“The undertaking of the #DurandLineProject_2020”● Represents a Vision that transcends countries, borders, cultures, languages and ideologies, and uniting them all in a common fabric of Cannabis. ● We travelled across a number of different cannabis hotspots situated inside the Southern and South-Eastern provinces of Afghanistan, in 2 different tours planned from the onset of the flowering in late August-September to the end of flowering and harvest that is near November-December in these regions. ● This record carries very important and never before pictures of the Southern Afghanistan cannabis culture, which has been up until this publication laid buried under the dust of continued political upheavals, painting an utterly misunderstood portrait of the cultures that exist in this humdrum part of the world
The present-day borders and the respective territories between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan has almost everything to do with the rule of the British empire in this region for over 200 years. From the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 to the "Treaty of Gandamak" in 1879, which saw the regions like present day Quetta, Khyber being absorbed into the larger British India territories, are all but an indelible mark in the History of these 3 countries. Durand Line Agreement in the 1893 known as the creation of the Durand line or the Durand Border, marking a 2430 kms border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a testimony of the far reaching British diplomacy even in the countries not ruled by them at that time. In 1893, the India Pakistan partition was yet to take place 54 years ahead in the future and The border was technically etched between the Colonial British India and the Afghanistan. Even though Afghanistan was a free country, but under the diplomatic influence of the British empire at that time which can still be seen through the linguistic imprints left by them as the Iconic Durand Line was named after a British Diplomat Mortimer Durand who actually discussed the agreement with the Emir of Afghanistan and made the final accord.
1.A Zanjeer, Zabul (South Afghanistan)
(Lat : 32 1’N 67 1’E, Alt. 1200-1500 meters)• Zabul is a province in the Southern Afghanistan, which is located along the Durand Line and borders with Pakistan.It is a mix of Flat land, semi to fully mountainous territories, which are dissected by a few major rivers such as Arghandab river and a number of seasonal rivers that emerge for durations that purely depends on the winter rains, spring rain and the precipitation accumulated in the form of snow on the mountains in a particular year. • The irrigation is accomplished through the makeshift canals drawn from the river/s in the proximity; But Water being a naturally scarce resource in the Zabul province, makes it particularly challenging to farm crops that require regular watering till the finish. • The droughts have become much more prevalent and a common occurrence in past decade or so, and with no organized watering system the farmers of Zabul are basically left to bear the brunt of Nature by themselves.
But as they say, need is the mother of invention so, With a non-existent rainfall in the province almost the entire agriculture relies on the intricate Karez (qanat) system, wherein - people tap into an underground well or water source that could then be connected to a horizontal tunnel which is dug underground from an elevated land portion towards the flat lands, where the crops can be irrigated with the water brought to the surface by using gravity alone.However, the consistent droughts over the recent past has rendered a lot of Karez system useless as they gradually dried up with contracting ground water level over the years. • In this picture, you can actually see the solar energy panels installed solely for the purpose of drawing water up to the surface for the irrigation. • As mentioned in the previous posts about this particular farm in Zabul province, the mother well of their Karez system dried up with a gradual shift in the weather pattern of the southern provinces of Afghanistan especially Zabul and Nimruz in last 2 decades. • These provinces used to have a considerable variety of rain fed crops which farmers now find almost impossible to sustain without irrigation. • The farmer uses a solar powered motor to draw water up into the well which enables the Karez system, through which water could now be drawn and stored onto the surface in a shallow makeshift reservoir tank. The water is drawn to surface using PVC pipes as seen in the picture. • This is a common practice in Zabul province, used by large scale farmers for procuring and deploying water to their crops. • Zabul is known for the production of dry fruits such as Almonds, raisins and Dried Apricots, orchids of which can be seen along with their main cash crops wheat and Opium. • Cannabis is a yet another cash crop which is grown profusely across the province. The figures below shows 2 different varieties being grown separately in this farm. These varieties are maintained overtime by rigorous selection work and maintenance by the farmer families and thus these genetics are not simply a cash crop for them but also an integral part of their family's legacy in service of this plant. These pictures basically shows short stature, squatty plants, although with a considerable difference in their lateral formations. While the 1st picture shows a population boasting inherently better side branching, the 2nd picture shows a population with totem pole like structure, showing little to no side branching. The minute differences in such characteristics like lateral growth, smell etc. amongst these 2 population, can purely be attributed to the human efforts in identifying, segregating and propagating them in their respective genetic tangent. • The traditional cannabis farmers from Asian regions are seldom if ever recognized for their continued foundational work around this plant, which has enabled so many across the world to grow and breed with these genetics without having to do the most excruciatingly slow yet the most important work of all. • These large plantations/crops of small /Squat plants actually have a name for them, these plants are known as "Sarkhi" which means a Dust storm or a tornado. • The Sarkhi plants as the local farmers denotes them are the first to finish flowering amongst all the differently styled crops seen in the region. They're also the smallest sized crop, which finishes around the mid to late October, this particular crop was being watered judiciously from a mother well that was once part of a Karez system but now has to be run by solar energy. Sarkhi plants in this farm had a very interesting characteristics associated to the way they smell.
These plants consistently gave off a sweet textured smell built on an aromatic spicy base of fennel, clove, cinnamon like flavours which is quite unique of a profile to be seen in such a consistent manner across a population in Afghanistan.
