Protecting Afghanistan’s Food Supply, One Goat at a Time

Afghanistan is home to roughly 2.5 million farmers who herd sheep, goats and cows. They play a critical role in the country’s food supply. 

These pastoralists, the majority of whom are nomadic, rely on their livestock for food and income. To survive in the country’s arid climate, these nomads herd millions of animals throughout the year in search of new grazing pasture and cooler, rainier areas to spend the summer months. They use their animals to produce yogurt, cheese and other dairy products for sustenance, and to sell at market for income. Pastoralists also supply an estimated 72 percent of the sheep and goats sold in Afghanistan’s major livestock markets. Any threat to these herders and their animals is a threat to the whole country.

 

One major threat? Disease. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), which causes blisters and reduces milk production, and Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), often called “sheep and goat plague,” are viral illnesses that are highly contagious. PPR in particular can quickly infect nearly an entire herd and can kill as many as 70 percent of infected animals. The nomadic lifestyle of these communities means an infected animal can quickly spark an epidemic.

To address the food security issues and economic losses caused by these diseases, Relief International partners with local communities in Afghanistan to prevent PPR and FMD. With support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and as part of the organization’s global initiative to eradicate PPR by 2030, RI provides PPR and FMD vaccinations to approximately 6,800 cattle and 40,000 sheep and goats in Nangarhar, Ghazni, Kapisa and Nimroz provinces.

Working with more than 70 local veterinary clinics, RI also helps herders understand the role of vaccination in preventing the spread of diseases. These community information measures are as essential as vaccinations to stopping further infection.