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.


US takes back $100 million from Afghan govt over corruption

Updated 19 September 2019

US takes back $100 million from Afghan govt over corruption

  • Pompeo said the US will still finish the massive project that involves five power substations
  • He blamed the “Afghan government’s inability to transparently manage US Government resources.”

KABUL: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Washington is taking back $100 million intended for an Afghan energy infrastructure project, citing unacceptably high levels of corruption in the Afghan government.
In the harshly worded statement Thursday, Pompeo said the US will still finish the massive project that involves five power substations and a maze of transmission lines in southern Afghanistan. It just won’t be spending the money through Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, blaming the “Afghan government’s inability to transparently manage US Government resources.”
This follows an earlier statement, also from Pompeo, calling for “credible and transparent presidential election” when Afghans go to the polls Sept. 28.
The 2014 presidential election was marred by allegations of massive fraud, as was last year’s parliamentary vote.