The UN Office on Drugs and Crime 2006 Opium Survey estimates that 15,300 hectares, or about 10 per cent. of opium poppy, was eradicated in Afghanistan this year, some three times more than last year. The survey also suggests that where eradication took place in 2005, farmers were less likely to plant poppy in the next season. Eradication is a useful deterrent where there is access to legal livelihoods and when used as part of a balanced counter-narcotics strategy, such as the Afghan government’s National Drug Control Strategy, which includes measures to interdict drugs, bring criminals to justice, build institutions and provide alternatives for poppy farmers. In areas of Afghanistan, where access to governance, security and development has improved, reductions in cultivation achieved last year have been sustained and in some cases cultivation has fallen further.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducts an annual survey into the level of opium poppy cultivation and production in Afghanistan. UNODC figures show a yield of 4,200 metric tonnes (mt) in 2004, 4,100 mt in 2005 and 6,100 mt in 2006. It is too early to estimate overall levels of opium production for 2007.
The cultivation picture varies between and within provinces. In 2006 there was a 162 per cent. increase in Helmand, accounting for 70 per cent. of the overall increase, and a rise of 379 per cent. in Uruzgan. However, in three of the four highest poppy cultivating provinces in 2005, production was down this year (Balkh—33 per cent., Farah—25 per cent. and Kandahar—3 per cent.). Where access to governance, security and development has improved, reductions achieved last year have been sustained, and in some cases cultivation has fallen further. This shows that the National Drug Control Strategy is starting to have an impact in some parts of the country. President Karzai recently said
‘we must be looking at a 10-year period’
to rid Afghanistan of poppy. Achieving the Afghan Compact benchmark of a sustained annual reduction in the amount of land under poppy cultivation by 2010 will be a key step towards this goal.