As he traveled to Afghanistan on January 10, 2010, Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, pointed out how agriculture is crucial in the fight between the allied forces and the Talibans. And this for several reasons. First, because 80 percent of the Afghan population––one of the world’s highest ratios––relies on agriculture for income and livelihood. Yet, according to the US administration, only half of arable land is farmed, which leaves room for significant improvement. Then, because a considerable portion of land currently farmed is devoted to poppy production, whose revenues finance the Taliban guerrillas.
Well aware that agriculture stands at a junction in the efforts to achieve the country’s military and civil stabilization, the Americans have made it “civil priority #1”, as stated by Tom Vilsack during his press conference at the end of the trip. The event was also the opportunity to announce the release of $20 million in additional aid earmarked to support the development of agriculture in Afghanistan, over and above the $300 million already committed to all sectors combined.
In the meantime and several thousands miles from there, one million Somalis are threatened by starvation following the forced suspension of the World Food Program, because of threats from Islamist militants. In a country torn by a long civil war, where the local agriculture remains inadequate to feed its population, there is no doubt that such development increases tensions. Up to resuming open warfare?