There's little to no fuel (phenol, toluene) like aromas accompanying the sweet and spicy profile and neither does it carry any foul/offensive aromas like rotten fruit, or meat.As the season comes to a close towards the October in this region most of the plants bleed out lucid hues of purples and reds, showing the ability of plants to produce flavonoids to deal with marginal light conditions and other cold related stress.
Here are some of the examples of how flowers were shaping up on the plants in this particular farm of Zabul, as of the first week of September 2020 season. There's a healthy amount of diversity seen amongst these plants in terms of some of the floral elements of the overall population such as bud structure (shape and size) colours on the bracts and bract leaves, aromas etc.
However, these very populations are also pretty consistent in delivering some of the other broader aspects or features of the plant such as height, amount of stretch during the flowering period, flowering term. Good resin production with Overpowering effects to compliment a truly unique bouquet of smells.
The faster flowering term is apparent from the progress of the flowers only by the first week of the September. The "Sarkhi" or the crops consisting of these small plants usually finish flowering before other crops within the month of October, providing a comfortable window to age the harvested flowers before processing it all for the resin with season gradually getting drier as the winter approaches.
Almost every cannabis farm in the southern Afghanistan has a secondary crop or what would be referred to as head stash and it's almost always different from the crops that they grow to mass produce resin. In this particular farm the farmer has a few bigger plants growing very close to the reservoir, with an easier access to water while the mass produced primary crop gets irrigated judiciously and only gets water when it's made available by the farmers. Although, the secondary( bigger) plants do come up a little early in the season compared to when their main crop is planted but a marginal difference in the amount of time that, they're let to vegetate alone is not responsible for 4X the vigour, but rather the availability of water in copious amounts at all times allows them to grow much bigger in comparison.
These bigger plants are random seeds from the same seed stock as planted in acres behind them but only in a different situation where water can be used by the plant as and when it is required rather than when only when it's available.
As discussed before, Zabul province has a shortage of natural resources; especially water, but in last couple of decades, the situation has grown much severe in nature as drought like situations are observed more frequently in southern provinces.
One of the biggest impacts could be seen through a rapid decline in the diversity amongst the rain fed crops in southern provinces of the Afghanistan.
At least crops like cannabis aren't affected by scarcity of water in such an adverse manner, especially with a little help from the farmers through artificial selection and the shear versatility of the cannabis as a species.
1.B Shahjoy, Zabul (South Afghanistan)
(Lat : 32 52’N 67 41’E, Alt. 1800-2000 meters)
Shahjoy is a district in Zabul province which is located adjacent to Ghazni province and features a seamless span of arid, mountainous terrain.
The average floor elevation of the district is 1800-2000 meters (6000+ ft.) At all places, hence it receives a fair share of snowfall during the winters while the weather typically stays cool in the entire district, the degree of coolness changes drastically with the altitude differences which ranges from anywhere 1800 meters to 4000+ meters.
The snowfall in winters aids tremendously during the summer season, as the glacial streams runs profusely downstream into the valley expanse fed by the receding glaciers and gets utilized by the farmers to irrigate the crops.
Tarnek river which is one of the main tributaries of the Helmand river also flows through the district and is fairly well utilized by the farmers to irrigate their crops.
Shahjoy district is also known to boasts a number of different almond varieties although it's a common crop in southern region along with pistachio, apples, pomegranate and grapes.This particular field was selected to document:
• Semi-domesticated Landrace varieties which can still be found in provinces or districts which are not on the main agricultural belts like Kandahar in South, or most of the Northern plains for that matter. • The farming practices in shahjoy district are nearly not as sophisticated or systematic as it is seen amongst some of the other farms we visited previously.
The crop we documented at the Shahjoy district is located at an elevation of approx. 2000 meters and fed by natural glacial spring water which is brought to the fields by drawing makeshift canals from these natural water resources.
The cannabis variety is once again one that was brought over from the Hindu Kush (North east) regions although not domesticated as well as by some of the other farms in the main agricultural belts such as Kandahar.An example of Makeshift canals drawn around the parameters of the crop, with and without the water influx
In order to understand, how profoundly the Domestication efforts of Afghani farmers have shaped the cannabis we adore today, it's becomes imperative to document and compare a variety of different crops at different stages of Domestication process.For Example:
This Semi-Domesticated crop at shahjoy district receives a similar regime of fertilization (cow dung) and perhaps a lot more water in comparison to the "Sarkhi" crop documented at Zanjeer-e-Zabul where they also have to use electricity to draw water up to the surface, but still this crop shows much less vigour when compared to the judiciously watered, but rigorously domesticated crops at Zanjeer.
The Shahjoy's semi domesticated cannabis variety shares the field with fewer almond trees although within a few miles away there are huge spans of almond and pistachio orchids.
There's a tremendous amount of diversity present within this population mostly because of the way it has been let to populate over the years after bringing it to south from Hindu Kush mountainous regions.
The flowers/buds were just beginning to set in although some faster phenotypes could be seen pushing ahead of the lot in mid-September itself.
