21 poppy growers detained in Farah
FARAH CITY (PAN): Counternarcotics police in southwestern province of Farah on Monday arrested 21 growers on charges of cultivating poppies, officials said.
However, farmers and local officials said the main cause behind the increase in poppy cultivation in Farah was the government’s apathy.
The growers were arrested during a 10-day operation conducted in Khak-i-Safid, Pushtrod and Bala Baluk districts, Lal Mohammad Azizi, the counternarcotics department head, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
According to the local officials, poppy cultivation has increased by 20 percent in the province, where farmers cultivated 14,000 hectares of land in 2011.
Azizi added most of the areas where farmers grew poppies were controlled by the Taliban fighters and the Ministry of Counternarcotics could not launch any eradication campaign there. He said it was policy of the counternarcotics ministry to implement development schemes in districts with good security.
However, local officials and farmers blamed the government for neglecting the farmers. "Should I cultivate wheat in my fields, it cannot meet my expenses. I have spent so much on installing water pumps; growing poppies brings me greater income than wheat," said Mohammad Anwar, a farmer. He complained they faced a water shortage, improved seeds and fertilisers.
Syed Ahmad, a civil society leader, blamed the government for failing to help the farmers. He believed poverty and a dearth of financial resources had forced the people to cultivate poppies.
Although the Farahrod River flows through the province, farmers could not benefit from it due to the absence of water storage facilities. Instead the water flowed into Iran, unharnessed, he said.
Bakwa district chief, Mohammad Ismail said the main problem behind the increase in cultivation of poppies was the government did not pay any heed to growers’ problems, including a shortage of irrigation water.
"Growers should dig up 40 to 50 metres deep wells to irrigate their farmland, something too much expensive for them. To meet their demands, they should find money, which they earn from poppy cultivation," he said.
The farmers did not want to grow poppies if the government provided them aid, provincial council secretary Shahla Abu Bakar said. She said although council members had asked the government to help farmers, no steps had been taken so far.