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Friday, October 31, 2003
By Steven Taylor

No surprise here: Afghan Farmers Turn to Opium Poppy to Survive

They are already sowing next year’s poppy crop in the fields of Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous North, openly farming the opium that will one day end up as heroin on the streets of Europe.

[...]

“During the civil war people lost everything, and it is only through poppy farming that they are able to provide for their families and build a decent home,” said Haq Abdur Rahim, standing among his fields as his workers plowed and sowed.

The economics make this inevitable:

Rahim says he earns $3,000 for the 22 pounds of opium he can produce from a single, tiny field, compared with just $10 for growing the 132 pounds of wheat the same plot would yield “which isn’t even enough to pay the wages of the workers.”

It is hard to blame these people for planting, and it raises the question of how you create the appropriate incentives to stop them in the first place.

And then you have this tale from Peru: Peruvian Coca Farmers Ripe for Bolivia-Style Revolt

Coca leaf growers, or “cocaleros,” were a key part of a bloody revolt this month that toppled the president of Bolivia, the world’s third-largest cocaine producer, removing a key U.S. ally in the anti-narcotics war.

Across the Andes in No. 2 producer Peru, some 200,000 angry coca farmers are gaining political clout. Critics say if Washington wants to prevent a repeat of the Bolivian crisis, it should re-examine its drug policy there.

“This should be a wake-up call to U.S. policymakers as to coca eradication policies which basically come with the promise of development and leave people to feel like they’re holding nothing,” said John Walsh, senior associate for the Andes and drug policy at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank.

Our current policies aren’t working, and further, as I pointed out the other day, they are helping to provide the fund to fuel terror (here and here).

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