Aid Workers Work to Persuade Afghan Farmers to Replace Poppies With Wheat

August 8, 2009

(ChattahBox)—The U.S. and Britain are in a race against time in Afghanistan to persuade poor Afghan farmers to transition from planting lucrative poppy fields to wheat or fruit trees, before the opium poppy planting season begins in October. Previous efforts under the Bush administration to destroy the poppy fields failed to make a dent in opium production and now a comprehensive effort is planned, using both military resources and U.S. and international aid experts.

It’s an uphill battle all around to convince farmers to give up the poor country’s most profitable cash crop. According to the U.N. 2008 Afghanistan Opium Survey, the annual cash income of poppy growing families was 53 percent higher than non-poppy growing households. And in the Southern Helmand region where most of the poppy is cultivated, farmers there reported the highest cash earnings in the entire country.

The wages for poppy farm workers are also significantly higher. Opium lancing and gum collection pays $9.50, compared to $4.40 for wheat harvesting.

The U.S. and Britain realize they face a formidable challenge to convince farmers to stop growing poppies. But it’s a vital step to transition Afghanistan into a modern economy. More importantly, funds from poppy production end up in the pockets of Taliban militants to fund their terrorism. And the illegal drug production creates a perilous web of “…traffickers, warlords, corrupt government officials and insurgents.”

The military is at work clearing the Helmand region of insurgents to create a safe environment for aid workers and agricultural workers, to implement a program of vouchers for seeds and fertilizer. The aid workers would also help train local government officials in alternatives to poppy production.

At the same time poppy production is being discouraged, additional drug enforcement agents are planned to hit the ground running to intercept and destroy drug shipments, before the drugs end up funding terrorist organizations.



One Response to “Aid Workers Work to Persuade Afghan Farmers to Replace Poppies With Wheat”

  1. Special Blog to All » Aid Workers Work to Persuade Afghan Farmers to Replace Poppies … on August 8th, 2009 2:52 pm

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