National Geographic : 1975 Jan
irrigation canals; tractors in place of bullocks; mechanized cultivators and harvesting ma chines that have supplanted age-old manual techniques. "In a sense," Ahmad said, "Iran's agricul tural industry has undergone not one but two revolutions. The first was land reform, with the breakup of large feudal holdings into smaller tracts owned and worked by indi vidual farmers. The second revolution was technological, and in some cases it's produced even larger holdings than before." Not the same large holdings of the past, however, when a single powerful landlord might own 150 villages, together with their lands and the very lives of the inhabitants. Today's giant farms take the shape of coopera tives and so-called agribusinesses, the latter usually confined to newly irrigated land. "The small independent farmer is still our mainstay," Ahmad said. "With new technol ogy, equipment, and irrigation he's a match for any farmer in the world. Considering Iran's current need for 30,000,000 acres of cultivated land just to feed herself, he's one of the most important men in the country." Patrolling a Troubled River So, too, is Ali Falah-Nejad, for reasons far removed from farming. As Iran's first line of defense in the chronic border dispute with Iraq, Ali provides a slender margin of choice between open war and an uneasy truce. With a two-man crew in an armed patrol boat, he guards a stretch of the Shatt al Arab, the river boundary between two hostile neighbors. At the Iranian Navy's invitation I joined Ali, a 25-year-old chief boatswain, on routine patrol from the river port of Khorramshahr. As we maneuvered upstream among ocean going ships anchored and awaiting berths, Ali explained the working law of the river. "By general agreement," he said, "we share the channel with Iraq from the Persian Gulf to a point above Khorramshahr. There the border leaves the river, and the Iraqis con trol the rest as their only link between the sea and their inland port of Basra." The arrangement has its drawback for Iran, thanks to Soviet traffic along the river. Fortune in tea leaves steeps in harvest sunshine at Lahijan near the Caspian Sea. Some 200,000 Iranians,mostly women, pick and process more than a million tons a year. Several times a month, Ali explained, a So viet freighter steams openly past Khorram shahr, bound upriver for Basra with a deck cargo of heavy weapons shrouded in canvas. "We know very well what is under the can vas," Ali said, "and we know that the Iraqis may use it against us. But the Shah has de clared we will never use force unless attacked, so we let the Soviets pass." Above Khorramshahr we neared the point where the border intercepts the river. Ali slowed the engines so that we hung motion less in midchannel, and waved toward a grove of date palms along the Iraqi bank.