Illicit drugs expert David Mansfield, in a report citing satellite imagery, said that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been reduced to levels not seen since 2001 with cultivation in the south of the country down by at least 80% compared with last year, when the Taliban banned the growing of poppies for opium.
“In fact, high resolution imagery shows that in the province of Helmand poppy cultivation has fallen from more than 120,000 hectares in 2022 to less than 1,000 hectares in 2023 – a reduction in this one province alone that surpasses any prior national poppy ban in Afghanistan,” Mansfield wrote in the report posted online by Alcis, an organization that provides "geographic information services."
“This is good that there is a both efforts against (narcotics) and also a treatment program. But this is not enough, there should be international assistance in this regard,” said Ajmal Zurmati, a political analyst.
“Last year, the cultivation of wheat increased by 10 to 40 percent compared to the previous years in the provinces,” said Muzbahuddin Mustaeen, a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
The Alcis report said that while denied the possibilities of growing poppy, many have turned almost entirely to wheat but will not have sufficient land to feed their families.
“Some will cultivate a portion of land with crops like onion, garlic, and tomato, but will not raise enough income to feed, cloth, and provide healthcare for a family of ten or more people,” the report said.
“The government should help us regarding the cultivation of wheat. Provide us wheat seeds,” said Farid Ahmad, a farmer in Kandahar.
“After the poppy cultivation was banned, the people could not earn their expenses. The people are so worried about the water—the water used to be found at the surface 10 meters deep but it cannot be reached now even 20 meters deep,” said Abdul Wali, a farmer in Kandahar.
The Islamic Emirate’s deputy spokesman, Bilal Karimi, welcomed the findings of Alcis.
“It is good that we witness such acknowledgement from these organizations about the improvements made by the Islamic Emirate regarding narcotics across the country. According to the decree of the (leader), the cultivation and production of narcotics, its processing and its selling has been banned,” he said.
The report said that the poppy cultivation was reduced by more than 99% in Helmand Province, which “previously produced more than 50% of the country’s opium.”
According to official information, the Ministry of Interior has conducted more than 6,000 counter-narcotic operations.