Floral bracts were covered in glistening and extremely sticky textured resin reminiscent of Tropical varieties, the plants mostly exude smells which are very earthy/Nutty almond and pistachio like, but quite intense in nature (strongest amongst all the crops covered in southern Afghanistan)
The Cannabis variety presently growing at this spot was previously part of a rain fed cannabis population somewhere at NorthEastern Afghanistan (Hindu Kush region) and was originally imported by the local farmers in this region, although places like Zabul in southern Afghanistan have had their fair share of economic and socio-political upheavals, which invariably prevents long spans of peaceful periods, where people can engage in long term projects & activities.
On the other hand, Zabul is also not a very accomplished agricultural province like Kandahar is in the South and as a matter of fact, the Land faces severe shortage of critical resources such as water while farmers here lack advanced farming skills and techniques including proper Domestication and selection work.
Most plants in the overall population boasts excellent resin production which are characteristically sticky/gooey in texture as they're abundant and densely packed over the surface of reproductive and non-reproductive parts of the plant.
• During the 2nd tour we came back to document this population at shahjoy once again, however the cold wave had engulfed the entire crop by that time here as well.
• The destruction was swift and unprecedented at some of these regions and farmers were only hoping to squeeze out some resin from the vast dried up fields of cannabis at shahjoy.Collecting seed samples from the shahjoy crop with the help of the farmer who owns the field. (Late October 2020)
1.C Mapan, Zabul (South Afghanistan)
(Lat : 32 ’N 67 ’E, Alt. 2200-2500 meters)
Mapan Village is located at 32°N with an Avg. Altitude of over 2000 meters (6000+ ft.) At all places on a conspicuously undulating terrain.
The season length and climate are quite similar to that of shahjoy district although with lesser natural water resources available for the agricultural needs.
Here, the winters begins early as soon as mid to late October, and the highland regions close to 3000 meters and above particularly observe a heavy snowfall which during the summers feeds the valleys in the form of intermittent streams.
The extent of agriculture in the Zabul province is not prolific by any stretch of the imagination especially in the face of a full fledge water crisis that has only deepen in last decade or so, as mentioned previously as well.
The crops like cannabis if located near a natural water resource like spring or intermittent glacial stream it often gets irrigated, although fields such as the one shown above which are not located near any water resource are left to survive on their own and can be referred to as "rainfed crops"
Which will be discussed ahead at length as we take a look at the local cannabis variety brought over from the Hindu Kush mountainous regions and acclimatized to their terroir.
This field of semi domesticated cannabis documented at Mapan Village of Zabul Province is perhaps one of the most important crops that we came across in the entire south.
Here one can see, how domestication is achieved by Amalgamation of fully domesticated broad leaved varieties imported from the main agricultural belts like Northern plains or Hindu Kush along with their local/regional Landrace varieties which even though are well adjusted to their present terroir but lacks vigour and sports a wild/feeble structure,
which is reminiscent of wild & semi domesticated cannabis populations from the southern Kashmir also growing at a very similar latitude and altitude position with a tad bit more humidity.
In order to speed up the Domestication process farmer here very particularly plants (Mazar imported) fully domesticated/broad leaved varieties and let them mix with their predominantly narrow leaved regional landrace variety, which then results in a number of intermediate genotypes made between both of the populations for whom the survival is not only based on how desirable the phenotype is but also on how well it adapts to the given surroundings.
Various flower examples documented from the semi domesticated population of Mapan Village.
One of the most apparent characteristics of this population is that it lacks the vigour, which is so often observed amongst the fully domesticated varieties in the main agricultural belts of the Afghanistan.
Since, this particular crop is not irrigated at all and is left to be fed by the rain instead, which coupled with less than average Domestication efforts translates into an overall less vigorous crop that also yields less.
The flowering duration is short and the plants finish in about 8-9 weeks which is essentially around the first week to mid-October.
During the 2nd tour we documented the Mapan fields once again but due to being a highland region the crop was again completely dried up from the onslaught of the cold wave this year.
We still collected samples from this field with the help of the farmers. Although this crop had almost finished flowering so the farmers were expecting to still be able to use this crop to turn into hashish.Mapan,Zabul Province (Late October 2020) Collecting Seed samples at Mapan, zabul with the farmer who owns the field.
1.D Zer Karez, Zabul (South Afghanistan)
(Lat : 32 ’N 67 ’E, Alt. 1800-2000 meters)
This is another population we covered during the passage through Zabul province. Even as small of a patch as this one here, contains a certain level of genetic diversity amongst its population. As shown above there are 2 distinctly different phenotypes available within this population. The picture #1, #2 below shows 2 different phenotypes with broad and narrow leaves respectively.
These plants grow in extremely harsh cold desert like conditions at an altitude over 2000 meters and finish early at around October (this is documented in mid-September 2020)
They're not fortified with cow dung manure like other crops but irrigated periodically from the excess water squeezed from the almond and pistachio orchards nearby.
As per the farmer male plants are eradicated early in flowering although a fair amount of Pollination could be seen on the flowering buds.
Most of the southern provinces located at the cusps of Hindu Kush foothills have a continues mountainous terrain which is also extremely dry throughout the year with short stints of rain in spring and the fall season.
Snowfall in the mountainous districts can kick in as early as late October to early/Mid November depending on the altitude differences amongst various places but overall close to 40% of the precipitation for the province comes down in the form of snowfall.
