HC Deb 08 September 2003 vol 410 cc79-81W
Mr. Caton

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on progress made with the alternative livelihoods elements of the drug strategy in Afghanistan. [127132]

Hilary Benn

Eliminating illicit opium production in Afghanistan is a long-term challenge. The Afghan Government has set a target for eliminating cultivation within 10 years. The development of alternative livelihoods for poor people currently involved in opium production will take time. But work has started on a number of livelihoods programmes.

The Department for International Development (DFID) is providing £20 million over three years to our livelihoods programme in Afghanistan. We are working with the Afghanistan Transitional Administration and maintaining coordination with other donors to develop and implement a coherent national sustainable livelihoods strategy for Afghanistan.

Our main contribution to implementing the Afghan national counter-narcotics strategy is in facilitating opportunities for those currently involved in poppy cultivation to obtain alternative livelihoods, based on legal activities either in agriculture, small businesses or employment.

We are funding with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (£3.75 million) and the Aga Khan Development Network (£1 million) to pilot targeted livelihoods projects in areas affected by poppy cultivation. Lessons learnt from these projects can then be built on and incorporated into the national strategy.

We are also funding programmes under the National Development Budget, such as the National Solidarity Programme (£2 million in this financial year), to provide greater social protection and better natural resource management. In support of these programmes we are working with other donors to provide a flexible package of technical assistance and training resources to increase the capacity of the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and Agriculture and Animal Husbandry to manage priority investment programmes relevant to rebuilding livelihoods.

Mr. Caton

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what liaison there will be between NGOs, UN agencies and the Transitional Administration in implementing Afghanistan's budget programmes. [127134]

Hilary Benn

The Afghan Government has established a system of Consultative Groups, which cover a wide range of policy areas crucial to the reconstruction process such as Health, Education, Infrastructure, Refugees and Returnees and Security amongst others. The Consultative Groups facilitate effective cooperation between the various donor governments, NGOs, UN agencies and other aid organisations in the planning, financing and implementation of the goals outlined in the National Development Budget for Afghanistan.

Linda Perham

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what recent representations the Department has received on international investment in Afghanistan. [127790]

Hilary Benn

DFID has received recent representations from a UK based International Management Consultancy, McKinsey and Company. The company has developed a proposal on behalf of the Afghan Minister of Finance for a Venture Capital Fund to be launched in November 2003. The Fund will provide entrepreneurs with capital and business coaching. The proposal is being considered by officials.

My Department has also received representations from Standard Chartered Bank. It will, as soon as relevant banking legislation is passed, be the first international bank operating in Afghanistan.

John Barrett

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on the humanitarian consequences of the flooding of(a) southern and (b) north eastern districts of Afghanistan. [127936]

Hilary Benn

Recent wet weather has brought relief to Afghanistan after years of drought; however many houses in the poverty-stricken country are held together with mud and timber and are ill-equipped to cope with heavy rains.

In May of this year three people were killed, 30 houses destroyed and 70 partially damaged as a result of heavy rainfall and flash floods in Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar provinces in north eastern Afghanistan. Most personal belongings and food reserves were destroyed or buried in mud. Large swathes of arable land were also covered in mud following the floods.

In the southern province of Helmand, at least 30 people were killed after powerful floods washed away their houses on 20 April.

DFID is supporting the work of the UNHCR in Afghanistan (£5.8 million so far in 2003) who supplied tents, soap and food items to affected families through the local disaster management structure. Also the FAO has provided advice on remedial action, which can be taken by farmers to salvage their crops.

Forward to