EGU24-13525, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Detecting Disturbance to Agricultural Productivity from Historical Armed Conflict in Afghanistan: The Panjshir Offensives, 1980-1985

Jeremy Allen
Jeremy Allen
  • Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada,

A particular challenge threatening global food security is the threat of armed conflict. In particular, the Panjshir valley of northeastern Afghanistan continues to experience acute food insecurity due to intense armed conflict. In this rural valley, conflict driven displacement leads to agricultural land abandonment and decreases in crop yields. These decreases in local food production have an outsized impact on food security, due to the region’s dependence on subsistence agriculture. Despite the consensus that armed conflict has a significant negative impact on the population’s food security, the exact mechanics of how conflict impacts food security remains unclear. 


To quantify armed conflict’s impact on local food production, I compare trends in vegetation health between agricultural plots in high-conflict and no-conflict landscapes with similar altitudinal gradients. I focus on the period during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1980-1989, which saw nine major military offensives occur in the Panjshir valley. I use Landsat 5 (1984-2012) to obtain the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) values for agricultural plots that have been designated as control (no conflict) and treatment (high conflict). These plots are delineated using HEXAGON KH-9 declassified spy imagery, and assigned conflict intensity designations based on explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) data from The HALO Trust, a non-governmental organisation which carries out unexploded ordnance clearance in Afghanistan. Residual Trend analysis (RESTREND) is applied to Landsat NDVI values to distinguish between the shifts in vegetation health that are anthropogenically and climatically driven. 


This research provides a deeper understanding of how past conflict has acted as a driver of food insecurity in the region. Additionally, it allows for future work to build off of these findings and predict how current and future conflict might have an impact. These findings can inform humanitarian and development aid policy, while the methodology can be applied to other contexts where conflict is present. 

How to cite: Allen, J.: Detecting Disturbance to Agricultural Productivity from Historical Armed Conflict in Afghanistan: The Panjshir Offensives, 1980-1985, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-13525,, 2024.