Afghanistan: Yel­low Spices and Blue Stones

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

Afghanistan is a land­locked coun­try in Cen­tral Asia, bor­dered by Turk­menistan, Uzbek­istan and Tajikistan to the north, a thin strip of China to the north­east, Pak­istan to the east and south­east, and Iran to the west. The coun­try en­joys a strate­gi­cally im­por­tant po­si­tion and was known through­out his­tory as a gate­way to South Asia.

The coun­try is largely moun­tain­ous, and with high­lands and moun­tains ac­count­ing for four-fifths of the whole coun­try, trans­port links are poor. Most of the coun­try's rivers are in­land rivers, and any wa­ter from rain and melt­ing snow mostly flows into the in­land lakes and deserts. Its con­ti­nen­tal cli­mate is char­ac­terised by cold win­ters, hot sum­mers, large tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ences be­tween day and night, and an over­all lack of rain­fall.

Afghanistan is rich in min­eral re­sources, in­clud­ing about 150 bil­lion cu.m of nat­u­ral gas re­serves, 100 mil­lion tons of coal re­serves, 300 mil­lion tons of salt re­serves, 1,300 tons of lapis lazuli, 1.7 bil­lion tons of iron ore re­serves and 500 mil­lion tons of cop­per ore re­serves. How­ever, in spite of its rich min­eral re­sources, only a very small per­cent­age of its nat­u­ral gas, coal, salt and chrome re­sources have been ex­ploited. Its other min­eral de­posits are gen­er­ally un­de­vel­oped be­cause of poor trans­porta­tion and a lack of fund­ing.

Fol­low­ing many years of war, Afghanistan's in­dus­trial base has al­most col­lapsed. The in­dus­trial sec­tor is dom­i­nated by light in­dus­try and hand­i­crafts such as tex­tiles, fer­tiliser, ce­ment, leather, car­pets, elec­tric­ity, sugar and metal man­u­fac­tur­ing, as well as agri­cul­tural and fruit pro­cess­ing. As the main pil­lars of its na­tional econ­omy, agri­cul­ture and an­i­mal hus­bandry con­tinue to be de­vel­oped at full strength. The main crops in Afghanistan are wheat, cot­ton, beets and fruit, and the main live­stock an­i­mals in­clude fat-tailed sheep, cat­tle and goats. Farm­ers ac­count for 80 per­cent of the coun­try's pop­u­la­tion, yet less than 10 per­cent of the to­tal land area can be tilled.

In re­cent years, Afghanistan has been vig­or­ously pro­mot­ing the cul­ti­va­tion of saf­fron in an at­tempt to cre­ate a new cash crop for the coun­try. Afghan saf­fron is one of the most valu­able per­fumes in the world, and it has be­come an in­dis­pens­able part of the daily lives of the lo­cal peo­ple. It is used as a spice when cook­ing and also added to drinks, as well as be­ing a valu­able herbal medicine that in­creases blood cir­cu­la­tion and re­lieves pain. The coun­try's dry and sunny weather make it suit­able for grow­ing the plant, which is why pro­duc­tion is in­creas­ing and has be­come known as a new eco­nomic life­line of Afghanistan. At the third “Colour­ful World” event, saf­fron ex­hib­ited in the Afghanistan booth at­tracted many vis­i­tors in­ter­ested in health care.

There were also an­tiques, gold, gem­stones, ex­quis­ite car­pets and lapis lazuli jew­ellery on dis­play at the ex­hi­bi­tion. The beau­ti­ful hand­made lapis lazuli jew­ellery in par­tic­u­lar at­tracted many vis­i­tors. Lapis lazuli is known as the na­tional stone of Afghanistan, with Badakhshan prov­ince be­ing the main source of the pre­cious stone any­where in the world. As a unique and rare stone, it is com­posed of blue min­er­als, con­tains pyrite, cal­cite and other min­er­als and ap­pears dark blue, light blue or pure cyan. For Chi­nese peo­ple, ac­ces­sories made from this gem­stone are still rel­a­tively novel, so jew­ellery de­sign­ers at the ex­hi­bi­tion pa­tiently ex­plained the his­tory, cul­ture and de­sign con­cepts be­hind their “na­tional stone.”

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