We came to document this particular sight again in the last leg of the October however by that time the cold wave had completely destroyed every last living tissue in these plants.
As per the farmer the plants virtually turned brown overnight from a prominent yellow/green, colour.
One of the good things about this crop was that it had almost finished flowering by the time cold wave arrived here so the resin was still salvageable to certain extent with some losses in quality and quantity both.L-R collecting plant samples, dried up crops and frozen water during late october this year from the cold wave.
2. Dhela, Paktika (South-East Afghanistan)
(Lat : 32 28’N 68 42’E, Alt. 2000-2500 meters)
Paktika is one of the East/South Eastern Provinces of Afghanistan that is located on the Durand Line/Border adjacent to Pakistan.
Paktika's geographical features are quite diverse in each direction as Northern territories are significantly influenced by the Hindu Kush Ranges as it provides a sudden elevation and hence climate is much colder and conditions are a lot harsher compared to the eastern or southern parts of the province.
The farm we documented in the Dhela, Paktika is basically a prolific almond orchard along with cannabis instead of a Cannabis farm in itself. Their prime crop is almonds which is grown in massive quantities on the towering trees which can be seen behind the cannabis crop.
The plants had just started to put on the flowers at mid-September when it was documented with a probable finish around first week of the November or end of the October.
The Almond orchards floor has a network of water pipes which irrigate the orchards and same water is also used to irrigate the cannabis crops on the periphery and outwards of the almond orchards.
Similarly for both cannabis and almond the orchards soil is fertilized annually by mixing floor foliage and organic matter into the cow dung piles during the fall season and once snow is cleared by the spring it is ready to be assimilated into the soil as an amendment.The East and South Eastern regions are much greener and boast a higher annual precipitation compared to the southern provinces we looked upon previously such as Zabul and Ghazni which are severely affected by the periodic draughts. Paktika is quite populous and inhabits mostly Pashtuns while Pashto is the local language of use.
On the 2nd Tour around end of the october to Dhela Paktika, we documented perhaps the worst destruction caused by the cold wave since the plants were only beginning to put on the flowers here and due to being further towards the eastern part of the country with a significant altitude, Paktika had to bear the brunt of the cold wave early, before the harvest time rendering the entire crop useless.Dhela, Paktika (south-East Afghanistan) Documented late October 2020
3. a Arghandab, Kandahar
(Lat : 31 44’ ’N 65 45 ’E, Alt. 1000-1200 meters)
Kandahar province located in the southern Afghanistan and thus it borders with Pakistan towards the north at the Durand Line. This is one of the few districts in Kandahar province which were actually quite deeply affected by the creation of the Durand Border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as some of its area got annexed under the Treaty signed to create the Durand Line, some of those places today exist inside the present day Pakistan although the creation of this border hardly ever deterred the people from making trades and relations across the nations.
The Cannabis farmers around the Kandahar Region mostly grow varieties which have been brought from either Hindu Kush or the Northern plains, some of the farmers in other districts of Kandahar were seen working with relatively newer stock as old as 15 years e.g., Maruf District,
The Cannabis crops in the Kandahar region are maintained through a combination of systematic cultivation practices like fertilization and artificial selection. The selection seems to be focused around the Male parent wherein fewer males with robust and vigorous structures are let to pollinate the female crop for seeds every year.
The Cannabis farms in Kandahar are unique in a way that almost all of the cannabis crops domesticated here, can actually be traced back to some of the more prolific cannabis regions of either Hindu Kush or the Northern Plains. The aftermath of which can be seen in 2 different forms, with some farmers being more sensitive towards identifying and selecting a specific type or types of plant/s and gradually narrowing down their personally farmed population as such. while others let the nature run its course without interfering much with the Pollination keeping a tremendous amount of diversity intact which is also successfully adapted to its new habitat.
Although there are only a handful of farmers in this region who actually perform the selection work meticulously enough for their crops to have adapted differently from others, their overall population is not only distinctly different from the more abundantly seen random mix of various plants but also consistent in expressing those features that sets it apart.Arghandab District, is located at the heart of the North/Central Kandahar Province in the Southern Afghanistan.
Arghandab is one of the more famous districts in the Kandahar province for its highly agricultural terrain that is very well irrigated due to being in proximity with the great rivers like Helmand and Arghandab itself, as a matter of fact Arghandab is famous for its pomegranate production, which can be largely attributed to its Latitude positioning i.e. only at 31° N and it enables the district to experience a rather temperate climate, with a Bonafede dry/ hot summers and a cold Winters but no snowfall.
All the domesticated cannabis populations present today in Arghandab are imported either from Hindu Kush Highlands/Foothills region or the Great Northern Plains of Afghanistan. Although the populations can be seen to have adapted to a certain degree over the years of being cultivated at a drastically different terroir compared to Hindu Kush or even the Northern Plains.
This farm is one of the most famous farms in the Arghandab District and from the looks of it, the only one in the vegetative state; more than corroborates it. Each plant in the farm is at least 9-15 ft. Tall already while they have just barely begun to transition into the flowering state.
There are 2 distinct types of plant in this farmed population 1. Short round bushy plants around 9-10 ft tall as of August first week and 2. Tall but still bushy plants around 12-15 ft. Tall in the vegetative state alone.
