Prolonged instability has weakened agricultural institutions and constrained Afghanistan’s food and livestock production capabilities. Priorities have been developed through visits by the ACIAR chief executive officer (CEO) and other senior staff, and discussions with leading agricultural R&D institutions and government bodies. A recent ACIAR–AusAID desk study of the agricultural R&D priorities of Afghanistan recognised the key role of agricultural development in the reduction of rural poverty, and recommended a focus on water-limited (rainfed and poorly irrigated) areas, and research to increase productivity of wheat and livestock systems and improve water management. Crop and livestock intensification is critical for the Afghanistan Government, and is supported by AusAID and ACIAR.
ACIAR’s collaboration with Afghanistan started in 2002, focusing originally on wheat and maize varietal improvement. While wheat dominates crop production, maize is also of importance, especially in irrigated areas. Particular attention has been paid to capacity building; improving rust resistance in wheat, with specific attention to the new Ug99 stem rust; and promoting improved crop management. The operating environment is complex as a result of poor security and political uncertainty, which limits access by Australian scientists. ACIAR research in Afghanistan has been implemented by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and ICRISAT.. Efforts are also being made to collaborate and coordinate with other implementing partners, including government, NGOs, grower and industry groups, and donor organisations.
The country program will focus on crop and livestock intensification and better water management. There will be linkages between the improvement of wheat varieties and agronomy, the development of forages for small ruminants, and community-based watershed management. ACIAR’s project partners will work with established programs in agricultural extension and community development, in order to promote adoption of the research results.