Afghanistan bans growing of poppies for opiumReporter: Patrick Brown
The United Nations Drug Control Program says the world's biggest heroin producing country, Afghanistan, has gone out of the drug business.
A UNDCP report to be released next month will say Afghanistan has completely eradicated cultivation of the opium poppy, the plant producing the resin which is refined into heroin.
"We do not grow poppies and we will not grow them. This is a Taliban edict and it must be obeyed," Sheikh Rashimi, leader of the village of Spenghagbarga, told the CBC's Patrick Brown.
Spenghagbarga is just a dusty truck stop of a village. It used to be a way station on the long journey from the poppy fields of Afghanistan to the heroin dealers on the streets of Moscow, London, New York and Vancouver.
The Taliban's ban on opium products has cost many people their livelihoods. But no one dares defy the ban.
Last year Afghanistan produced almost 4,000 tonnes of opium. This year's figure is zero.
Bernard Frahi of the UN Drug Control Program confirms those numbers. But now, he says, Afghanistan's farmers need help.
"Since they did something that is remarkable, and deserve respect by the international community, they deserve our respect and support to help their families," he said.
Last year Mohammed Nasir had a flourishing and valuable crop of opium poppies. This year his crop is mostly weeds. His income from the wheat and cotton he can grow will be a fraction of what he made growing opium poppies.
"If we had help with irrigation," he says, "seeds, fertilizer, it would be easier to make up the difference."
Canada's ambassador to Pakistan, Ferry De Kerckhove, says Canada is among countries seeking ways to help. But, without helping the oppressive Taliban regime.
"We are not rewarding the Taliban, what we are trying to do it help labourers and farmers and I am perfectly at ease with that," said De Kerckhove.
It seems clear that the West has been taken by complete surprise by this total eradication of the opium poppies in Afghanistan. The test will be to see if the West can now provide aid before hardship forces Afghanistan's farmers to risk growing poppies again.
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