Oruzgan, Afghanistan Landrace Domesticate “Zala”

The Chora agricultural district of Oruzgan (Urõzgãn) province in Afghanistan sits atop the centre of southern Afghanistan like a cultural time capsule, a wadi (valley) rich with culture, tradition and practices. Protected by ridges of steep mountains, breaking only to indicate the direction of rugged passes, fertile streams and bumpy roads. Chora district of Oruzgan connects South to North via the Kandahar highway to Kabul, and the Oruzgan highway leading to the Eastern provinces and the Pakistan border. One hundred kilometres to the Southwest is the Kajaki hydroelectric dam, marking the border of Helmand province, and the edge of the infamous Sangin district.


Afghan law permits citizens to grow a certain quota of plants, before they are subject to government and localmilitia taxes for protection. The Taliban has long pressured farmers to grow either poppies or cannabis, in that order of preference.  Poppies have greater return per acre for them (but not the farmer), require less water, harvest sooner, and thrive in the bleak Afghan soil that predominates much of the country. Thus, cannabis and hash production took second stage to poppies on a commercial agricultural scale in Oruzgan in the early and mid 2000’s.  Banghi (cannabis) culture lived on though, as an integral part of the local culture that pre-dates Islam.  It was common to see local “kitchen gardens” outside many residences and smaller sized plots, usually with women in burkas tending the plants. Traditional sieved hashish is produced for export and could be purchased locally, which was the choice for any special event or celebration. Though, the use of hand rubbed chars was also noted among laborers and field hands. The blend of various historical influences was tangible and broke many outside stereotypes concerning the region.


Open pollination reproduction, collecting seeds from the most desirable quadrant of the plot, is how Oruzgan farmers ensure the quality and diversity of future harvests. It is typical to see a plot of mixed height plants, ranging moderately from 1 – 2 meters in height. Displaying a range of leaf color from deep emerald green, to a hue of purple that was almost black at times. The colas have significant girth and length at maturity with tight internodal spacing. Long abundant pistils of either pure white, or a beautiful magenta hue that turn dark amber and violet respectively. Heavy resinous crystals cover every part of this plant, even up the stems to the base of the water leaves. A mighty trunk and stem structure reminiscent of bamboo in its strength and wind resistance.


Locals of Oruzgan most commonly consume daily hash or chars mixed with tobacco and rolled in cigarettes, occasionally a thin piece of hash or chars is rolled between the palms and inserted into an empty cigarette and passed between a few friends. My interpreter explained the difference between “Hash” and “Chars”. In Afghan slang it is used to denote the general quality and purity of the product.  Hash being pure sifted and filtered hashish of course. Chars being the former mixed with plant matter, or the common practice of mixing hashish with a few drops of tea or water until it becomes pliable and tenacious. Chillums and hookahs were the other methods of smoking in Oruzgan. Gatherings took place in Saqikhanas, earthen smoking huts that were used to hotbox multiple chillum or hookah smokers.  A mix between a hangout and a church atmosphere, laughter and jokes with prayers and spiritual utterances prevailing as time progressed.


My sampling of a hash infused joint in Oruzgan produced an incredibly heady case of the giggles and warm chattiness. A buzzing sensation of energy flowing through body and mind.  Gentle awareness and brightening of the senses. Warmly settling into a dreamy, glowing, relaxed mental and physical state.  A lifting sensation of tension and stress from the Ajna chakra, seemingly being evaporated away. The sensations pair perfectly with the bouquet, being predominated by incense, lemon, sweet herbs, spices and the distinctly unique aroma of saffron. The smell and taste is cathartic, reminiscent of a temple incense.


Without topping, she tends to maintain a classic indica shape of a large, centralized cola with several low lateral off-shoots.  Topping or fimming allows her sativa characteristics to shine through and she will become a bushy Christmas tree shape with many long girthy colas.  Under the right nurturing these seeds produce colas that are astounding in size, with amazing medicinal properties. These seeds were bartered for with a well-respected Charsi (stoner) elder, local farmer and merchant in the Chora agricultural district market of Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan.  Their germination rate remains near 100% thanks to proper storage techniques, refrigerated in jars with desiccant packs.  2019 Original in situ harvest.  I have nicknamed this strain “Zala” after the daughter of the Charsi farmer that was generous enough to trade with me.  The name Zala translates to shining, beautiful, healthy.