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Afghanistan: Opium

Volume 458: debated on Wednesday 14 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many hectares of poppy crop in Afghanistan have been eradicated since January 2006; how many hectares have been sprayed; what aid has been paid to poppy farmers; which provinces have been covered by spraying; how many farmers have been offered an alternative crop to plant; and how many farmers have begun to plant an alternative crop. (126705)

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) records that 15,301 hectares of poppy crop was eradicated across Afghanistan in 2006, with 95.8 per cent. of the eradication occurring after January 2006. In 2007, some 7,112 hectares of poppy have been eradicated to date. No Afghan province has been covered by spraying. The Government of Afghanistan (GoA) decided, after wide consultation and internal discussion, against the use of ground-based and aerial spraying on opium poppy crops this year.

No direct aid has been given to opium farmers who have had their fields eradicated as this would be contrary to the GoA policy. The policy of the Afghanistan Government is to target eradication on areas where alternative livelihoods already exist. Therefore only those farmers who have alternatives will experience poppy eradication. In support of the GoA’s National Drug Control Strategy (NCDS), the UK is playing a major role in supporting the development of legal livelihood opportunities in Afghanistan. DFID’s Livelihood Programme is worth £150 million over three years, the majority of which is channelled through three National Priority Programmes which address the multiple constraints that prevent farmers from moving away from poppy cultivation.

DFID’s support for the National Rural Access Programme (NRAP) is helping to build essential infrastructure such as irrigation schemes, roads and bridges. This provides much needed infrastructure for economic development and also construction jobs for Afghans at the same time. DFID gave £18 million in 2005-06 for this purpose. Nearly 9,500 km of roads have been built or repaired, as well as schools, health clinics and water schemes. So far the programme has generated over 15 million days of labour.

DFID’s support for the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) is helping local communities through elected community development councils (CDC’s) identify what development is most needed in their areas and then receive grants to undertake the work. DFID is providing £17 million to support NSP which has established over 16,000 CDCs across Afghanistan and funded over 22,000 projects in the areas of agriculture, education, health, irrigation, power supply, transport and water supply.

DFID support to the Micro-Finance Investment Support Facility of Afghanistan (MISFA) is helping Afghans to invest in income-generating activities and increase their savings. DFID is providing £20 million over three years to help give small loans of around £100 to the poor, including farmers, who cannot get credit from banks. So far, over £90 million worth of loans have been given to over 230,000 Afghans including farmers, shopkeepers, tailors and builders.

DFID has established a £3 million Research in Alternative Livelihoods Fund (RALF) in Afghanistan for applied research into natural resource-based livelihoods. The programme is looking at improved forage and milk production, the introduction of legumes, vegetable crops and saffron, and the medicinal properties of mint as viable alternatives to poppy production for farmers. Mint and saffron are showing early signs of success. The export feasibility of grapes, tomatoes, mushrooms and eggplants is also being examined. This also includes natural products, and post-harvest processing and rural services.

In addition, DFID funds the Development of Sustainable Agriculture Livelihoods Project in the Eastern Hazarajat (SALEH) which provides new and innovative ways for farmers to make a living in Eastern Hazarajat e.g. honey bee keeping and potato farming.

Afghan farmers often make their living through a combination of activities. These may change throughout the year, and include agriculture (crops and livestock); employment (migrant labour); remittances (from family members working away from home); and welfare (for vulnerable groups not able to work). DFID therefore supports a wide range of activities to help farmers move away from poppy cultivation and adopt alternative forms of livelihoods.