Afghanistan ranks 175th out of 187 countries on the UN 2013 Human Development Index. Most of the population live without sustainable access to clean water and sanitation. Gender inequality is profoundly entrenched, gender-based violence is widespread and the maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world. Australia’s aid focuses on promoting education opportunities; rural development, particularly of agriculture and community infrastructure; and improving the quality of governance.
ACIAR’s collaboration with Afghanistan started in 2002 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, 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.