Document Type



Master of Arts


Political Science

First Adviser

Casagrande, David


This thesis explores how, for more than four millennia, neighboring Afghan tribal communities have exercised highly decentralized, community-based freshwater management practices. I argue that these practices can act as both a model for how to structure Afghan polity at large as well as a global lesson in environmental resource management. The staying-power of these highly decentralized institutions is especially confounding for US policymakers because despite enduring nearly three decades of unrelenting violent conflict, these community-based freshwater management practices have remained a bulwark against "modern" western capitalist expansionism. These management practices are exceptionally resilient because they draw their strength from the people-to-people relationships they create and because they place the decision-making power firmly in the hands of the community. These time-honored practices are under attack by economic intervention from western capitalists and the structural adjustment schemes needed for its entrenchment. Using these community-based freshwater management practices as a model for Afghanistan's political organization at large, I recommend ethnofederalism with consociational power sharing at the center because it fits Afghanistan's specific cultural and environmental considerations. The decentralized nature of this strategy also leaves the decision-making power firmly in the hands of the tribal communities.