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A strong, nourishing and well-governed food system for the Kabul City Region

Sustainable food security in Kabul City and its peripheries by transforming households into agricultural production units

Photo of Vanessa Di Giorgi
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e. V.

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

For this Vision, Welthungerhilfe (WHH) will collaborate with the Ministry for Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of Afghanistan as well as with the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster Afghanistan.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Kabul, however Welthungerhilfe's headquarters are in Bonn, Germany

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Afghanistan, however Welthungerhilfe's headquarters are in Bonn, Germany

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan and covers an area of 1,023 kilometers2. The vision will include adjoining districts Paghman and Bagrami

What country is your selected Place located in?

Afghanistan - situated between Central and South Asia, rich in natural resources, with a young and diverse population and great potential.

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I have been working as the Partner Advisor on Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security as well as on Natural Resource Management at WHH since 2017. Kabul is one of the five provinces in which WHH has been implementing programs to strengthen the livelihoods of vulnerable populations and to enhance the capacity of civil society in Afghanistan for over 20 years.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Kabul is the largest city in Afghanistan, an economical and cultural hub, situated around 1,800m above sea level in a narrow valley between the Hindu Kush Mountains along the Kabul river. Kabul City is located at a strategic intersection of roads that lead to Uzbekistan to the north, Pakistan to the east, and Kandahar to the south. As has been the case throughout its history, Kabul’s economy depends to a large degree on trade, and its bazaars are renowned throughout the region. Over the last decade, Kabul has transformed into a city of stark contrasts with narrow alleyways leading to traditional homes, mosques and bazaars at its heart, while modest informal homes along the steep hillsides resemble rural villages. Elsewhere, speculative commercial and residential buildings rise above the skyline. Kabul has become the fifth fastest growing city in the world with a population which has surged from approximately 1.5 million in 2001 to around 6 million people today. The toppling of the Taliban in 2001 and the hope of increased security and economic possibilities enticed many Afghans to move to the capital. However, Kabul is underdeveloped for the population of its size. Many streets remain unpaved or untended, as witnessed by the haze of beige dust engulfing the city. At the same time, construction sites continue to spring up on every street. The image of Kabul is colored by high-rise apartment blocks and multistory wedding halls that poke out of the sprawl of traditional single-floor buildings. Kabul has historically been the melting pot of diverse ethnic groups who inhabit Afghanistan. Aside from Pashtun and Tajik communities, who make up the majority of Afghans, there is a significant Hazara population, along with Uzbek, Turkmen and other groups. While most of the population is Muslim, there are also Sikh and Hindu communities in the city. Afghanistan’s varied climate means that almost any food can grow in the country, although Afghanistan’s main crops are wheat, maize, and rice, which feature heavily in the country’s food. Dishes also include plenty of coriander, onions, tomatoes, garlic and fresh yoghurt. A whole range of fruits, particularly pomegranates, grapes and local melons are widely consumed too. The tradition of Afghan food goes beyond holidays and celebrations, as it is woven into the cultural fabric of Afghanistan. Afghan foods holds a key to the history and cultural story of Afghanistan. The overall labour force participation rate in Afghanistan is suppressed by very low levels of female activity on the labour market, indicating that women are still an important untapped economic potential. At the same time, many people moving from rural areas to Kabul have difficulties encountering livelihood opportunities matching their existing skills and capabilities. There is a large segment of Kabul's inhabitants who are unemployed.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Kabul has been unable to keep up with fast-paced urbanization and seems incapable of providing jobs and services to sustain all its newcomers. This rapid growth is taking a heavy toll on the city that was originally designed for around 700,000 people. An estimated 80% of Kabul’s residents live in informal or illegal settlements. Based on their access to basic services like sanitation and water, three out of four Kabul residents live in conditions that qualify as informal settlements, or slums. The massive investments in commercial and residential development since 2001 have not been matched by public spending on infrastructure, with the result that environmental conditions in the fast-growing suburbs of Kabul remain poor. At the same time, a high level of food insecurity persists in these areas with a direct impact on quality of diets and access to food for households. According to the latest Integrated Food Insecurity Phase Classification (IPC) Report, as of September 2019, 10.23 million people (around 33% of the total population) are estimated to be in Food Crisis and Emergency in Afghanistan. These people require urgent action to reduce food consumption gaps and to protect/save livelihoods and reduce acute malnutrition. The data shows that urban population are the same or even mostly higher food insecure than rural populations. The province Kabul is classified in Phase 3, whereas 5% of its total population (around 250,000) find themselves in Phase 4 (“Emergency”). The sources of food supply to Kabul are mainly the imports, production from rural and peri-urban areas. Wheat (the staple food) and rice are mainly imported as the domestic production lies far below the national demand. In fact, Afghanistan is dependent on importation of wheat flour from neighboring countries. Processed foods are also imported as there is a lack in processing industries and few functioning value chains. Almost 40 years of conflict have destroyed productive infrastructure and production facilities in the country. Displacement in rural areas due to instability and natural disasters have also contributed to lower agricultural production and outputs in recent years. The industrial and agro-processing sectors are suffering from a lack of investment, entrepreneurship and flawed credit market. Deterioration of natural resources, water scarcity and poor soil management have been accompanied by rapid deforestation. Due to above factors, the dietary requirements of the households are often not fulfilled. Further reasons for widespread malnutrition in Afghanistan is the lack of awareness of the communities on nutrition (including knowledge of edible wild food plants), especially on Infant and Young Children Feeding Practices coupled with misbeliefs citing cultural and religious norms. Another reason limited awareness of food safety, food hygiene and water storage/treatment. Proper regulations on food safety in production and marketing are missing.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