The Farmer's family has been breeding and maintaining these 2 separate varieties within the larger population of their farm year on year by weeding out weak and less vigorous plants be it males or females resulting in a gradually narrowed down gene pool only in terms of vigour, while leaving a significant amount of diversity intact amongst the characteristics like smell, high, foliage coloration etc.
The farm owner though young has trained traditionally all of his life along side the family in maintaining these amazingly vigorous plants to be able to carry the torch.As shown in the figure The Type 1 population which has a shorter-rounder Bush like structure and grows around 8-9 ft. During vegetative state and reaching Heights of 10-12 ft. When finished flowering at the mid to end of November.
While the Type 2 plants can be seen growing in a row, bearing a tall Fir tree like embodiment which has much slender look in comparison to the Type 1 but still featuring compactly held internodes which exhibit a very bushy structure typical to the varieties adapted to the dry and arid conditions.
The Type 2 tall plant can grow up to 14 ft. In veg. State and reach up to 20 ft. After finishing flowering.
• The farmer here selects 2 different kinds of males to intentionally maintain both of the varieties (Type 1 and 2) in their respective form every year.
• They are both planted in different areas and are thoroughly scrutinized within their respective lots before getting selected as one of the few pollen donors.
In Arghandab the crops are harvested in the month of November, using a unique natural phenomenon to figure out the correct window.
The Farmers in this region believe that in the month of November when the night time temperatures get progressively colder and the dew begins to freeze temporarily on the leaf and flowers (around 3 am - 5 am) the farmers knows it's time to harvest the crops, they also believe that dew freezing over the plant provides power and distinctions to the aroma and effects.
It vaguely reminds of growers in modern settings, stressing the plants with ice right before the harvest, which is believed to increase the resin production drastically over a short period.
Perhaps the most intriguing of the questions that pops up in the mind looking at these massive crops is around their local cultivation practices.
Arghandab river (a major tributary of Helmand river) flows through the eastern part of the district, which is heavily used by the farmers for drawing irrigation canals before it converges into Helmand river. Interestingly enough Arghandab River is also mentioned in the Rig Vedas of Hindu Faith, where "it referred to as "Sarasvati" river.
According to the Manu smriti (Hindu Dharma shastra), the Vedas were composed at the Brahmavarta which was the place where Sarasvati and Drishadvati river confluence, according to which Arghandab river is being referred to as a Drishadvati a mere tributary to the Saraswati river.“(Refer to: Kochhar, Rajesh (1999), "On the identity and chronology of the Rigvedic river Sarasvati“)
• The Soil is mainly alluvial with a higher sand content over clay and silt, although rich in minerals, which are typically transported by the river canals used for the irrigation.
• The farmers only use cow dung manure to fertilize the soil, which is done before the crops are planted every year and then they simply receive water from the glacial streams that makes up Arghandab river descending all the way from 4000 meters to its lowest at around 700 meters in the Valley.
• There isn't much to their cultivation process other than a sheer reliance on nature for the essential components like water, soil the Manure.
3. b Arghandab, Kandahar (Farm#2)
(Lat : 31 44’ ’N 65 45 ’E, Alt. 1000-1200 meters)
This is the Second Farm we documented in Arghandab itself, to elaborate how some farms actually doesn't select for any particular traits and let the crops randomly cross pollinate amongst each other while also bringing in new varieties from other provinces of the Afghanistan every year, which diversifies their gene pool, which also imparts a unique signature of complexity to the resin which is second to none.
The Majority of the farms in Kandahar have a diverse looking, hap hazard mix of just about every expression but still mainly dominated by the broad leaf short statured plants.
These farms usually work in 2 different ways, where either they let everything cross pollinate in the field regardless of characteristics or say without artificially selecting or attempting to narrow down anything in particular, which results in a diverse looking population overtime.
While a yet another way some farms manage their crops here in Arghandab District is by importing seeds from either Northern Plains or Hindu Kush regions to grow alongside the seeds they made last season, this is perhaps one of the most favoured options in places like Kandahar where the chillum house culture is a lot more prevalent compared to the northern provinces.
There can be vast differences amongst how various farmers chose to grow and select their crops in Arghandab District, however irrigation and organic fertilization seems to be a common place for all irrespective of how magnificent or mediocre their plantations may be, the Arghandab River basically cascades from a stream of melting glaciers at Altitudes of over 4000 meters down into the Valley expanse.
By the time these consolidated streams reach the Valley floor, they take up the form of a river which can then be used to draw irrigation channels by the communities residing around it.
The main canal drawn from the river is usually subdivided by the farmers amongst them to irrigate their crops taking turns.
• The soil around the Arghandab district is highly calcareous, typically featuring an Avg. PH of above 7.0, yet the local microbiology of soil seems to help the plant to still be able to take up nutrients in a seamless and profuse manner, which translates in the form of tremendous overall growth.
• The glacial streams also plays an important role in supplying the trace minerals to the soil, which are typically transported as the water travels down into the valley, although farmers do fertilize their own fields with cow dung manure on an annual basis before sowing the seeds for Cannabis, tomatoes, eggplants, squash etc.
At the Farm #2 in the Arghandab District, the farmer who doesn't select for any particular characteristics and collects seeds at random from all the healthy plants for the next season.
