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Volume 447: debated on Thursday 8 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what account he took of the increase of opium production in 2004-05 in his assessment of the likely success of the alternative livelihoods programmes in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (74142)

During my visit to Helmand on 5 June 2006, I announced a new Helmand Agricultural and Rural Development Programme (HARDP), which will run from 2006 to 2009 with a budget of £30 million. The purpose of HARDP is to increase the economic opportunities of the rural poor in Helmand, including those that make a living from growing and harvesting poppy, through integrated support to improve their livelihood options.

In designing this programme, DFID used extensive UK-funded field studies on the effect of poppy production on households in Helmand. The evidence shows that a variety of forces drive poppy farmers’ decisions, including both poverty and the lack of risk of law enforcement. Providing alternative livelihoods opportunities in itself will not reduce poppy cultivation in Helmand. This requires an integrated approach including assistance, law enforcement, better governance and better security. The UK is helping the Government of Afghanistan to deliver such an approach in Helmand. It will take several years to reduce cultivation substantially.