and barley crops have been destroyed by a type of insect.
Growers grumble the insect attacked their crops 20 days ago but the Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Department has taken no steps to counter the assault.
Azad, a farmer from Akhta Khana village of the provincial capital, told Pajhwok Afghan News he had cultivated one ton of wheat but the bug had ruined one-third of his farms.
The insect has spoiled wheat and barley farms in the area, he said, adding the bug was locally called moar -- a small insect that attacks wheat and barley as soon as the crops start growing.
Khal Mohammad, another grower from the Sharikyar village of Aibak, said he had sown 280 kilograms of wheat seeds but the insects destroyed them all.
The pest had been damaging people’s crops over the past several years in Aibak but the agriculture department had done nothing to deal with the threat.
Gulabuddin Ghayasi, plant protections manager at the agriculture department, confirmed farms had been damaged in many areas around the Samangan capital.
The affected localities included Taikhonak, Sharikyar, Manqutan, Dokoh, Tasma, Kandai, Saydara, Surcha and Rubatak. He said the insect had destroyed more than 10,000 acres of crops.
The department requested the ministry concerned for dealing with the problem in the past, but it did not pay enough attention to the issue, Ghayasi said.
He added the ministry only telephoned them to prepare a list of pesticides and tell farmers to purchase them from the market. The department had distributed 30 liters of pesticides available to farmers, he concluded.
The Afghan government approved sixteen new contracts during the last meeting of the National Procurement Commission chaired by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
The Office of the President, ARG Palace, said a total of nineteen contracts were reviewed during the meeting and sixteen of them approved for the execution.
The contracts approved during the meeting include air travel services for 30,350 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, educational cost for the students based in India, Turkey, and Malaysia who are currently doing their Bachelors and Masters degree, road asphalt work from Zazai area to Ahmad Khel area close to Durand Line in Paktia, and procurement of gas for the VIP protection unit.
Other contracts approved during the meeting include procurement of food items for the administrative office of the president, contract for the construction of wall surrounding the administrative complex, inter services for the 53 units of the ministry of finance, procurement of food items for Nangarhar University, procurement of food items for the army corps for the fiscal year 1397 and 1398, air filter system repair for the 209th shaheen Corps Commandment, and reconstruction of the watch tower of the 303 Spinghar Zone commandment in Paktia.
According to ARG Palace, the Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish, CE Abdullah Abdullah, Economy and Justice Ministers, Presidential adviser Mohammad Humayoun, members of the parliamentary commissions for finance and budget, and representative of the Resolute Support had also attended the meeting along with some other officials.
As concerns rise over a shortage of water across the country, the Ministry of Energy and Water says required reforms will be brought to management of water zones across Afghanistan.
In an interview with TOLOnews, Water and Energy Minister Ali Ahmad Osmani stressed the need for better implementation of big projects to control Afghanistan’s waters.
“We have started reforms in three areas in order to improve work on our projects,” he said. “Making the contract process easy for contractor companies is another part of our plans.”
An economic analyst, Azrakhsh Hafizi, says government should have a clear policy on water management and it should accelerate hydropower dam projects across the country.
“Government should make bigger plans to control Afghanistan’s waters. These plans should be implemented in the framework of a clear water policy,” Hafizi said.
Uzbekistan is all poised to launch work on a major project that will boost power exports to energy-deficient Afghanistan by 70 percent.
Construction of the Afghan section of the 260-kilometer transmission line between Uzbekistan’s Surkhan region and Pul-i-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, will start in June.
The Asian Development Bank has pledged $70 million for the project, which is expected to cost $150 million. Uzbekistan will chip in with $32 million, according to Eurasianet.
Uzbek energy Chief Executive Ulugbek Mustafayev was quoted as saying that the transmission line would help Tashkent export up to 24 million kilowatt hours to Afghanistan daily.
President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Tashkent in December lent the project fresh impetus. A month later, his Uzbek counterpart ordered a cut in the rate of power exports to Afghanistan.
The prefabricated housing factory was inaugurated in Kabul almost twenty five years after its operations were halted by sustaining damages during the civil war in the early 90s.
The factory was inaugurated in the presence of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and other senior government officials including the Minister of Urban Development and Housing Syed Sadat MansoorNaderi.
The factory first started operations in the early 1960s and continued to its operations until around 1992 when the country was hit by devastating civil war that resulted into the closure of the factory.
A contract was signed for the reconstruction of the factory in 2016 in Kabul between Minister Naderi and OrhanGuner the head of the Turkish firm Vefa Group.
The officials had then said the factory will produce around 300 cubic meters of prefabricated construction structures over a period of twelve months, once it becomes operational.
According to the officials, the prefabricated materials would be used for the construction of schools, hospitals, clinics, and other public welfare projects.
In the meantime, the Minister of Urban Development and Housing, Syed Sadat MansoorNaderi said the opening of the factory will spark a revolution in the construction field, particularly in prefabricated housing sector.
