(9) Afghanistan - Agriculture
AGRICULTURE. In most parts of the country there are two harvests, as generally in India. One of these, called by the Afghans baharak, or the spring crop, is sown in the end of autumn, and reaped in summer. it consists of wheat, barley, and a variety of lentils. The other, called paizah or tirmai, the autumnal, is sown in the end of spring, and reaped in autumn. It consists of rice, varieties of millet and sorghum, of maize, Phaseolus Mungo, tobacco, beet, turnips, &c. The loftier regions have but one harvest.
Wheat is the staple food over the greater part of the country. Rice is largely distributed, but is most abundant in Swat (independent), and best in Peshawar (British). It is also the chief crop in Kurram. In much of the easern mountainous country najra (Holcus spicatus) is the chief grain. Most English and Indian garden-stuffs are cultivated; turnips in some places very largely, as cattle food.
The growth of melons, water-melons, and other cucurbitaceous plants is reckoned very important, especially near towns; and this crop counts for a distinct harvest.
Sugar-cane is grown only in the rich plains; and though cotton is grown in the warmer tracts, most of the cotton cloth is imported.
Madder is an important item of the spring crop in Ghazni and Kandahar districts, and generally over the west, and supplies the Indian demand. It is said to be very profitable, though it takes three years to mature Saffron is grown and exported. Te castor-oil plant is everywhere common, and furnishes most of the oil of the country. Tobacco is grown very generally; that of Kandahar has much repute, and is exported to India and Bokhara. Two crops of leaves are taken.
Lucerne and a trefoil called shaftal form important fodder crops in the western parts of the country, and, when irrigated, are said to afford then or eleven cuttings in the season. The komal (Prangos pabularia) is abundant in the hill country of Ghazni, and is said to extend through the Hazara country to Herat. It is stored for winter use, and forms an excellent fodder. Others are derived from the Holcus sorghum, and from two kinds of panick. It is common to cut down the green wheat and barley before the ear forms, for fodder, and the repetition of this, with barley at least, is said not to injure the grain crop. Bellew gives the following statement of the manner in which the soil is sometimes worked in the Kandahar district: - Barley is sown in November; in March and April it is twice cut for fodder; in June the grain is reaped, the ground is ploughed and manured, and sown with tobacco, which yields two cuttings. The ground is then prepared for carrots and turnips, which are gathered in November or December.
Of great moment are the fruit crops. All European fruits are produced profusely, in many varieties, and of excellent quality. Fresh or preserved, they form a principal food of a large class of the people, and the dry fruit is largely exported. In the valleys of Kabul, mulberries are dried, and packed in skins for winter use. This mulberry cake is often reduced to flour, and used as such, forming in some valleys the main food of the people.
Grapes are grown very extensively, and the varieties are very numerous. The vines are sometimes trained on trellises, but most frequently over ridges of earth 8 or 10 feet high. The principal part of the garden lands in villages round Kandahar is vineyard, and the produce must be enormous.
Open canals are usual in the Kabul valley, and in eastern Afghanistan generally; but over all the western parts of the country much use is made of the Karez, which is a subterranean aqueduct uniting the waters of several springs, and conducting their combined volume to the surface at a lower level. Elphinstone had heard of such conduits 36 miles in length.
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Afghanistan - Table of Contents