Friday, November 02, 2007

Getting rid of the poppy

When we committed troops to Afghanistan, one of the stated aims was the reduction of the poppy crop. It doesn't seem to have happened, indeed more opium is being produced than under the Taliban. Hidden in a written answer to a parliamentary question may be some of the reasons.

Kim Howells replied "Poppy eradication in Helmand Province is performed by Afghans in the Poppy Eradication Force (PEF) and in the Governor Led Eradication (GLE) forces. There are approximately 615 personnel in the PEF. Governor Wafa has not confirmed how many personnel he will commit to the GLE force this year."

"UK personnel do not conduct eradication, but do provide support to the planning and targeting work. Implementation of eradication is the responsibility of the Afghan Government. No eradication targets have been set for Helmand for 2008."

"The Government's main involvement in livelihoods diversification in Helmand is through the Department for International Development (DFID)—funded Helmand Agriculture and Rural Development Programme (HARDP). This is a three-year programme designed to increase the economic opportunities for rural poor people in Helmand, including those that make a living from growing poppy. Activities include construction of rural roads, wells and latrines; provision of legal credit; support for small-scale community development projects; and agricultural support. The overall target for the programme is to deliver improved livelihood opportunities for 590,000 people by the end of the third year."

"HARDP is managed by the four-person DFID Livelihoods team based in Kabul. Additional programme support is provided by the three-person DFID Helmand team which is split between Kabul and Lashkar Gah. However, actual implementation is carried out by the Ministry for Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), and by a number of non-governmental organisations working under the auspices of MRRD and the Ministry for Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock."

Forgive my cynicism, but this sounds to me to be a means of subsidising the poppy crop rather than eradicating it. Easier credit for poppy growers and better roads to move their crop out, latrines for their workers and agricultural support. No wonder the crop is increasing. The HARDUP poppy growers have never had it so good.

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