Despite news that the World Food Program (WFP) is facing a funding shortfall in Afghanistan that will force it to refocus its activities, a pilot program called Purchase for Progress (P4P) is linking over 100,000 Afghan farmers to a market for their crops.
Purchase for Progress
In 2008, WFP launched a pilot initiative called Purchase for Progress (P4P) that takes advantage of WFP’s position as a large purchaser of food in Africa, Asia and Latin America to offer smallholder farmers a secure market for food. In 2010, WFP bought US$1.25 billion worth of food with more than 80 percent purchased from developing countries.
Currently implemented in 20 countries, P4P also helps farmers address obstacles to getting their food to market such as absent or insufficient storage, credit, or seed by working with farmers cooperatives to set up the needed agricultural production sites. P4P in Afghanistan hopes to engage 135,000 farmers during the five year pilot program to build capacity for farmers’ organizations and the domestic food processing industry.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than half the population living below the poverty line. Additionally, about 80 percent of the labor force works in agriculture making agricultural investment and improvement crucial for economic development. Most smallholder farmers cultivate five hectares or less, only produce crops for household consumption and often lack or have limited access to irrigation, high quality seeds and fertilizers.
How P4P is Addressing Challenges
WFP is working to address many of the challenges facing Afghanistan’s smallholder farmers by providing commodity contracts to farmers’ organizations, building capacity for the emerging food processing industry and working with the Ministries of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock and Public Health to development food safety and hygiene standards.
From the Fields to the Classroom
One of the primary objectives of P4P was to purchase wheat grain to make High Energy Biscuits (HEB), a nutritious ready-to-eat biscuit that contains essential vitamins and minerals, to distribute at schools as part of the Afghanistan School Meals program. In 2009, WFP provided a hot meal or a daily snack of HEB to 1.4 million children to alleviate hunger and encourage school attendance. WFP also provided students with vegetable oil to take home to their families as an extra incentive for school enrollment, including 560,000 girls. This policy is helping to close the gender gap in Afghan schools. WFP is currently expanding its collaboration with food processors and trying to establish the foundation for a home-grown school feeding program that can ultimately be handed over to the government.