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Taliban bring poppy cultivation to near zero, Afghans want alternate livelihood

June 8, 2023 at 4:22 pm

Taliban members stage a demonstration to celebrate Taliban’s first anniversary of taking over the government, in the capital Kabul, Afghanistan on August 15, 2022 [Haroon Sabawoon – Anadolu Agency]

The interim Taliban administration in Afghanistan said, Thursday, that poppy cultivation in the country has been “almost eradicated” and praised the recent UK-based organisation’s report which acknowledged their efforts at the global level, Anadolu Agency reports.

Hafiz Zia Ahmad, the deputy spokesman at Afghan Foreign Ministry, credited the Taliban Supreme Leader, Mullah Haibatullah, for the decrease in poppy cultivation after he issued a decree banning poppy cultivation in April last year.

“Following the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) Supreme Leader’s decree, poppy cultivation has been reduced to zero. According to recent media reports, 56.2 per cent of land in Helmand province was poppy cultivated in 2020, whereas it has reduced to 0.4 per cent by 2023 while, in reality, it is much less,” Hafiz Zia Ahmad tweeted.

His statement came after Alcis, an organisation that provides geographical information services, on Tuesday in its report said the poppy cultivation reduced in the war-torn country by 80 per cent as compared to 2022.

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“Yet the reality is, an effective ban on poppy cultivation has been imposed in Afghanistan in 2023 and opium production will be negligible compared to 2022,” said illicit drugs expert, David Mansfield, in a report citing satellite imagery.

Mansfield added that the high-resolution imagery shows that in the Helmand province poppy cultivation has fallen from more than 120,000 hectares (296,526 acres) in 2022 to less than 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) in 2023 – a reduction in this one province alone that surpasses any prior national poppy ban in Afghanistan, even the Taliban prohibition of 2000-2001.

The report praised the Taliban’s efforts against poppy cultivation. However, it warned that cultivation still persists in some parts of the north-east, such as Badakhshan which can increase.

US calls it important move

In a rare acknowledgment of the Taliban’s policies, the US Afghanistan point man, Thomas West, said: “Reports that the Taliban have implemented policies to significantly decrease opium poppy production this year are credible and important. Every country in the region and beyond has a shared interest in an Afghanistan free of drugs.”

However, local farmers in Helmand and Nangarhar provinces, the major poppy crops area, said the Taliban have destroyed their crops without providing any compensation.

“Poppy was a major source of our income that has now been completely banned by the Taliban,” Abdul Wahid Afkari, a local farmer in Helmand, told Anadolu over the phone.

He complained that the Taliban did not provide any compensation or support to local farmers.

“We request the Taliban government and international community to help us as we have no other income source in this backward area,” Afkari said.

‘Now world’s turn to help our people’

Afghan Taliban deputy spokesperson, Bilal Karimi, admitted that no major development projects could be launched in the areas as the country is currently passing through an economic crisis.

“We fulfilled our promise to the world and, now, it is their return to support us in providing alternative employment to local people,” Karimi told Anadolu.

Karimi also praised Alcis’ report and said: “The world has now acknowledged our efforts in bringing peace and freeing our country from drugs.

“We have secured the world and now they should come forward, fulfil their promises and help our people.”

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