A WFP study of 24 Afghan provinces shows that almost a third of the farmers surveyed intend to plant less than half of the land they usually sow. While many cited seed shortages as a factor in their decision to plant less, almost half of the respondents were also worried that rain will fail them again this year. This adds up to greater suffering for the beleaguered Afghan people, nearly 3 million of whom are already dependent on food aid to survive, WFP said. “The expected reduction is widespread and dramatic in a country that needs about four million tonnes of cereals for annual domestic needs,” warned Gerard van Dijk, WFP’s Country Director in Afghanistan. “We are working to step up food aid distributions in Afghanistan to prevent the crisis from getting worse than it is,” Mr. Van Dijk said. He added that hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their home villages to large cities in Afghanistan or to Pakistan and Iran in search of food have been unable to return for the new planting season. Last month, WFP launched a new appeal for a $76 million emergency operation to help 3.8 million poor people in Afghanistan avoid starvation due to a long and devastating cycle of drought and civil war. About 85 per cent of Afghanistan’s estimated 21 million people are directly dependent on agriculture, according to WFP. With their crops ruined by the drought, millions of Afghans have lost their purchasing power because of mass unemployment, a moribund economy and a 21-year civil war.