Ghor farmers return to poppy cultivation
Ghor was declared a poppy-free province four years ago, but growers have resumed cultivating the illicit crop for reasons of poverty and unemployment, authorities said.
Muhammad Arif, a farmer from Chaghcharan, told Pajhwok Afghan News: “The government is yet to keep its promises to help growers. We cannot transport our farm products to markets because of poor roads.” Cultivating poppies did not involve much money, he said.
Najibullah, a grower from Chaharsada district, said: “Farmers in this area have been cultivating poppies for the past two weeks.” He blamed the government for ignoring the district that was mostly under Taliban’s control.
“If the authorities reconstruct roads and help growers with improved seeds and fertilizers, we will not cultivate poppies anymore,” he promised.
Director of Agriculture Fariduddin Abid confirmed the problem and said they had distributed wheat seeds to 10000 farmers and fertilizer to another 150,000. He, however, acknowledged, seeds could not be provided to all growers.
Similarly, farmers could not transport their products to other provinces and had inadequate access to cold storage facilities, the director explained, pledging fertilizer distribution to another 5,000 during the current month.
Counternarcotics Director Muhammad Yousuf Wakili said: “We will survey the areas where poppies have been cultivated, will destroy them and deal with growers according to the law.”
Four years ago, Ghor was declared a poppy-free province, earning a $2 million reward for reconstruction and development projects. Residents have to be helped to prevent them returning to poppy cultivation, according to the official.
Acting Governor Ghulam Muhammad Paiman said: “We acknowledge farmers’ financial problems, but they should not return to cultivating the un-Islamic crop.” He added that they would discuss the issue with provincial officials and launch an eradication campaign in the near future.
Meanwhile, Ghor police chief Gen. Khudayar said counternarcotics officials were prepared for destroying poppies. Forty-three hectares were cleared of the illicit crop, 1,800 kilograms of opium seized and four suspects arrested last year, he recalled.
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