The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock held an agricultural exhibition in Kabul on Tuesday that was an “alternate to poppy cultivation”.
The produce on display was of fruit, vegetables and some livestock, that was suited to farming in eight poppy cultivating provinces.
The Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation said the alternate poppy cultivation project has been implemented in a number of provinces for the past year in a bid to reduce the level of poppy cultivation.
According to the Ministry the project has been rolled out in Uruzgan, Farah, Badghis, Nangarhar, Balkh and Panjshir provinces.
“Its effects have actually been noticed. In Uruzgan things have already changed. I have spoken with Uruzgan people and they have benefited by changing their land from poppy fields to agricultural farming and also meeting the needs of the people of Uruzgan,” said the minister Nasir Ahmad Durani.
He said farmers in these provinces will be given some assistance in order to convert their land to agricultural farms.
Durani also said the program has resulted in a drop in poppy fields in the respective provinces.
The Minister of Counter-Narcotics, Salamat Azimi, meanwhile said the program has been rolled out in provinces that have the highest number of poppy fields.
Azimi said government is there to help Afghanistan eradicate poppy cultivation.
“We are on their side (farmers) and as far as our responsibilities are concerned, we are with all the people of Afghanistan and all key sectors,” said Azimi.
Meanwhile, a number of farmers who exhibited their produce at the expo said they have been encouraged to stop growing poppies by way of government’s project.
“Uruzgan is one of the provinces that produces a lot of poppies every year, and luckily in recent years, since we started our work, there are many farmers who stopped poppy cultivation and started cultivating Halal (permissible) crops,” said Nasrin a farmer in Uruzgan province.
“The farmers at the expo have brought their own produce - poultry or cultivation, cucumbers and apples,” said Taza Gul another farmer from Farah.
According to the ministry of agriculture the cost of the agriculture and rural development project has been around 440 million AFs and the ministry hopes that the project will be rolled out through other parts of the country.
In May, the UN reported that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record-high last year, leading to unprecedented levels of potential heroin on the world market.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report that opium cultivation increased by 63 per cent; from 201,000 hectares in 2016 to an estimated 328,000 hectares in 2017.
Opium poppy production has become so engrained in the livelihood of many Afghans, that it is often the main source of income for not only farmers, but also many local and migrant workers hired as day-laborers on farms. In 2017, opium poppy weeding and harvesting provided the equivalent of up to 354,000 full-time jobs to rural areas.