Naderi further added that the factory has a capacity of producing up to one million cubic meters of prefabricated housing materials and structures.
He said the prefabricated materials and structures will be manufactured in less time with less cost.
According to Minister Naderi, previously the construction of a school with eight classes cost around 350 per square meter and was built over a period of one and half years but the new factory will help to reduce the cost to 240 per square meter and the construction time will be from 6 to 8 weeks.
The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) says the first phase of China’s Kabul housing scheme, which includes the construction of 1,400 residential units, will begin in the near future.
NilofarLangar, spokesperson for the ministry, was quoted by Ariana News as saying that the construction of the 1,400 residential plots cost more than $75 million and will be distributed to Afghan security forces’ survivors and low-income people.
Afghanistan Industrialists Association (AIA) said it believes that using the domestic materials of this city can lead to the economic growth.
The Chinese government has pledged to provide two billion Chinese Yuan (about $300 million USD) for the entire project.
The cost of the second and third phases is also estimated to be around 500 million Chinese Yuan.
Iran is willing to invest in Sangan iron ore mine in Herat province and process the mineral resource inside that country.
However, the Afghan government has called for processing the mineral resource inside Afghanistan, the acting minister of mines Nargis Nehan has said.
Sangan iron ore is located along the border with Iran.
Iran has extracted the mineral resource from its part, according to Afghan Ministry of Mines, and now it is trying to afford its need of raw materials for its factories from the Afghanistan part of the iron ore.
“I held talks with Iran ambassador in Kabul many times,” Nehan said at a press briefing on Friday. “Iran is interested to extract the mineral resource in Afghanistan as it needs raw materials for its machineries and it has ended the mineral resource from its part of Sangan iron ore (on Iran soil),” Nehan said.
“We have a policy, based on which, extracted mineral resources should be processed inside the country (Afghanistan),” she added.
Earlier this month, Iranian Ambassador to Kabul Mohammad Reza Bahrami said Kabul and Tehran have started talks on investment in mining sector in Afghanistan.
“We have held talks with Afghan government on investment in mines in this country, particularly the Sangan (iron ore) mine,” he said.
Some lawmakers of the province have called on government to come up with proper strategies on the mining sector in order to ensure the safety of these projects in bordering areas with Iran.
Amid ongoing efforts to bolster the economic sector of the country through exports and domestic production, a group of at least 25 Afghan traders participated in a Food Show in Dubai where contracts worth $ 20.5 million were signed with the foreign traders.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says Afghan traders have inked $ 20.5 million in signed and potential deals for high-value agricultural products due to their participation in February at the Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai.
According to a statement, USAID supported 25 Afghan exporters at the February 2018 Gulfood Show, where Afghanistan’s agricultural riches, including world-class pomegranates, saffron, apples, apricots, melons, grapes, nuts, and raisins were on display for international buyers.
The statement further added that Gulfood is the world’s largest annual food and hospitality show. Now in its 23rd year, the event showcased 5,000 exhibitors from the food, drink, food services, and hospitality industries. This year’s exhibition welcomed more than 97,000 visitors in the course of the five-day event.
“USAID-supported exporters have yielded tens of millions of dollars in deals since Afghan participation began in 2010. This year, India was the lead buyer of Afghan produce, with 48 percent of the $12 million in confirmed deals signed at the event, followed by Saudi Arabia, which came in at 17 percent. Potential deals totaled US$8.5 million. The 2,500 metric tons of produce negotiated included raisins, figs, pistachios, saffron, and pine nuts,” the statement added.
“As a result of our participation in Gulfood, we signed the largest contract our company has ever received to export Kandahar pomegranates,” said Mr. Mahmood, the owner of Afghan Red Pomegranate.
Agriculture is backbone of Afghanistan’s economy. Up to 80 percent of Afghans are dependent on farming and livestock, and agriculture comprises 25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Afghanistan’s participation at this year’s Gulfood comes on the heels of a successful USAID-supported event in New Delhi, the 2017 Afghanistan-India Trade and Investment Show, where Afghan exhibitors signed contracts valued at $ 70 million.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday invited Pakistan to take part in the Chabahar Port project.
According to Dawn News this came as Zarif sought to ease concerns of Pakistan over India’s involvement in the port.
Zarif also meanwhile extended the invitation to China.
“We offered to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). We have also offered Pakistan and China to participate in Chabahar,” said Zarif, who is on a three-day visit to Pakistan.
While in Pakistan, Zarif held bilateral talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Asif and addressed a trade conference, Dawn News reported.
This move comes after Iran last month signed a lease agreement with India, which would give India operational control of the port.
Dawn news stated that Zarif said both Pakistan and India need to link through sea and land routes in order to boost development in eastern and south-eastern Iran and in south western Pakistan.
Zarif also said the Chabahar port project was not meant to “encircle Pakistan … strangulate anybody” and twice said Iran would not allow anyone to hurt Pakistan from its territory much like Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against Iran, Dawn News reported.