As a result his crops seems to have a ton of variability amongst the physical embodiment and features of the overall population, such as Leaf shape, texture, broadness, over all structure including lateral branching, Amount of stretch, flowering duration etc.
• All the farms in this region grows outdoors and directly plant into the soil around the same time of the year, Also the sources of inputs such as soil, water and fertilizers is common amongst these farms, However, the only other major difference that's shaping the overall population seems to be the way they maintain these crops by either selecting meticulously or letting everything get mixed up at random.
• For this reason, it's feasible to draw a contrast in terms of domestication practices between the Farms who actually selects for vigour and a certain structure vs the ones who doesn't by simply looking at their crops.
We came back to document these crops around the beginning of the November, to document the cannabis populations in flowering at Arghndab.
We covered the same crop at the peak of its flowering where it was expressing absolutely dark and lucid hues of reds and purples along with very musky,spicy and acrid aromas such as pine needles, musk perfume, various spices such as cloves, cinnamon bark and coriander.
The intra-population diversity we had identified and documented in the Farm#2 could also be seen through the various different ways the plants were flowering in, with a number of different shades and shapes.
Mostly the plants had acquired a short squat structure but one of the common themes amongst them all were the huge and chunky buds shooting up like missiles from a silo.
The resin production was about par but not extraordinary, although the smells coming off of those buds were extremely intense and the resin imparts an absolute blinder of a high, which is definitely not recommended for the casual users.
The effects from this crop were extremely sedative in nature and couch lock inducing. This type of intense medicinal effects could potentially be useful for conditions like pain and insomnia.Arghandab,Kandahar Farm#2
Featuring flush hues of reds and purples on thick long sleeve like buds, growing strong and unaffected all the way till the month of November.
3. c Maruf, Kandahar (Farm#2)
(Lat : 31 39’N 65 11’E, Alt. 1000-1200 meters)
As of August, the domesticated cannabis crops at Maruf, Kandhar had already started to transition into the flowering phase, a few early flowering males could be seen peeking from in between the crops while the females were only beginning to stretch out the internodes and new shoots to accommodate the buds.Some of the characteristics changes observed in the Maruf (Kandahar) populations as they transition out of the vegetative state includes the development of red colour on the petioles and stems (in a considerable chunk of the population) with the onset of the flowering.
The plants grow in an calcareous alluvial like mix of clay and sand and silt which consists of a higher percentage of sand compared to the alluvial mix commonly observed in the north western Himalayan (India/Nepal) foothills.
The farmer (Haji Agha Khan) who owns this particular farm documented here, employs a variety of selection criterion to narrow down a few different types of plants that they believe makes for the best Hashish.
Their selection process is quite opposite to what most farmers do, since they make their selections in terms of Males which will be left in the field to make the seeds with any female at random, as they very meticulously uproot all the non-selections before the females begin to produce viable stigma to catch the pollen.
As per the farmer who owns this farm, he brought these seeds from Andrabi District (North East Afghanistan) 15 years ago and have been since propagating and selecting specifically for plants that grow very tall and robust reaching as high as 12-14 ft. with certain plants also expressing purple, black leaves.
The farm is enclosed by an apple orchard from all sides and receives organic inputs to fertilize the crops.
The farmer does his selections from the Male side, by leaving approximately 5 males for every 100 females present in the field for Pollination.
The males are selected primarily in terms of Robustness and vigour but a colourful and large cluster also increases the likelihood of that male being selected for the Pollination, if we look at it from the Farmer's point of view.
Maruf Distt. Kandahar (Southern Afghanistan) November 2020
The unprecedented cold wave that ran through the central Asian region caused widespread damages to various crops due to a sudden drop in the temperature at least 30 days ahead of the usual time, tons of cannabis crops got decimated overnight in these regions as they froze over and died instantly from a cold shock ambush by the nature.
The cannabis populations in the fields of the farmer Haji Agha proved out to be much more resilient in comparison to many other we witnessed on our journey, but also being located at a lower altitude in comparison to some of the other regions like Mapan in Zabul province helped tremendously in mitigating a severe and unprecedented cold wave.
As mentioned by the farmer during August (first half of the tour), all of his main crop had attained a height of over 12 ft. On avg. and a very good proportion of his crop, also expressed deep purple hues that appear almost black, several of these extraordinary specimens survived the cold wave with little to no damage.Most of the plants featured high yields and girthy colas that primarily reeked of musky, earthy phenol like smells with a lot of subtle notes varying from one plant to the another such as floral sweetness or nutty/roasted almond or pistachios like smell.
The Maruf population doesn't seem to have plants where smells were built primarily upon sweet/fruity or berry like tangents.
We selected a Black, Green and a Red Kandahar phenotype that in our opinion represented the truest and the rawest form of this supreme Landrace variety.
● After going through a number of different plants we Selected a few robust and meaningful individuals from a pretty large sample size as this in Maruf, which provides access to an exclusive gene pool, where smells tend to revolve around an offensive-foul olfactory tangent.
● It is important to understand why certain characteristics can only be found amongst a certain population from a specific region or farmer.
● There can be a number of reasons governing/shaping how and which traits eventually gets homogenized within a population although populations such as this from Maruf Kandahar is only selected for vigour and colour by the farmer for the most part and the omnipresent offensive and acrid/ aromas are mostly a by-product of the adaptation towards the selective pressure of its ecological habitat, which facilitates the likelihood of reproduction and survival.
