800 acres cleared of poppies in Kandahar
KANDAHAR CITY (PAN): Eight hundred acres of land have been cleared of poppies in various districts of southern Kandahar province as part of a provincial eradication campaign.
Gul Muhammad Shukran, head of the counternarcotics campaign, said the work would continue for two months.
The campaign targets Arghandab, Zhiri, Panjwaee and Shah Wali Kot districts where 800 acres have been cleared of poppies.
He said the current campaign had been more successful that previous years as the government had extended its influence in various districts and there had been little resistance.
He said they had targeted those districts which had spring growing seasons and that the Afghan National Army, police and locals were cooperating.
Two weeks ago, the Kandahar governor, Toryalai, Weesa, had launched the campaign in Zhiri district and said that it would be extended to other districts.
Poppy cultivation had decreased due to the distribution of improved seeds and fertilisers to farmer and better advocacy, the governor said.
He said because of a shortage of rainfall and the cold weather, many poppy crops had been destroyed which made their work much easier.
Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, chief of Zhiri district, said farmers were forced by insurgents to grow poppies on their land.
He said 80 percent of the land in Zhiri was grape orchards and there was little room left for poppies.
The campaign had been completed in Sang Hesar, Sanzari, Hawz Madad and Nalgham areas and was still going on in Pashmol areas.
Over 50,000 farmers had been given 16 bags of fertilisers and various seeds at 20 percent of the actual cost, and in the winter campaign 900 farmers were given fertilisers and improved wheat seeds to encourage them not to grow poppies.
Panjwaee district chief, Haji Fazludin Agha, said the Kandahar governor had visited the district to begin the eradication campaign two weeks ago.
He said there had been no resistance and the campaign was going well.
Residents of Kandahar said this year not as many people grew poppies because they had been informed on time by the government that if they did, their crops would be destroyed.
Raz Mohammad Aka, a resident of Zhiri, said he grew poppies on 36.5 acres of land, but a week ago the government destroyed his crop.
He said they were not happy about growing poppies, but did so because other crops were not as lucrative.
He asked for support from the government in farming and gardening.
Nazar Gul, a resident of Arghandab district, said that one person in every two or three families was addicted to drugs.
He said people knew poppy cultivation was a problem to their families, but they still grew it.
He asked the government to launch long-term programmes to support alternative forms of farming, to prevent drug smuggling and help those who were addicted.
Three weeks ago, the minister for counternarcotics and the agriculture and livestock minister, Muhammad Asif Rahimi, visited Kandahar where they said the increase in the number of addicts and a lack of regional cooperation were the biggest challenges in eradicating poppy growing.
Officials in Kandahar province say there are 60,000 addicts while there is only one 20 bed- rehabilitation clinic.