First week= Field week!

I was extremely lucky this week, since we had a ‘donor-visit’ which meant that I was not only introduced to many of the projects in the area, but I also got to go into the field every day.
Yesterday we drove south along the border to Ishkashim, one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Driving along a roaring river, passing through canyons and remote villages we took GPS points along the way (go figure, there were always 8 or 9 satellites available). A few things struck me on the drive down. For the most part, we were driving on a paved road while the road on the Afghan side of the river was either non-existent or dirt. The Tajik side was further characterized by electrical lines and tin roofs in the villages, whereas the Afghan side had no electrical wires at all, and all the houses were made of manure paddies. Perhaps the starkest difference was the green lush fields on the Afghan side compared to the rocky dry Tajik soil.
In Ishkashim we had a meeting with an NRM specialist. A co-worker asked why the Afghans seemed to have greater success in terms of crop yields. The man translating was immediately offended and exclaimed “what do you mean better?!” so we hastily mentioned that the land appeared to be more productive. After the translator overcame his initial indignation to the question, he repeated it to our interviewee, who replied that the Afghans are experts in agriculture as they have been doing it ’forever,’ whereas Tajiks often held other jobs such as teachers or doctors and therefore are less experienced farmers. The second answer he gave was that Afghans have always owned their own land, as opposed to Tajiks who shared communal land for many years (this is still sometimes the case; eg. village pasture land).
One of my main observations this week is this cultures reluctance to share information. In a land committee office, we had to work very hard to receive any maps at all, since for a long time the maps had been classified, confidential information. This mentality passes over into workplace, re. organizational capacity.


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