Afghanistan’s ‘surplus’ rural population

Adam Pain and Danielle Huot

Type: Afghanistan, Briefing Paper

Country: Afghanistan

Date: 22/02/2017

Full summary

Since 2002, Afghanistan’s government and the international community have put agriculture at the centre of efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy, based on a shared vision of agriculture as the engine of growth that would promote economic development, provide employment and reduce poverty. However, agricultural growth has not taken place, and rural poverty rates have not declined.


This briefing is based on three rounds of a panel survey conducted from 2002 to 2016 in rural Afghanistan, and considers what the lack of agricultural growth means for rural households.


The main findings include:

  • The scale and significance of landlessness has been underestimated;
  • The direction of rural livelihood trajectories vary, but for many the long term future is grim;
  • Social relationships, not market relations, characterise the nature of economic behaviour;
  • Afghanistan may be suffering not from late development – but from being ‘too late.’