The Red selection from Maruf, Kandahar expresses exceptional resin production accompanied by very dense and chunky buds, which primarily reek of dead animal (Rotting protein) smell.
The offensive smells such as ones emanating from rotting flesh could be smelled profusely on the red selection, while also accompanied with hints of phenol and eastern spice pallet.
Kandahar Red Selection, features a robust and upright structure, with good side branching, complemented with beautiful flush hues of reds on the leaves with a lime green stem.
The buds are tight/dense and chunky loaded with offensive smelling resin which is absolutely unique on it's own even though most of the plants in this population do carry smells which aren't sweet but to experience a smell so offensive foul on a cannabis plant was extremely rare even amongst a gene pool full of foul smelling plants.
RED SELECTIONMaruf, KandaharRed Selection Maruf, KandaharRed Selection GREEN SELECTION
The Green selection from Maruf in Kandahar, features a lime green plant with some subtle fade on the leaves. The green selection has a perfect bud structure, which is conical in shape with a lucrative bract to leaf ratio from commercial stand, the Buds are covered in a dense layer of dry to semi-sticky textured resin.
Although a beautiful looking plant with XX yields, it did take some damage on the leaves during the cold snap but saving the real prize i.e. a deeply offensive smelling and equally potent resin.
The plant structure was quite similar to most other plants within the population which is an upright and robust structure with a girthy and elongated stalk but with tad bit of less side branching and overall height. The smells once again take an acrid tangent and are mainly built upon subtle layers of lemon/citrus, spices and sharp Phenol based smells that leans more towards toluene (which constitutes 15% of the smell in petrol) hence smells a lot like petrol (fuel).Maruf, Kandahar Green Selection Maruf, Kandahar Green Selection BLACK SELECTION
Kandahar Black Selection from Maruf (Kandahar) and of the fields of Haji Agha.
This is perhaps one of the best specimens, along with all of the other crown jewels catalogued during this project from various provinces.
Our Black selection features a completely black embodiment from the leaves to the very flowers. It also expresses a very desirable bract to leaf ratio with big yields of dense resin coated buds that can take a beating in the harsh outdoors of Southern Afghanistan.
The aromas on this plant are built around the common elements of smell found in this population which are on a completely non-sweet tangent and represents smells which are basically a complex mix of earthy, spicy, acrid and sharp phenol-based smells.
The beautifully etched buds on a robust structure, which are both dense and covered in copious resin at the same time.
There were several other completely Black individuals with exceptional qualities as such but none more desirable than this one right here in all its glory, encompassing all of the best features in a single plant.
● After all the selections are made it's time to take them to the dry house and wait for the drying procedure before de seeding and extraction can begin.
● The resin extraction usually takes place during the month of December when the season is at its driest and the resin has cured to some extent.
● Here in Kandahar they usually dry outdoors before crushing everything down into large piles of biomass which can then be stored for long periods of time and used for extraction when the time is conducive.
● We will further look at the dry house and extraction sites as well to completely understand how Kandahar Hashish is extracted from fields to Gold seals.This is a typical extraction facility in South Afghanistan wherein the farmers sieve their material dried under the sun.Maruf, Kandahar Black Selection
4.a Nawa, Ghazni (South-East Afghanistan)
(Lat : 32 19’N 67 11’E, Alt. 1700-2000 meters)
Nawa is a mountainous District situated on the extreme south of Ghazni at approximately 32°N with an Avg. Floor elevation of close to 1500 meters.
Nawa District or rather the entire Ghazni province for that matter suffers from an acute shortage of water in the midst of an extremely dry and arid climate.
The Snowfall usually begins late during the month of January which is the first instalment of moisture in the form of snow, it clears up with the spring rainfall which can amount up to 200mm annually, but only spanning over a brief period from mid-march to April, followed by long spells of moderately hot but extremely dry summers.
Ghazni province sits at the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountain range cascading from North East to South/South /West of the country and this is one of the more populous provinces in Afghanistan and farming practices are much more advanced compared to provinces like Zabol which is right next to Ghazni.This particular farm owned by the farmer Haji Ramzan Khan in Nawa district uses regenerative methods of growing to rejuvenate the soil by putting everything back into the earth ranging from the large accumulation of Orchard foliage to the voluntary cover crops in the vicinity.
• Nawa district is well known for it's highly domesticated cannabis varieties which have been carefully maintained and selected to express in a consistent manner from the seed every year. • The Farm we documented at Nawa (Ghazni) had successfully segregated 2 distinctly different looking populations.TYPE - 1 (vigorous/Round bushes) TYPE - 2 (less vigorous/medium tall plants)
The farmer has employed a meticulous selection process over many generations to segregate two different varieties based on their form factor.
The Big round bushes with a mosque like structure are bred selectively to behave in an extremely consistent manner, however the other less vigorous crop in comparison which has a lot of variability but still overall it represents a less vigorous population in a clear side by side comparison with the humongous main crop.TYPE - 1 Population, exhibiting a consistent phenotypic expression across the board
The smaller crop is planted separately from seeds collected in the previous season from the very field.
