Farmers complain about poppy eradication program

Afghanistan is the largest opium producing country in the world. Helmand province was identified s the largest poppy producing province of the country after the adoption of the national poppy eradication program. Government authorities embarked on an anti-poppy campaign, destroying poppy producing fields. The provincial authorities claimed recently that 90% of the poppy crop had been eradicated but the farmers of the Helmand province claimed that the poppy fields remain and the crop is ready for harvesting. They also claimed that officials sent out to destroy the poppy fields
were seeking bribes.
Mohammed Khan, a 28 year old farmer said all his 15 acres land of poppy field was destroyed by the district police because he did not have money to pay the bribes. He said there were some surrounding fields where the poppy crop was not destroyed. Many farmers charge the authorities of putting on a show of destroying poppy fields for visiting journalists. They claim that the authorities entrusted the task of destroying crop to the local police, who actually make deals worth thousands of dollars with the bigger poppy growers.
Mohayudin Khan, provincial administrative director, does not rule out the possibility of bribes and says maybe people pay those supposed to destroy the fields not to destroy them, but one thing I want to say is that we have enough time and resolve to destroy the remaining poppy fields.
Some farmers do not agree with the poppy eradication program, saying people have no other option. They say the government should be flexible - people don't have any alternative livelihoods.
The people of Afghanistan strongly support the poppy eradication program and they think its very dangerous for the people and young generation in Afghanistan and the rest of the world.
The people of Afghanistan support the program, but they say that the program should not be selective, it should be for all - especially for rich and influential people and the local commander who deals in the poppy business should come first.
The people of Afghanistan ask the new Afghan government to financially support the poor farmers so they can cultivate useful plants.

Since this is a centuries old problem has anyone, including the government, concidered legal crop productio? Such as opium production for the pharmaceutical industry. Right now India produces about half the opium utilized by the world's pharmaceutical industries to produce codeine, morphine, narcotine, thebaine, papaverine, and other medical products. Instead of the funds wasted on attempting to stop a "tradition" why not something useful. This would certainly half some of the "bribes" taking place and establish a useful business and income for the farmers.
I hadn't thought of growing poppies as a *legal* crop, for legal use in the pharmaceutical industry. But I am curious to know what other crops can be grown in that area of the world. Since poppies grow so abundantly, I would think that there would be other crops that could also grow there in equal abundance?
What about saffron? Crocus should grow exceedingly well there and saffron is worth it's weight in gold. Actually, it's worth more.
Oh, and wasn't Afghanistan known for some of the finest raisins in the world?
It does seem that there should be a transition period where farmers could start growing a certain percent of other crops while gradually reducing the amount of poppies. The idea of selling them on the 'legal' market has merit.

Either way, it would be best in the long run if the farmers could diversify their crops. That way if one crop fails another may do well enough to hold things together until the next season.
Well.. Technically Poppy production 'is' a legitimate source for one phamaceutical product. Specifically Morphine. Heroin is literally a 'super' version of that. The problem is that Morphine is not used quite as much as it once was, since it is addictive, so not as much is really needed world wide. There are also much better alternatives, but the best of them involve some very complex chemicals found in a snake venom. Its a whole hell of a lot easier to extract the usable organic compound than find the set of genes in one exceedingly rare, and damned near the single most lethal, snake, so you can stake having silk worms or something make that one complex compound. Until that happens, then yeah, there still might be a legitimate use for Opium. But I am not at all sure the limited benefit, save for a very small minority of patients that absolutely need it, is worth the risk of it being purified into an illegal form of the drug. In 5-10 year, it might not even be necessary to have Morphine, so trying to tell them then, instead of now, "You can't grow that!", isn't going to change the reality of the situation. There is no where near enough existing legitimate use for them and in the future their may be 'no' legitimate use for them.
If you have ever known anyone addicted to heroin, and the misery it causes, this is worth the effort. Thanks.
It's my understanding that an NGO did recently propose legalising opium growing in Afghanistan for the medical market, but that the idea was rejected by the Afghan government. I was a bit dissapointed when I read that the idea had been rejected, but then I thought about it and understood why - it is unlikely the legalising the growing of opium would completely cut the heroin trade. In Columbia some farmers are licensed to grow coca for traditional coca chewing, but the rest of the crop is still bought up by the cocaine cartels.
This is a huge problem because it is impossible to corner the market on a natural resource, and there is a great risk that all you do by buying out the poppies is to make the illegal farmers more efficient.

