NPR.org, August 31, 2007 · The cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan is at an all time high. The United Nations says the country is expected to produce nearly 9,000 tons of opium this year — nearly all of the world's supply.
Officials say the multi-billion dollar trade is spurred by the Taliban and by corrupt members of the Afghan government. But US officials insist they can win this war — especially with the help of provincial governors like the one in Badakhshan, a province where opium cultivation has plummeted.
Planting season starts next month. And as Friday prayers wind down on a recent afternoon in one town, a US-funded poppy elimination team pressures farmers not to plant opium poppies.
Farmers in Jurm pour out of the mosque and walk to the police compound to meet with the anti-drug team.
"Don't grow poppy and you'll get development projects like roads," says Mohammed Akbar, a member of the task force. "Besides, when you grow poppy, you don't have room for other crops like wheat and grain. That drives up the cost of feeding your families and livestock. Then, when we destroy your poppies, how will you pay your landlords?"
It's a tough sell. Especially when the farmers say they've seen little in the way of development projects year after year. They complain that even the small hydroelectric plant being built nearby will light only one light bulb per household here.
Morning Edition, August 27, 2007 · A UN report says 95 percent of the world's opium comes from Afghan fields and poppy production there is expected to top all records this year. Mark Schneider, a senior vice president with the International Crisis Group, talks with Renee Montagne.just buy up the crop, damnit!