KABUL, 17 July 2008 (IRIN) - At least 1.5 million people in 19 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces - mostly farming communities in the north - have been severely affected by drought and are in need of urgent humanitarian relief, an Afghan minister told IRIN.
"About 1.5 million people have lost 70-80 percent of their livelihoods - mostly rain-fed agriculture and livestock - owing to the drought," said Ehsan Zia, minister of rural rehabilitation and development.
The country has about 1.5 million hectares of rain-fed agricultural land which provided one third of domestic cereal production (including wheat, beans, rice and maize) in 2007.
The drought, which officials blame on global warming, has also affected irrigated agricultural land, with yields down 40 percent in many places compared to 2007.
Afghanistan's domestic cereal production is thus set to fall to about 2.3 million tonnes as against 4.6 million tonnes in 2007 - a 50 percent drop - the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock said.
Afghanistan produced close to 90 percent of its domestic cereal consumption needs in 2007, but has long been dependent on imports from Pakistan to make up the shortfall.
Afghan officials say the current shortfall will be made good by food aid deliveries and imports.
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