With the Vision 2050, • Rural-Peri-Urban and Urban food systems will be well-established. To achieve this, infrastructure such as roads, storage facilities, electricity and water supply systems will be developed. • Reestablished ecosystem services that are essential for a well-functioning food system, such as the forest landscape will be restored in and around Kabul city region. With the forest landscape restoration, natural resource management systems will be functional. Wild food plants will be conserved, promoted and marketed to meet consumer demands. • In the Kabul city region, urban farming systems will be established. Greenhouse farming, Soil-less farming, vertical farming, hydroponics and aquaponics systems, and micro-greens cultivation are just some of the modern farming systems that will be introduced. With modern and advanced farming systems, most of the households in the city region will be engaged in some form of agricultural production. The scalable systems will be introduced to be compatible with the housing system of the city region. The peripheries will also be engaged in agricultural production by using ecological and highly productive farming systems. Forest Market Gardens is one example of such farming systems that imitate the dynamics of analog forestry, and low external input farming systems. • Kabul city and its peripheries will become exclusive agri-processing areas. Agri-processing zones will be established in the peripheries and the majority of households will become mini-agri processing units. • The markets and bazaars will be upgraded in terms of their hygiene standards. Warehouses, wholesale and retail sales centres in accordance with WHO-recommended hygienic standards will become available for consumers. • The institutional capacity will be strengthened to assure food hygiene and quality. Afghanistan food quality standards will be developed, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) will be established especially for small-scale food processors. An Afghanistan Standards Institution will be well- established and well-functioning. Kabul Municipality with the support of the MoPH will have a major role in regulating the quality of consumer products available in the market. • All relevant stakeholders are well-coordinated and actively participating in the food system planning and establishment. The government planning process on food security, agriculture and nutrition will be based on the food system approach. During 2020-2030, the capacity of all relevant government institutions on food system approach will be developed. Food system approach will be an integral part of the government future planning process. • Big data and analytics system will be developed for the advancement of the technological advances in the agriculture sector in Kabul city region and its peripheries.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The food system vision 2050 for Kabul city and peripheries is; “Improved Food Security in all households in Kabul city and its peripheries by transforming at least 50 per cent of households into agricultural/agribusiness production units to produce quality food with well-established urban-peri-urban-rural food system linkages and improved food system governance capacity by 2050.”

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

By 2050 in Kabul and Peripheries, Strengthened city region food production and supply system in Kabul city region and peripheries • Nutritious food will be available for all in the region and people will have access to the high nutrient, quality and hygienic food for all households of Kabul city and peripheries. The malnutrition is eliminated, and child malnutrition incidents will be at non-significant level. • The food markets will be well-functioning. There will be no food shortage, and imports are reduced to the essential food that cannot be produced in Afghanistan. Food safety is well-assured, and food safety-related illnesses are eliminated. All restaurants are well regulated by the Kabul Municipality and the MoPH. • Farmers practice diversified cropping systems with high-quality inputs and recycled systems such as FMGs and recycled systems with low input agricultural methods. Increased local economic growth and generate diversity of decent jobs and income. • Improved and newly established value chains operate sustainably in the region. • As most of the households are engaged in food production, food processing or food selling, the income of the people have risen, and many more economic activities and trading thrives. The Kabul economy is well functioning. • Social enterprises and linkages with the private sector assure economic benefits for small-scale producers. Well established NRM system • The Kabul and peripheries have become green. Water catchment areas have restored and conserved. Safe drinking water is no more a problem in Kabul. Dried seasonal water streams have become perennial. With the forest landscape restored, people will have places for leisure activities, and tourism has been booming. This will generate more income for the Kabul economy. • With the well-established NRM system, irrigation facilities are improved, soil is well managed and thereby, impact of natural disasters significantly reduced. Food system governance is well established and functioning • There are joint planning and implementation of the city region food system by all relevant government institutions. The food system approach is the key approach used in food security, agriculture and nutrition sectors. • Women have equal opportunities in the food system, especially in the production and value chains. • There are no land rights issues, and land rights are well defined • Big data and analytics used in agriculture planning and implementation as well as in the introduction of new technologies. Overall, Kabul city and peripheral districts of Paghman and Bagrami districts will achieve improved and stable food and nutrition security by 2050.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website


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Photo of Jun Suto

Vanessa Di Giorgi thank you for sharing!! Thank you for your inspiring work for the past 10+ years in the war-torn region!

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