The key here is to make the farmers crops too valuable to grow poppies. Honestly, I think that the key is to make sure that trade in bulk goods in Afghanistan is profitable. Accomplishing that substantial goal will do more to eliminate the poppy production than anything else.
Tina, saffron is a great idea! A demonstration project might be the way to do it. If farmers see the project succeeding, they're sure to copy it fast!

A class I'm participating in has brought this problem up. Until we can assist your country in finding some other type of cash crops, we'll probably have to resort to paying off farmers not to grow things (kind of like we do here.)

For those that accept the payment, there should be no doubt that they need to comply with the eradication plans. Those that do not voluntarily destroy their crops or continue to plant more poppies...must be dealt with harshly!

See you on the high ground...and you have some pretty high ground there!

"If you have ever known anyone addicted to heroin, and the misery it causes, this is worth the effort."

Have you ever known anyone addicted to alcohol? Have you seen the misery that causes?

If so, would you say that it's "worth the effort" to make alcohol illegal? Would it be "worth the effort" to raid and shut down all places that sell alcohol?
"...it is unlikely the legalising the growing of opium would completely cut the heroin trade."

NOTHING will "completely cut the heroin trade."

What making growing poppies legal DOES do is cut down on the price of it, and therefore its profitability.

It also cuts down on (or eliminates completely) the corruption caused by making it illegal.
There is a 'huge' difference between heroin and alcohol, even if some people seem incapable of seeing it. You can't take heroin as a recreation and not get addicted. You can with alcohol. The percentage of people that develop addiction to alcohol is much lower and is influenced by genetics in a very negative fashion. By comparison, heroin will addict more than 90% of the people that take it, with the only genetic influence being a small percentage that don't get addicted. For most people alcohol addiction is as much a social issue and self destructive choice, at least initially, as it is physical. Heroin and other hard drugs go from social to physical addiction in the first 1-2 times someone takes it and people don't just wander around grouchy and complaining they need a fix when they don't get it, they suffer convulsions and other nasty effects from not having it.

While I agree that alcohol can be abused and that it can ruin people's lives, it is as much their responsibility for being unwilling to confront what ever drove them to start abusing it, as the comparatively 'minor' addiction it can create when abused. Its no different than the misery any other psychologic disorder can cause, it just happens to include the use of something that is also dangerous to everyone around them. Not so with other drugs, which once addicted will not cause incidental harm due to its use, but induce people to do intentional harm or commit theft to feed the addiction. You cannot compare the two in any realistic fashion. In fact, doing so makes it easier for alcoholics to justify their social reasons for continuing to abuse it.

As for the idea that making poppy growing drops the price and makes it less profitable... Sounds good, but where do you think they are going to end up? In reality, dropping the price of the poppies won't drop the price of the drug, all you do is give those already making and selling it even more profit, which in turn convinces them to encourage even more people to grow it. Its a stupid solution, especially given how few legitimate uses there are for it and how difficult it would be to try to stop it getting to the wrong people.
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Kagehi writes, "The percentage of people that develop addiction to alcohol is much lower (than heroin)..."

OK. I'll agree that's probably true. But my point was that people DO get addicted to alcohol. But we (in the U.S.) learned from the sad experience of Prohibition that making addictive substances illegal causes more problems than it solves.

"Not so with other drugs, which once addicted will not cause incidental harm due to its use, but induce people to do intentional harm..."

I'm not aware of any medical evidence that people who use heroin have a greater tendency to commit violence than people who are not addicted to heroin.

"...or commit theft to feed the addiction."

Well, a huge part of the "theft to feed the addiction" comes from the fact that heroin is so expensive. And a huge part of the reason heroin is so expensive is that it's illegal.

People are addicted to cigarettes. People are addicted to alcohol. But how many commit theft to feed their addictions to those drugs? I think the answer is that far fewer commit theft to feed their addictions to those drugs, because those drugs are so much less expensive, and because those drugs can be obtained legally. (If a person who sells cigarettes or alcohol is robbed, they can simply go to the police, and expect the police to help them. If a person selling heroin is robbed, they can't go to the police, because the thing they are selling is illegal.)

"In reality, dropping the price of the poppies won't drop the price of the drug,..."

I completely disagree. The evidence is overwhelming that making heroin illegal WILL drop its price. The majority of the price comes from the fact that there are not many people who produce heroin (because it's illegal) and because the people who DO produce heroin end up bribing politicians and police, and hire their own thugs to keep people from stealing from them, and to force people to pay. (Again, when they aren't paid, they can't go to the police, because what they're doing is illegal.)

The fact that heroin is very addictive is not sufficient grounds for making it illegal. Not when making it illegal creates so many more problems than it solves.
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