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U.N. supports Afghanistan’s battle against climate change impacts

The United Nations and the government of Afghanistan will create a $6 million climate change fund which will address communities’ vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

Specifically, the fund will support a number of interventions like improved water management and use efficiency; community-based watershed management; climate-related research and early warning systems; improved food security; and rangeland management.

It will be implemented in four locations – Badakhshan in the northeast, Balkh in the north, through the Koh-e Baba to Bamyan and Daikundi in the Central Highlands.

Afghanistan is among the world’s regions highly exposed to the impacts of climate change. A landlocked country, four-fifths of the country’s population is directly dependent on natural resources for income and sustenance, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

In addition, there will also be watershed management activities on the village level that will include tree-planting, terracing of slopes and gathering of wild seeds to replant over-grazed mountainsides.

“Education and the development of vocational skills for the communities also play a key role in this project,” said the environment agency.

However, these resources are very fragile, and the degrading effects of increasing human activity in many areas are worsened by current climatic variability, mainly frequent droughts and extreme weather-induced floods and erosion.

"In Afghanistan, 79 percent of the population is engaged in agricultural activities, the majority at subsistence level. So by working with communities, or with people helping people, we in Afghanistan can build in stronger adaption approaches to all our national development plans," said Mostapha Zaher, Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency director general.

“The country experienced a severe drought in 1998 to 2006 and more recently in 2008 to 2009, which led to significant losses of crops such as wheat, rice, maize and potato,” said the UNEP.

Likewise, it is predicted that climate change is set to cause an increase in mean yearly temperatures, a decrease in mean yearly rainfall and an increase in the intensity of rainfalls.

The UNEP stressed that climate change adaptation is especially crucial in developing countries, since these are “predicted to bear the brunt of climate change effects.”

“The overarching goal is to reduce the vulnerability of biological systems to these impacts,” the UNEP said. – C. Dominguez

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