Of poppies and poverties ii

One of the talk shows on Tolo TV last night featured an in-depth discussion on counter ‎narcotics with a senior advisor of the ministry of counter narcotics (MCN). The ‎discussion partly touched on the debate that has been raging in some corners of the web ‎and here on this blog (although here it has been less than raging; it has actually been a ‎one-person shouting fest) –that is, the link between poppy and poverty. ‎

The senior advisor made an important distinction that I was glad to hear and I would be ‎remiss to not report, because it is in part an invitation to moderation on a topic that is ‎becoming increasingly ideological and polarized -polarized between those on the one ‎hand who believe that there is a direct and clear two-way lane between poppy cultivation ‎and poverty, and those on the other hand who tend to dissociate the two. ‎

And the distinction that the MCN official made was this: that yes, there are those farmers ‎who are driven to poppy cultivation primarily because of poverty, and because in the ‎absence of any off-farm income opportunities and small land-holding, the only rational, ‎economic choice that they can make is to get the most bank for the buck and grow poppy ‎on their meager one or two jeribs. This is the extent to which the link between poppy and ‎poverty holds. ‎
But this is not the whole story –no sir, not nearly. ‎
There are also those, the MCN official stated, that own vast tracts of land and are well to ‎do, and would be still well off if they grew all of those fields cotton or wheat, but still ‎grow poppy. These are the greedy ones –the ones that you can fly over their fields in a ‎helicopter, the MCN official said, and for as far as the eye can see it is a sea of pink ‎poppy flowers and slit poppy pods. These are the ones that can actually buy 160 ‎Sarachas. These are the ones whose aide and support to the Taliban is substantial, and ‎who live in a symbiotic relationship with the insurgency. ‎

These are the ones for whom I can’t stand anyone shed any tears on account of their ‎destituteness and their poverty. And I would argue that these are the ones who are ‎responsible for the bulk of that 92% heroin that Afghanistan contributes to the world ‎market. Here the link is not between poppy and poverty. Rather it is between greed, ‎poppy, terrorism, and the Taliban –and eventually Afghanistan’s downfall. ‎

And as long as there are these kinds of mega-poppy-farmers on the one hand, and ‎evidence of widespread poverty amid helpless farmers across Afghanistan (whether they ‎grow poppy or wheat or rice or barley in their lowly few hectares), to insist that poppy is ‎a direct outcome of only poverty is simply disingenuous and misleading, and it does not ‎help Afghanistan. ‎


2 Responses to Of poppies and poverties ii

  1. SunLeaf says:

    sunleaf has just posted an article of this subject.


  2. Judas says:

    I am proposing a constructive solution to the Afghanistan dilemma.
    I hope that this proposal can be of some use.

    A. I have seen footage of American soldiers patrolling poppy fields…Ignoring the poppies.
    B. Karzai’s brother and #2 man are deep into poppy politics and corruption.
    C. The Taliban are supposedly funding their resistance through poppy profits.
    D. How do we improve Afghanistan economy and promote stability?

    Industrial Hemp could be a winning strategy.
    If we would supply Afghanistan farmers with low THC industrial grade hemp seeds,
    we could end the cycle of narcotics and corruption.
    It would give Afghanistan a virtual monopoly on a “green” product.
    A. Afghanistan would be a worldwide “green” leader.

    B. Hemp is a source material for biodegradable “green plastics”

    C. Fewer trees would be cut down for the paper industry.
    1.Hemp pulp is more productive and far less toxic than wood for paper.
    2.The American Constitution is written on Dutch Hemp paper.

    D.It is a source of “green” oils and lubricants.

    E.Hemp has hundreds of legitimate, beneficial and green uses.

    An Afghani product which reduces corruption,
    gives a legitimate “in demand” product,
    raises the economic profile.
    And solves a really big problem.

    Besides, neither the Christians nor the Moslems like drug production.
    Both sides could agree on that!

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