Afghan province begins push to discourage poppy cultivation

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Date tree plantation rapidly replacing poppy harvest in Afghanistan. The hot weather and terrain of Helmand province resembles that of the Middle East making it viable for date tree plantation. (Helmand Governor's Office/Javeriah Abbasi)
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Date tree plantation rapidly replacing poppy harvest in Afghanistan. The hot weather and terrain of Helmand province resembles that of the Middle East making it viable for date tree plantation. (Helmand Governor's Office/Javeriah Abbasi)
Updated 28 July 2018
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Afghan province begins push to discourage poppy cultivation

  • According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan last year produced 9,000 tons of opium
  • Most of the income from the multi-billion-dollar trade ends up in the pockets of dealers and the mafia

KABUL: Helmand has long been the major narcotics-producing province in Afghanistan due to protracted war and chronic poverty.
Most of the income from the multi-billion-dollar trade ends up in the pockets of dealers and the mafia, rather than helping poor communities and farmers economically.
So authorities and locals have begun a drive to replace opium poppies with trees such as pistachio, citrus and date, which have markets at home and in the region.
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan last year produced 9,000 tons of opium, which is derived from poppies and turned into heroin.
Thousands of pistachio and date trees have been distributed for free to farmers in districts where poppies are grown, to persuade them to stop cultivating the latter, local officials said.
“Date harvests have been higher than expected. That’s good news for the people, market and growers,” Ali Shah Mazlomyar, a former adviser to Helmand’s governor, told Arab News.
Some trees have produced 15-20 kg of dates, which will encourage famers to abandon poppy cultivation, he said.
Helmand’s hot climate and terrain, which are similar to the Middle East, have played a role in encouraging farmers to grow dates, said Ahmad Shah Khairi, head of the province’s agriculture department.
“In the near future, we’ll be asking Arab countries to help us with date trees,” he told Arab News.
“We can encourage farmers to swap poppies with these trees, as we have a good market nationally, regionally and internationally for dates, citrus and pistachio.”
Mazlomyar said the UAE has already donated date trees to Helmand. In the long run, authorities expect that with more date and citrus trees, Afghanistan will stop being reliant on imports from Pakistan, Iran and the Middle East.
Previous government and US-led efforts to ban poppy cultivation failed. Each year drug production has risen in Afghanistan, though the Taliban drastically decreased poppy cultivation in its last year in power.


Gulf Arab youths form volunteer group in Australia

Updated 20 May 2019
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Gulf Arab youths form volunteer group in Australia

  • Wasel Club is the first Arab volunteer group in the capital city of South Australia Adelaide
  • The club chose to begin with the traditional Gargee’an

ADELAIDE: Young Arabs from various Gulf countries have organized a volunteer group to spread Gulf culture and traditions in Australia.
Wasel Club, the first Arab volunteer group in the capital city of South Australia Adelaide, aims to achieve its mission by enhancing cooperation and teamwork through various cultural, national and social activities.
The club has chosen to begin with the traditional Gargee’an, which takes place in the middle of Ramadan, during which families give different kinds of treats to kids and traditional games are played by the elderly.
“We’d been thinking of a good way to commence our activities. Gargee’an is an activity that involves all ages,” Razan Al-Dossary, the founder of Wasel and a nursing student at South Australia University, told Arab News.
“Gargee’an is an interesting, fun and friendly event that allows people to connect with each other and see interesting aspects of Arab culture and society,” she said.
“All members of the (Wasel) team are students who are thousands of miles away from home. We saw an opportunity for us and other Arabs to experience the way Gargee’an is done back home.”