KABUL, Afghanistan — The fields of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan were free of opium poppies this year, a success touted often by Afghan and international officials. But one look at Mohammad Alam's fields uncovers an emerging drug problem.It turns out that farmers can make as much money from pot as they can from Opium poppies. Seems like a decent trade to me, except that this doesn't seem to be reducing the absolute amount of poppies produced, either.
Ten-foot-tall cannabis plants flourish in Alam's fields. The crop — the source of both marijuana and hashish — can be just as profitable as opium but draws none of the scrutiny from Afghan officials bent on eradicating poppies.
Cannabis cultivation rose 40 percent in Afghanistan this year, to 173,000 acres from 123,550 in 2006, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimated in its 2007 opium survey. The crop is being grown in at least 18 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, according to the survey released last month.
"The government cannot provide a good market for other crops like cotton, watermelon and vegetables, so I have to grow marijuana instead of poppy," said Alam, a farmer in Balkh province, which the U.N. singles out as a "leading example" of an opium-free area.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
First softwood, now this
Will the lasting impact of the Afghanistan War be to undermine one of Canada's main export industries?