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Afghanistan: Opium

Volume 688: debated on Tuesday 9 January 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What alternative crops they have recommended to opium farmers seeking new livelihoods in Afghanistan; what numbers of beneficiaries are involved and in which provinces; and with what success. [HL667]

For farmers in Afghanistan a livelihood is normally composed of a combination of activities. These may include agriculture (crops, livestock); employment (migrant labour); remittances (from family members working away from home); or welfare (for vulnerable groups not able to work). The way in which an Afghan earns a living may also change throughout the year. DfID's Livelihoods Programme, worth nearly £150 million from 2006 to 2009, recognises this and is a balance of shorter and longer-term initiatives, designed to address immediate needs as well as promoting longer-term rural economic development and sustainable alternatives to opium.

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 and the introduction of legumes and vegetable crops, saffron and the medicinal properties of mint as viable alternatives to poppy production. Mint and saffron are showing early signs of success. The export feasibility of grapes, tomatoes, mushrooms and eggplants is also being examined. This includes not only crops but livestock, natural products, and post-harvest processing and rural services. DfID is working with RALF to improve dissemination of the results of the pilots.

The majority of DfID's funding for livelihoods is channelled through three national priority programmes which address the multiple constraints that prevent farmers moving away from poppy cultivation. This includes access to credit, markets, productive infrastructure and land.

The table below shows the total size of the Government's national priority programmes and highlights their successes. The column on the far right identifies DfID's contribution to these programmes.

Programme Name & Budget




DfID Contribution

National Solidarity Programme (NSP) $392 million

15,103 communities

All 34 Provinces

14,000 Community Development Councils established. £91 million spent on areas of agriculture, education, health, irrigation, power, public buildings, transport and water supply.

£17 million over three years

National Rural Access Programme (NRAP) $193.3 million

375,000 households across Afghanistan

All 34 Provinces

Over 8,000 km roads built or repaired, as well as schools, health clinics and water schemes.

£18 million in 2005-06

Micro-Finance Investment Support Facility (MISFA) $84.09 million

234,000 households, shopkeepers, tailors, and farmers among others. 75 per cent of MISFA beneficiaries are women.

20 Provinces 1

£83 million worth of small loans distributed.

£20 million over three years

1 Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Bamyan, Faryab, Ghazni, Heart, Jawzjan, Kabul, Kapisa, Kunarha, Kunduz, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Parwan, Samangan, Saripul, Takhar, Wardak.