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    9 million Afghans live in extreme poverty

    KABUL (PAN): Two years ago, five million people in Afghanistan lived in extreme poverty, but now the number has increased to nine million, a senior official said on Wednesday.

    Salim Kunduzi, the deputy agriculture, irrigation and livestock minister, told a gathering to mark Word Food Day that those people who did not have enough food and other basic daily necessities were considered the “extreme poor”.

    According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, (FAO), extreme poverty is measured by having none or less than five hectares of land.

    Kunduzi said that the number of poor varied throughout the year, but always increased in the winter.

    Recent floods across the country and in Pakistan have also contributed to the number of people in dire circumstances, he said.

    However, he said his ministry was trying to reduce poverty through projects such as providing better quality wheat seed and fertiliser to farmers, bank loans and the establishment of the Afghanistan Land Authority -- aimed at coordinating land issues and easing land management across the country.

    According to the agriculture ministry spokesman, Abdul Majeed Qarar, 380,000 farmers will receive 200,000 tonnes of improved quality wheat seed, 400,000 tonnes of urea and 200,000 tonnes of diammonium phosphate (DAP) this year. He added the ministry would also support the establishment of orchards.

    Qarar said the establishment of the Afghanistan Land Authority was a good step towards eradicating poverty.

    He said the ministry wanted to lease 25,000 hectares of land reclaimed from illegal occupiers to farmers.

    The ministry also planned to build 101 small dams to irrigate barren land over the next three years, with another $100 million available in loans to farmers.

    Kunduzi also said his ministry was ready to deal with emergency situations during the upcoming winter. He said they had 76,000 tonnes of wheat in storage facilities in Kabul, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Pul-i-Khumri.

    He said the World Health Organisation had also stored 45,000 tonnes of wheat which would be used for emergency situations.

    Afghanistan needs 5.2 million tonnes of wheat a year, he said, adding this year’s yield was estimated to be 4.5 million tonnes.

    However, India had pledged to provide 25,000 tonnes of wheat and the ministry had started its efforts to receive that, he said.

    Marking the World Food Day in Kabul, the Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Ministry, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) signed an agreement under the title "Stand United Against Hunger".

    According to FAO, 925 million people across the world are living in extreme poverty.

    A FAO representative in Afghanistan, Tekeste Ghebray Tekie, said people who have no agriculture land or less than five hectares of land were living in extreme poverty in Afghanistan.

    ma/cas