2005-03-17

 

Clash between police and farmers left 4 injured

Farmers of Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar clashed with police on Wednesday, resisting police officials attempts to destroy their poppy field, resulting in injuries to two policemen and two villagers. While the police were attempting to destroy the fields the villagers started firing on the police and the police also opened the fire. The Nangarhar deputy security police, Liwal, denied the injury of any policeman. According to the locals of Depo and Goshtan villages of Achin district, the residents of two villages attacked on the police and during the clash two policemen and two villagers were injured. The residents of the area said there were two helicopters of security forces flying overhead to help the police. Locals said they will not let the campaign to eradicate their poppy fields succeed. "The government promised us a lot of things but didn't keep any of them". They said if the police destroy the poppy their children will die of hunger.

Comments:
Waheed,

What in your opinion is the solution to the poppy farmer's woes?
 
It seems the poppy is a great crop from a farmer's perspective. Wheat, for example, is an unattractive cash crop substitute. Though often suggested as an "alternative", it just isn't profitable enough in comparison. According to a 2003 report, "The average yield of wheat per hectare realized an average of US $222 for farmers. For the equivalent area of land under poppy cultivation the farmer could earn an average of $12,700."

So... if Europe and America (the prime consumers of opium) are truly interested in poppy eradication in Afghanistan, they must provide incentives to do so, which include:
1) Improving the lives of Afghan farmers through financial support: Building infrastructure (roads & irrigation), supporting education, and helping to develop profitable alternative crops in the long term;
2) In the short term, providing proper $$$ compensation for the destruction of poppy fields;
3) Demanding accountability and results from the local authorities.

Does the world (especially the UN, America and Britain) have the commitment to this? I hope so. Otherwise, we can’t expect Afghan farmers to do nothing for their families and starve.
 
Another option, of course, would be to legalize opium production in Afghanistan. The country would enter the market of pain-relieving medicines such as morphine and codeine (like heroin, also consumed in great quantities by many nations, including developing ones). This option too would require a large investment in infrastructure, accountability, and the necessary legal framework.

The Senlis Council, a drug policy advocacy group, has a position on the matter. World reaction at this point seems to be mixed.
 
Waheed

Are the goverment providing a viable alternative for the farmers or are they just going into poppy fields and burning them
 
I'd advocate Adam's "another option". Growing opium for medical use would allow the farmers to keep growing their crop and maybe they could even afford to diversify into growing some food crops as well (since they'd not have to pay bribes to local officials).

Though I'll also comment on #2 in Adam's first comment. Compensating farmers for destroying fields would only give them reason to grow more poppy fields so they could get more money for the destruction (etc.). Better just to pay them not to grow opium. (Farm subsidies, anyone?)
 
I kinda like the saffron idea. I've often wondered why saffron is so expensive when crocus are extremely tough, and you can harvest the saffron around the same time you would plant food crops around/between the bulbs. Is there some WTO deal that only allows limited saffron production?
 
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