border review | 23 February 2012

Farming in Tajikistan and Afghanistan

Mark Vinson for The Jamestown Foundation (via Asia Times online) on a Chinese agricultural project in Tajikistan:

Chinese officials have pledged US$2 million of direct investment, including new technology and technical assistance in an effort to revitalize the land, which in recent years has become non-arable through poor management. According to the agreement, the Chinese will only be allowed to sell crops produced on that land in Tajik markets.

Sounds like a reasonalbe deal. However, Tajikistan has handed over more then 1,000 square km of disputed territory to China last year and there is a strong opposition against the current deal. Critics suspect that the companies coming in will privilege Chinese workers:

Faromarzi Fosil, a Tajik journalist, in an article entitled, “Tajiks go to Russia and Chinese come to Tajikistan?” expresses this sentiment, “It is clear that Chinese companies [in Tajikistan] give privileges to their fellow countrymen. What should the people of Tajikistan do? And another question: if the Chinese and other foreigners build all the roads, power plants, companies, and farms then why do we even need our own ministries?”

Similar Chinese investments in the agricultural sector have recently been announced in Afghanistan. The plan is to refurbish and old, unfinished irrigation system. Farid Behbud (Pukhtoonistan Gazette) writes:

The Chinese-initiated project would irrigate thousands of hectares of farmland in Parwan and neighboring Kapisa and Kabul provinces, said some local people.

The logic in both cases is that poor management and poor infrastructure diminish agricultural output. That might well be the case. What I wonder, however, is whether and how both projects approach existing local systems of water rights.