BAMYAN, Afghanistan, 11 October 2012 – The Government of Afghanistan, through its National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), has launched a $6 million climate change initiative, the first of its kind in the country’s history.

This landmark scheme — to be implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded mainly by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) — aims to help communities that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as drought, and to build the capacity of Afghan institutions to address climate change risk.

“The Government of Afghanistan is showing a remarkable commitment to working with communities for a landscape approach to dealing with climate change in the country,” said Michael Keating, UN Afghanistan Resident Coordinator, speaking from Bamyan in the Central Highlands, some 200km west of Kabul.

“We also welcome the opportunity to help Afghan institutions better deal with shocks and hazards, and increase resilience at a decentralized level,” he added.

UNEP identified Afghanistan as one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, because of the potential impacts and its current limited capacity to react to these impacts. Climate change adaptation is especially important in developing nations, since those countries are predicted to bear the brunt of climate change effects. The overarching goal is to reduce the vulnerability of biological systems to these impacts.

Many of the agricultural activities in Afghanistan are dependent on the flow of rivers that originate in the Central Highlands area. However, natural ecosystems throughout the country are very fragile, and the degrading effects of increasing human activity in many areas are worsened by current climatic variability, mainly frequent droughts and extreme weather-induced floods and erosion.

“In Afghanistan, 79 per cent of the population is engaged in agricultural activities, the majority at subsistence level. So by working with communities, or with people helping people, we in Afghanistan can build in stronger adaption approaches to all our national development plans,” said NEPA Director-General Mostapha Zaher.

The country experienced a severe drought in 1998-2006 and more recently in 2008-09 which led to significant losses of crops such as wheat, rice, maize and potato. In addition, climate change is predicted to cause an increase in mean annual temperatures, a decrease in mean annual rainfall and an increase in the intensity of rainfalls (despite overall decrease in precipitation).

The scheme will be implemented in four locations: Badakhshan in the northeast, Balkh in the north, through the Koh-e Baba to Bamyan and Daikundi in the Central Highlands.

Interventions include improved water management and use efficiency; community-based watershed management; improved terracing, agroforestry and agro-silvo pastoral systems; climate-related research and early warning systems; improved food security; and rangeland management.

Watershed management activities at village level will include tree-planting, the terracing of slopes or the gathering of wild seeds to re-plant over-grazed mountainsides. Education and the development of vocational skills for the communities also play a key role in this project.

UNEP key partners on the ground include the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) supported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) working together with the USAID-funded Biodiversity Programme of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and local Afghan organizations and communities.

Notes to Editors

Afghanistan Facts & Figures

* Afghanistan has an area of 652,000 square kilometers.
* Up to 80 per cent of Afghans are directly dependent on natural resources for income and sustenance.
* Agriculture provides livelihoods for more than 60 per cent of the population.

Since 1998, more than 6.7 million Afghans have been affected by disasters and extreme weather events such as drought, earthquakes, disease epidemics, sandstorms, and harsh winters.

About climate change adaptation
Climate change adaptation focuses on dealing with climate impacts. It refers to the adoption of policies and practices to prepare for the effects of climate change, accepting that complete avoidance is now impossible. Climate change mitigation tackles the causes of climate change. For more information, see

About the Global Environment Facility (GEF)
The GEF unites 182 countries in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Today the GEF is the largest public funder of projects to improve the global environment. An independently operating financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. More information is available on the GEF website; see