By a guy I know that did a write up after he got back a year ago. After re-reading it for the thousandth time, I think its still pretty applicable.
The land is not arable, except where irrigated from the rivers. The irrigation ditches are hand dug, and hundreds of years old. The farmers grow rice, corn, onions and various root vegetables. Most of their flour comes in from Pakistan or India, although there is a bit of wheat farmed. (Ignoring, for now, the poppies and marijuana.)
Most families send a young boy out to wander with their flock of goats/sheep/scrawny cows, and he will stay out for a week or so at a time, trying to find some graze for the animals. There are some ducks and chickens raised, also, for eggs and poultry.
Their economy is nearly 100% barter. Cash is so scarce, that when I tried to buy some naan (flatbread) with a twenty dollar bill, nobody in one village had enough US or Afghan currency to make change. I could buy chickens and goats, because their price was higher, but for naan/fruit/vegetables, I needed either small bills or something to trade.
The small children made numerous daily trips to either the town well or the local streams to collect water for the day. In some cases, this required almost a mile of walking down and up steep and rocky terrain, carrying 80 pounds of water.
Everyone was always just one bad crop from starvation, all the time. In one case, I had to have a medivac pick up one of my soldiers who had been blown up. The only place to land was in a small terraced corn field on the side of a mountain. The medivac flattened the corn, ruining most of the little field. When the farmer came crying that his family would now starve, I told him he should have thought about that when he allowed the Taliban to attack us without warning from his farm.
Every family is allowed to have one AK47 in the home in order to protect themselves. They never use these to slaughter animals, as the animals must have their throats slit and bleed out in order to be halal. They can’t get any ammo anyway, and usually have less than a single magazine for their weapons.
The Taliban routinely confiscate food supplies from the villagers, and in most cases, it is given freely. They are muslims, after all, and we are heathens.
The most sought after trade item is fuel. They will happily take fuel in exchange for anything at all, even a young girl. They all use lamps that will burn any type of petroleum product, and many also have small generators. Most vehicles are small cars, and they run those cars down the worst goat trails imaginable. No fancy, 4 wheel drives, just cars that look like a Honda Civic. Lots of small motorcycles, too.
Almost all of their clothes are made locally, either in the home or by a villager with a treadle sewing machine. Each year, the children are given one new set of clothes after Ramadan. That’s it.
Many tasks are performed by someone specializing in them, such as roasting rice or making bricks. The village usually has one communal stand of Poplar, also, to be used as joists in building houses. Houses are most often dry set stone walls with dirt floors and no lights. Sewage flows through a ditch from the houses into a larger ditch to a gully to the stream to their water supply (yuk).
Some lessons from this ramble:
1. Stores of value that are not easily divisible are not really valuable. When all you need is some bread, an ounce of gold is not worth much.
2. People don’t place enough emphasis on fuel. From running vehicles to keeping a light on, fuel is pretty important, and an excellent barter item.
3. You don’t need a million guns, just a few (with ammo), and a good place to hide them if you don’t have the strength of numbers to keep the local strongman from coming in.
4. Know how to butcher and use small animals, and how to raise them.
5. Find a starch that will grow in your area, and plant the crap out of it, so you can put up enough for winter.
6. Learn how to build and maintain your long term shelter.
7. Have enough fabric repair stuff to make your own clothing repairs (or clothing for kids as they grow).
8. Find a pair of manual hair clippers, and some bug powder so you can help deal with lice when you have an outbreak.
9. Know your neighbors and help each other.
10. Know your area and its resources, especially water.
11. Live simply – minimize your needs
12. Eliminate reliance on others.