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Transnational Networks and Migration from Faryab to Iran

Transnational Networks and Migration from Faryab to Iran

Transnational Networks and Migration from Faryab to Iran3. Migration from a Rural AreaThe rural manteqa (including 32 villages and hamlets) that was chosen for this studyis notable because of its different ethnic groups (Arab, Moghul, Pashtun and Uzbek),with Arabs in the majority.Before the Soviet invasion, the Afghan economy was characterised by subsistenceagriculture, pastoralism and trade based on agricultural produce. Eighty to 85percent of the Afghan population depended directly on the rural economy. 22Currently, few people are involved in farm labour only; instead, agricultural labouris seasonally determined, with non-farm labour filling in the gaps during certainperiods when no employment is available.It is unknown whether any men from this manteqa had migrated to Iran in theseventies; however since 1979, primarily because of the lack of security and foremployment opportunities, a high level of migratory movements has occurred. It wasclaimed that over a hundred families returned after the fall of the Taliban, with aminority of those from Iran and Pakistan. Several hundreds of men stayed in Iran anddozens elsewhere in Afghanistan, mostly for employment reasons. As Grace and Pain(2004: 49) point out, rural households in Afghanistan use labour migration as astrategy for accumulation (in wealthier households), as a coping strategy for unevenjob opportunities within the village, or for seeking better-paid work. 23The level of male migration has dramatically increased since the drought, whichstarted in 1997 and has caused extremely low harvests and widespread loss of herdsof sheep, goats and other animals. Though 2003 saw a major improvement withrecord harvests, in 2004 populations were threatened again in localised pockets asthe result of extreme weather conditions, the loss of groundwater, diminished snowpacks and less rainfall. Significant crop losses have been observed, a situation whichhas been aggravated by the use of uncertified and untested seeds, diluted and lowqualityfertilisers, as well as plant diseases affecting the wheat and watermelonharvests. 24 Along with the drought and a general lack of economic opportunities, insome parts of Faryab men continued to flee their villages to avoid conscription andforced taxation during 2004. 253.1 Socioeconomic classes and main livelihoods strategiesThe manteqa that was studied is a stratified society divided into socioeconomicclasses with clearly prescribed roles and responsibilities. Generally, each ethnicgroup lives in a distinct village or hamlet. The Arab village has over a thousandfamilies of which 75 are landowning. The other two villages incorporated into the22 Pastureland accounts for almost two-thirds of the area. Over 30 percent of the area is cultivated asrain-fed land, and less than 7 percent of the area is under irrigation (Wiley, 2004: 7). The main cropsare wheat, barley and vegetables, which are supplemented by sesame and watermelon in rain-fedareas.23 AREU’s Rural Livelihoods research project found that over a quarter of the rural households involvedin the study used labour migration as an income-accumulation strategy.24 ANFS, 2004: 1. Faryab is one of seven provinces (out of a total of 34 provinces) with over 50 percentof its population unable to meet their basic food needs during winter and spring (ANFS, 2004: 4).25 A 2003 Amnesty International report indicated: ‘In the north of the country, local commanders areforcibly recruiting men and boys to participate in the internecine fighting [...] Other families had beencompelled to send their sons away, most often to Iran and Pakistan, to escape forced recruitment’ (p.9). In 2004, in some pockets of Faryab, men had left to Iran because of their fear of conscription by thelocal commander (pers. comm., Kahin Ismail, protection officer, UNHCR).Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit 13

Transnational Networks and Migration from Faryab to Iranresearch area were a Pashtun hamlet with approximately 15 families and an Uzbekcompound with 12 families. The three settlements represent differentsocioeconomic classes, sometimes with more than one in their respective groups.The extended landowning Arab family has 2000 jeribs of irrigated land, and 3000jeribs of rain-fed land is divided among its male members. 26 Some families haveanimal herds. Besides being landlords, the male members also occupy positions atthe district and provincial government level, or educational, legal and medicalpositions in the area or elsewhere. Because of its wealth and political affiliations,the family provides employment to tenants, sharecroppers, and daily labourers, andis therefore of crucial importance, both economically and politically, to the area.Families with comparably fewer assets are referred to as “mid-level families”. Theirland holdings vary from 10–20 jerib, while a few families have 20–200 sheep andgoats and several dozen families have 10–15 sheep and goats. Ownership of herds orland is not equally represented within extended families. While a father and a soncan own herds or land, other male relatives might not have one single animal orjerib, and they then implement other livelihood strategies.While wealth is unequally distributed within extended families, it also shifts overtime. The arbab relates:My father used to have 300 sheep, 27 cows, four or five camels and fourdonkeys. Many were confiscated by the mujaheddin and the commanders.During Dr Najib’s and Babrak Babrak Karmal’s period my father had only twocamels to carry straw. Now he has about 50 sheep. We have a chopan[shepherd] to look after the sheep.In the Arab village, estimates of the percentages of the various agricultural workarrangements vary greatly, further complicated by fluctuations between thedifferent categories over the past five years. Though the large majority of thepopulation occupy the lower socioeconomic classes, there are differences amongstthem that are reflected by assets (including land, animal and house ownership),contractual relationships with landowners, skills, education and number, sex and ageof children. The boundaries between these classes are relatively fluid as aconsequence of accumulation and, particularly over the past 25 years, a decrease inassets due to drought, pests, conflict, illness and death. For instance, the number ofkishtmand (tenants) has greatly decreased because of the drought, which has led tothe death or forced sale of animals, poor harvests and a lack of availability of seedsfor the next cultivation cycle.The majority of Arab men are farmers or daily labourers, however theinterdependency of the employers and labourers is compromised when drought andother disasters result in low harvests. In 2004, some of the Arab men reactivatedcoping strategies such as a reduction of food intake, or even a depletion of assets(such as the early marriage of their daughters) causing their entrance into the ranksof the destitute families which are dependent on zakat from wealthier families. Thisgroup already consisted of widows, especially those without close male relatives,and families without the necessary older sons whose male heads of the families wereill, old or otherwise unable to work. When households reach this stage, theirhorizontal networks tend to decrease if they have insufficient assets (e.g. adult26 Some of the Arab landowning clan have no land as they were forced to sell their land during thedrought or to meet demands from former Taliban leaders (Wiley, 2004: 27).Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit 14

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