The Structure of Land Exploitation in Afghanistan

One may safely assume that two key natural and ecological factors have greatly influenced the land tenure system and agricultural production modes in Afghanistan, i.e., the vast expanses of arid land and the scarcity of water resources. The questions of land and water, therefore, have always been intertwined with various systems of land ownership and agricultural production in Afghanistan which range from government, and royal holdings, to religious endowments, private lands and the jointly held agricultural lands of ranchers and herders.

A number of sociologists, influenced by Marxist theories or superficial resemblance, have characterized Afghanistan's traditional system of land ownership as similar to the old European feudal formations. However, most observers believe that there is scant similarity between the two systems. For, there were no hierarchical feudal bonds in agricultural ownership and production in the Iranian plateau, specifically Afghanistan, or Iran, where the peasantry was by and large directly under the control of the monarch or his appointees. In fact, unlike the European feudal system that lent itself to the growth of capitalism, the Afghan's static and constraining land ownership has not been conducive to such a transformation.

Afghanistan, which has passed through two unsuccessful land reform measures, is still deeply mired in the interconnected problems of land, water and social progress. Similar dilemmas plague some other central Asian societies that, in an untimely and unnatural move, tried to leap from an agricultural stage to socialism, and with the disapperance of the Soviet empire have returned to the early phases of the 20th century.

M. Akram Osman
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