This crop is usually grown and kept for the brokers who travel to this region during the harvest to buy Hashish at cheaper prices compared to the north and re-sell it for a profit.
The way it's is conducted is a bit peculiar as they leave the crop unharvested and sell the plot portions to different customers who then harvest and extract the resin and take it to their area to be sold at higher prices.
A side by side comparison of the 2 distinctly different crops maintained by the farmer at Nawa, Ghazni. The comparison depicts the clear vigour difference between both of the crops.
• The plants generally develop a strong acrid aroma which features various smells such as spices, fuel, pine, and strong phenol like background which can be interpreted as thinner or antiseptic/hospital like smells. • The smaller crop is considered to have lesser potency while the big mosque like plants carry a significantly intense high which is why the farmers do not sell any of the Hashish that is made from the bigger plants that also mature later around November.Flowers developing on the Nawa, Ghazni crops, with resin only beginning to appear. Nawa, Ghazni Province (Southern Afghanistan) Documented November 2020.
Unfortunately for the farmer at Nawa Ghazni we visited in the month of September, the cold wave that swept across the central Asia 30 days earlier this year, damaged and destroyed most of his crops overnight.
The huge and beautiful plants were turned into mere caucuses of dead plant foliage in a matter of hours and that too at the second half of the flowering since Nawa is located at higher altitudes the effect of the Cold wave was much more severe and drastic.
A Glimpse of the destruction caused by the sudden ambush of the cold wave, which rendered both of the farmer’s crops useless for this season.
The farmer may still attempt to dry sieve some resin from the dried up crops although the quality and the quantity that he will procure this year will be no where close to par.
4.b Manar, Ghazni (south-East Afghanistan)
(Lat : 33 74’N 67 42’E, Alt. 1300-1500 meters)
Since we were already in Ghazni province we travelled across to a place called Manar within Ghazni but located at much lower altitudes and
Here is one of the more resilient cannabis populations from Manar, Ghazni which survived the cold wave and is now managing under the rains from the monsoon rebound. The plant population from afar looks like a lucid painting.
As the early morning and Night time temperatures fall below zero consistently for over last 2 weeks, aiding in the production of profuse flavonoid production which represents some of the most magnificent and vivid hues of purples and reds in Nature.
Very often it's seen that colourful plants are preferred over the ones which aren't and not just from an aesthetic point of view but also considering the fact that these beautiful fall colours in cannabis appear as a result of the flavonoid production in the plants.
Flavonoids such as Carotenoid can even appear during the vegetative phase in plants at Higher altitudes/latitudes to protect the new growth from a combination of early spring cold, High light intensity and pests.
While Anthocyanins that usually appears during the flowering cycle in cannabis plants can also protect plants from possible visible blue light damage and Cold shock.
Hence, selecting for plants with flush and lucid colours ensures that we are also selecting a plant that is capable of producing and deploying flavonoids as a means of protection and surviving under marginal environmental conditions, while also being able to deal with stress, simply in a better way.
An overview of the field we selected for picking out a few exceptional specimen or at least get a small piece from the best of the crop.
Even at this farm located in Ghazni the cold wave did take its toll at a substantial scale however having a few different types of crops definitely came in handy this year for these farmers as certain populations held their own against the sudden and adverse weather conditions and in a similar way the genetic diversity present within these populations (intra-population) also offers an opportunity to pick out the best individuals as the selections.
• In this particular population at Manar, Ghazni. Typically the plants with visible anthocyanins production were seen to be performing much better compared to the ones which didn't show clear anthocyanins production on leaves and flowers. • The resin has an unmistakable earthiness in the background with a clear and aromatic nutty/almond and spicy flavour in the front that leaves an absolutely delicious aftertaste in the mouth. • In regions like Ghazni most of the cannabis farms produce excellent quality Hashish, known for it's heavy sedative effects coupled with the ability to deliver a serene state of relaxation.
This is the Prime Selection from the Manar, (Ghazni Province) for 2020. This particular plant was able to maintain its health all the way till November first week getting through the cold wave with minimal damage to resin, seeds and plant tissue overall in comparison to the other individuals in the population.
In this spot we set out to select genotypes showing a clear propensity for flavonoids production such as anthocyanins during the flowering phase, which can be observed through the hues of purple and red on the foliage and the flowers itself.
Apart from being able to maintain a good physical health throughout the season outdoors, our selection from this field also expressed an intense aromatic complex of Earthy, Nutty and spicy smells with subtle hints of sweetness to it as well.
The resin production was excellent across the board and the plant had a healthy coating of resin on the bud sites also spreading outwards onto the leaves.
The first Day in the field was a bit rainy and too cold so we had to wait another day to get some clear shots of the other plants, which basically exhibits the High resin production trait being typical to this population itself irrespective of the phenotypic features the plant goes on to embody.
We made another selection from Manar, Ghazni with beautiful red hues bleeding profusely over leaf surface and the floral bracts alike. The plant featured a strong upright structure with average side branching, giving it a more epically dominant looks of a highland hashplant.
The smells are built around a very earthy/roasted Nutty aroma which has very characteristics funky notes of mix-spices complimented with a hint of sweetness, reminiscent of Northern Afghanistan varieties.
These plants are typically used to extract resin, which makes for one of the most potent and flavourful hashish found in this region.