Pastoralist Background in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is an agricultural country; range lands cover 47% Afghanistan’s land surface area.The pasture lands of Afghanistan approximately comprise 75-80 percent of the landscape. The pasture lands in the country are quite diverse. They have variability in the climate, soils, latitude and elevations across the country, which are essential for the socioeconomic development of the country, providing the main feed supply for some 22 million small ruminants. The by‐products of which are meat, dairy, wool, carpet and leather, and they account for more than 50% of Afghanistan’s export revenue.

This range land and environmental opportunities result to the current livelihood of the pastoralists in Afghanistan. Pastoralist Kuchis’ (herder nomads) are indigenous people and they have thousands years history in Afghanistan.At the beginning of the history, they used to live in Hindu kush hillsides and mountains and they gradually continued travelling to different parts of the country. Their population, therefore, continued moving and spreading in different parts of country.

Pastoralists(Kuchis) in Afghanistan come from different ethnic background and are consist of Pashtons, Baluchs, Baleeces, Gujors, Kerghezs, Turkmans, Uzbeks, Arab, Aymaqs and others. However, Pushton ethnic Kuchis comprise the majority of the Pastoralists in Afghanistan. They live in different parts of Afghanistan. Besides, they have their own values, culture, tradition and history. They are by tradition herders and graze animals. Further, they have their own Jirgas that settle any tribal and family issues and disputes and they also have famous national dance called Atan. They have their own tradition of wedding celebrations. For the first time (between 1860 and 1920), the camels transferred were transferred to Australia by the Afghan pastoralists. And, in fact, they are the first outsiders in Australia who took part in the development of Australia, such as railway construction, establishment of mosques, and participation in the agricultural development of Australia. Pastoralists in Afghanistan live in three ways:

  1. Settled Pastoralists: They are settled and live in a specific location i.e. in specific villages, districts and/ or provinces.
  2. Semi-settle pastoralists: They settle in some part of the country and as and when they like they migrate to another part and settle there for some time until they decide among their tribe for another location depending on the better livelihood and pastures.
  3. Migrant Kuchis: They are those pastoralists that are in continuous movement and migrate to different parts of the country in different seasons of the year depending on better environment for their animals and pastures.

The Kuchis have vast knowledge of their ecosystem and surroundings; therefore, they have fine information about all breeds of animals available in Afghanistan. They promote indigenous livestock on the basis of survival and productivity. Such livestock can easily adjust with prevailing climate condition and resist against the diseases in this environment.

The type of livestock kept by Kuchis or pastoralists vary according to climate, environment, geographical location and availability of other resources, but usually Afghan pastoralists keep camels, goats, sheep, horses, donkeys and yaks.

Because of several sociopolitical problems in the country, there is no precise information concerning pastoralists’ census in Afghanistan.Based in 2011 gross statistical data, pastoralists’ census is 1.5 million people. However, based on the survey conducted by Independent General Directorate of Kuchis in 2015, the pastoralists’ census is show more than 4 million people in Afghanistan.

As observed in the history, pastoralists have been very cooperative and contributed toward the stability of the security, economy and settlement problems between tribes in the country. They have also supported the country in fulfilling its meat and dairy product needs and access of the animal products to the local and national markets.

Alas, during the last three decades of conflicts and insurgencies in Afghanistan, pastoralists faced several problems and challenges such as conflicts and wars, droughts, floods, settlement issues, immigration. And these problems resulted pastoralists to lose lots of their livestock, their pastures seized by power-holders, pastoralist families have been deprived from livelihood and welfare facilities. In addition, not even any development partners and Afghanistan Government allies provide any kind of support services or development assistance to pastoralists.

The other major challenges that pastoralists in Afghanistan face are inaccessibility to education, health, veterinary and animal husbandry services and neither have they any lands for their temporary and/or long-term settlements and/or habitat. In fact, their problems are growing day-by-day and most of these pasture land challenges discourage pastoralists to discontinue keeping livestock and grazing animals.

The Kuchi population is marginalized and their valuable livestock products are decreasing as a result of persistently increasing climate change, competition for lands and other natural resources. Henceforth, the need for viable and rationale system for management all the pasture lands is considered a priority.

Recently, a comprehensive Policy and Strategy document is drafted with the focus to improve economic, educational, health, access and utilization of pastures and livestock development with the support and inputs of the committee chaired by General Directorate of Kuchi Affairs and coordination of sectorial ministries such as Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development; Ministry of Public Health; Ministry of Economy; Ministry of Urban Development Affair and Housing; and Ministry of Interior Affair. This policy document and strategic plan is planned to be finalized in the year 2017.

Meanwhile, a specific procedural manual and a committee is established. They help in receiving and analyzing the pastoralists’ census, challenges and development issues as well as identifying pastoralist’s immigration routes. In the end, a data center is established and developed, which the government promulgate their full support for pastoralists.