Cover picture by Asad Wakhi
Life has always been very difficult in Wakhan. It is one of the poorest regions of Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries of the world. However, until recently, it was safe and peaceful. The fall of Wakhan dismantled the fragile balance, which allowed the population to satisfy its reasonable and limited daily needs.
Asad Wakhi is a young man from Qalah e Panja in central Afghan Wakhan. Today, he gave us some direct insights about the strugle his people is facing.
The source of income crashed. The price of livelihood skyrockets.
You must understand that our economy is based on barter. The unit is the yak. But its value sank. My family is a breeder one. Our external revenue comes from our livestock.
Last year a yak value was 45,000 Afghanis. It is now 30,000 Afghanis. Last year a sheep was 10,000 Afghanis. It is now 5,000 Afghanis. This situation is even worst if you convert into dollars. Previously the prices of our production staid at a reasonable level because the surplus was sent to Kabul, to Tajikistan or to Afghanistan. Nowadays, this flow is cut because of security issues on Afghan roads and because of closed borders.
Meanwhile, the prices of the purchased goods face a dramatic increase. Last year one litter of kitchen oil was 100 Afghanis. It is, now, 250 Afghanis. Last year a kilo of rice was 200 Afghanis is 400 Afghanis. The liter of petrol for cars came from 40 Afghanis to 80 Afghanis. Here too, the price change comes from closed borders and security issues.Asad Wakhi, Qala e Panja, October 8, 2021
Here is a summary of the values given by Asad.
Price in Afghanis
Price in Afghanis
|Yak (unit)||45,000 AFA||30,000 AFA||-33%|
|Sheep (unit)||10,000 AFA||5,000 AFA||-50%|
|Kitchen oil (kilo)||100 AFA||250 AFA||+ 150%|
|Rice (kilo)||200 AFA||400 AFA||+100%|
|Petrol (liter)||40 AFA||80 AFA||+100%|
The tragic impact of the simultaneous and opposite price variations
If we combine this information related to livestock “sold” versus good “purchased”, we understand how, suddenly, the situation became dramatic for Afghan Wakhan breeders.
|Yak value per product bartered||2020||2021||Yak value variation|
|Actual external good price|
|Sheep value per product bartered||2020||2021||Sheep value variation|
|Actual external good price|
Yak lost between 67% and 73% of its value for bartering external goods.
Sheep lost between 75% and 80% of its value for bartering external goods.
For Afghan Wakhan breeders, the actual prices of purchased goods have been multiplied by a factor comprised between THREE and FIVE !
Let’s remind that, before the current situation, Afghan Wakhan economy was already a survival one. To sustain their very basic livelihood, Wakhan herders will have to sell their capital, the livestock. In a short-term period, it simply means they will have no revenue, no source of income, no food. Though, the fall of Wakhan happened with almost no violences, it will have the tragic dimension of a humanitarian disaster.
Read also: How a poor region of Afghanistan sinks into famine under Taliban rule
Winter will come.
Food is an issue, the cold will be another one. Winters are particularly harsh. Qalah e Panja, at the middle of Wakhan corridor is already at an altitude of 2,794 m. The corridor is home of strong winds.
Clothes, especially for kids, are another problem. We have to buy them. Every year a lot of snow falls down. Going from one place to another place (for livestock herding, for collecting fuel, for selling or buying goods) is a big problem.Asad Wakhi, Qala e Panja, October 8, 2021
Despite circumstances a strong determination for studies
Nowadays, external communications are limited. Read: With closed borders, the Afghan Wahan has, now, to rely on Tajik citizens solidarity for phone & internet. Asad is eager to study and makes amazing efforts for his education. It has been noticed by University of Central Asia. He has a sincere wish to join this institution.
However, Asad education dream seems to become impossible. During previous summers he could guide foreign travelers into peaceful Afghan Wakhan and Pamirs. It helped him to live and to study in Fayzabad. In 2021, there were no visitors. Moreover, his family already struggling to survive cannot be, nowadays, of any support. Listen to him:
I you want to do something for Asad, you can join him.
Facebook: Asad Wakhi
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Phone: +93 792 238 832
Afghan Wakhan livelihood on a road to hell by Bernard Grua is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://pamirinstitute.org/2021/10/08/afghan-wakhan-livelihood-on-the-road-to-hell/.
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