Mixed Subsistence Patterns

Mixed Subsistence Patterns

Mixtures of pastoralism with limited migration and agriculture are verycommon. In all ethnic groups there are fully sedentary villages withsemi-sedentary elements, such as short vertical summer migrations into the hillsto graze flocks or harvest grains and melons. The picture does not remain staticas the degrees of agricultural versus pastoralist strategies increases duringdifficult times, such as periods of drought, because of disease, or theinability to repay debts. Poorer nomads can become sedentary because they losetheir flocks. On the other hand, wealthy nomads who invest in land mayeventually prefer to settle in order to manage their holdings.

Sedentary populations can also take up elements of pastoralism and generatenew semi-nomadic units. Farmers practicing a mixed subsistence tend to investsurpluses in enlarging their flocks which may soon overgraze lands surroundingthe irrigated oases around settlements if they are not kept moving.Agriculturists with relatively large herds will therefore assign nomadicpastoralist duties to younger brothers who in time may elect to remain nomadicand relinquish land inheritance in favor of increased livestock. A new nomadfamily is thus born, although the process may take more than one generation.

Former nomads may also return to nomadism if, after being forced throughpoverty to give up herding, they manage to earn enough to start another herd.Pastoral nomadism and sedentary agriculture, therefore, are not necessarilypermanent adaptations and vary in any given place at any given time.

Agricultural subsistence patterns differ with the terrain. The majority ofcultivators own their own land. Holdings are typically small and there arerelatively few landowners with hugh estates. But in all areas water is the mostimportant determining factor and must be carefully managed. Because of thescarcity of water, only 10-12 percent of the surface of Afghanistan iscultivated, and of this only one-quarter is irrigated. The rest depends onvulnerable rain-fed dry farming known as lalmi. Ingenious indigenouswater technologies are practiced throughout the country, including hand dugunderground water channel systems called karez. These carry water formany miles from the base of mountains to fields on the plains.

Agriculture and animal husbandry engage about 60 percent of the workforce andall producers, whether nomads or farmers, are tied to a market economy. Inaddition, the industries that began to develop after the 1930s and later in the1960s were largely based on agricultural and pastoral products. During the war,the improved road system that was to facilitate access to markets was destroyedand the industrial complexes were stripped of machinery.

Rural-urban migration increased measurably as the road system improved andindustrial complexes near cities proliferated. Urban expansion brought in newarchitectural styles and building materials; prefab cement apartment blocksrequired adjustments in living styles. Still, despite monumental jumps in urbanpopulations nowhere were slums evident.


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