Mixtures of pastoralism with limited migration and agriculture
are very common. In all ethnic groups there are fully sedentary
villages with semi-sedentary elements, such as short vertical
summer migrations into the hills to graze flocks or harvest grains
and melons. The picture does not remain static as the degrees
of agricultural versus pastoralist strategies increases during
difficult times, such as periods of drought, because of disease,
or the inability to repay debts. Poorer nomads can become sedentary
because they lose their flocks. On the other hand, wealthy nomads
who invest in land may eventually prefer to settle in order to
manage their holdings.
Sedentary populations can also take up elements of pastoralism
and generate new semi-nomadic units. Farmers practicing a mixed
subsistence tend to invest surpluses in enlarging their flocks
which may soon overgraze lands surrounding the irrigated oases
around settlements if they are not kept moving. Agriculturists
with relatively large herds will therefore assign nomadic pastoralist
duties to younger brothers who in time may elect to remain nomadic
and relinquish land inheritance in favor of increased livestock.
A new nomad family is thus born, although the process may take
more than one generation.
Former nomads may also return to nomadism if, after being forced
through poverty to give up herding, they manage to earn enough
to start another herd. Pastoral nomadism and sedentary agriculture,
therefore, are not necessarily permanent adaptations and vary
in any given place at any given time.
Agricultural subsistence patterns differ with the terrain. The
majority of cultivators own their own land. Holdings are typically
small and there are relatively few landowners with hugh estates.
But in all areas water is the most important determining factor
and must be carefully managed. Because of the scarcity of water,
only 10-12 percent of the surface of Afghanistan is cultivated,
and of this only one-quarter is irrigated. The rest depends on
vulnerable rain-fed dry farming known as lalmi. Ingenious
indigenous water technologies are practiced throughout the country,
including hand dug underground water channel systems called karez.
These carry water for many miles from the base of mountains to
fields on the plains.
Agriculture and animal husbandry engage about 60 percent of the
workforce and all producers, whether nomads or farmers, are tied
to a market economy. In addition, the industries that began to
develop after the 1930s and later in the 1960s were largely based
on agricultural and pastoral products. During the war, the improved
road system that was to facilitate access to markets was destroyed
and the industrial complexes were stripped of machinery.
Rural-urban migration increased measurably as the road system
improved and industrial complexes near cities proliferated. Urban
expansion brought in new architectural styles and building materials;
prefab cement apartment blocks required adjustments in living
styles. Still, despite monumental jumps in urban populations nowhere
were slums evident.
name Afghanistan conventional long form Islamic State of
Afghanistan conventional short form Afghanistan local long
form Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan local short form Afghanestan former Republic of Afghanistan
- total: 647,500 sq km land: 647,500 sq km water: 0 sq km
- mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
- arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
- landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide
the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in
the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)
- 1,200 km note: chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT (2001)
Natural hazards - damaging earthquakes
occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts
Courtesy: The Library of Congress - Country Studies
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