Sunday, December 16, 2007

Afghan farmers see through "drug war"

Recent U.S. initiatives to eradicate poppy fields in selected areas of Afghanistan, on the Colombian model, have met with growing resistance by Afghan farmers, according to a briefing paper by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (link):
"The view that the government is willing to deepen the poverty of some of its rural population for the sake of a ban on opium poppy cultivation further alienates the rural population. The belief of many farmers that those enforcing the ban and eradicating their crop are themselves actively involved in the opium trade makes matters worse; so does the perception of widespread bribery and the sense that eradication targets the vulnerable and ignores the crops of those in positions of power and influence."
Afghan farmers are seeing that the eradication efforts are aimed mainly at growers or dealers who are competitors to the growers and dealers connected with the Afghan government and its sponsors. A secondary aim of eradication may be to reduce the over-all supply in order to maintain prices. The Afghan farmers are seeing firsthand what the "war on drugs" is all about and they're not buying into it. The study's authors caution that Afghan farmers will continue to grow the poppy until they're presented with a reasonable alternative -- and none is in sight.

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