Pastoralism, Power and Politics: Access to Pastures in Northern Afghanistan

  • Stefan SchütteEmail author
Part of the Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research book series (AAHER)


This chapter explores the practice of nomadic pastoralism in contemporary Afghanistan and looks at how the geographies of access to pastures are shaped by asymmetric power relations and high degrees of tenure insecurity. The discussion is based on empirical fieldwork amongst Pashtun pastoralists based in the Chahar District of Kunduz Province, who seasonally migrate to the high pastures of Badakhshan. Their social and spatial practices are taken as examples of the constraints and opportunities that constitute pastoralism in Afghanistan today. The pastoral groups studied have shown enormous capacity to continuously adapt their mobility strategies in response to changing power structures, increased societal pressure and fluctuating economic opportunities. However, after 32 years of continuous warfare, the traumatic experiences of conflict and war, of power struggles and changes of authority, of insecurity and threats to survival, pastoralists today still strife for their rights to mobility and secure pasture access. Faced with changing rule systems and legal pluralism governing both the winter and spring pastures in Kunduz and the high pastures of Badakhshan around the environs of Lake Shewa, pastoralism in Afghanistan continues to be a highly insecure endeavour. The current situation of pastoral tenure insecurity is traced by reconstructing pastoral practices and mobility strategies as they are executed today, by looking at the governance structures that shape both mobility and pasture access and by examining the historical geographies of nomadic pastoralism as experienced by the group under study.


Afghanistan Human security Mobility Pasture Conflict Resources Territoriality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth Sciences, Centre for Development Studies (ZELF)Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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