Poppy workers contrive nifty way to boost income
ZARANJ (Pajhwok): Some workers in Nimroz province have contrived a new method of collecting opium poppy sap to see their wages shoot up. At times, the amount of sap extracted does not suffice to meet their wages.
While lancing the poppies, they put on black clothing on which the clever labourers rub part of the extract collected in a vessel -- mostly an earthen pot. The workers intelligently paste on their clothes the paste left in the pot.
After collecting the harvest, they dip their clothes into boiling water. The sap coming to the surface is collected again with a spoon. Once the liquid dries up, it becomes opium, according to those employing the trick.
A large number of workers converge on Nimroz, a hot province that is suitable for poppy cultivation, in summers to pierce poppy bulbs and gather the sap. The illicit crop is grown in Khashrod, Dilaram and Char Barjak districts of the province.
Mohammad Asif, a Nimroz resident who had come to Khashrod to collect the yield, told Pajhwok Afghan News he had gathered nearly half a kilogram of opium that had he had pasted onto his clothes during lancing and harvest.
Apart from the wages paid, he claimed, the sale of the opium thus stolen augmented his income considerably. Some workers earned even more in this way than their actual remuneration, Asif said, adding each labourer was paid 500afs daily and up to 600afs they get by selling the stolen opium.
“I’m jobless and have to support an eight-member family. If I go to Iran, border guards will either kill or deport me. To feed my children, I have to lance poppy bulbs and collect the sap -- Islamic or otherwise,” the resident remarked.
A poppy farmer from Dilaram district, Haji Toran Jan, said one-fifth of the sap went to the labourer, who earned 10,000-12,000afs in 20 days. Aware of the ban on growing poppies, he argued cultivating other crops like wheat and beans did not meet their expenses.
For instance, many of farms in Dilaram are irrigated through water pumps and tube-wells. Given rising fuel prices, the use of petrol or diesel to power water pumps is a least affordable proposition for growers,
Additionally, the grower complained, the Department of Agriculture did not provide them subsidized wheat seeds in enough quantities. He regretted: “Our youth, who should be operating computers, are busy lancing poppies in sweltering heat.”
Meanwhile, the provincial council secretary acknowledged creating employment opportunities was one of the fundamental public demands. The government was responsible for addressing the issue on a priority basis if it did not want the young people to be involved in illicit jobs, he reasoned.
Security forces have eradicated 50 hectares of poppies this year, officials say, adding harvest has been collected from the remaining crop. The counter-narcotics department says the outlawed crop could not be destroyed because most of the forces were busy providing security presidential elections.
Farmers grumble that Nimroz has not been given its due share in basic public welfare projects and the few schemes approved for the province are yet to be executed. The result has been widespread unemployment, forcing the people either to grow poppies or resort to smuggling opium.
Farmer Abdul Ahad said the traffickers smuggled drugs in luxury vehicles from Lashkargah, the capital of southern Helmand province, to Nimroz. From there, the contraband was trafficked to neighbouring Iran, he explained.
But provincial police, referring to their counter-narcotics campaign, claimed seizing in border areas more than 200 kilograms of heroin destined for Iran during the current year. Most of the drugs are smuggled to Iran and European countries from Helmand, Kandahar, Farah and Herat via Nimroz.
Smugglers use the province, which shares a 230-km border with Iran and 185-km with Pakistan, as a transit route for trafficking drugs to the Persian Gulf country and European. To the delight of smugglers, there are only four security posts along the Iranian frontier, officials and residents say.
The number of drug users in Afghanistan -- the world’s largest opium producer -- increased to a record high of three million last year, almost doubling over a two-year period. Poppy cultivation also hit a record high in 2014, according to a survey conducted jointly by Kabul and the US State Department
In 2005, the number of drug users was 900,000, it went up to… 1.6 million in 2012. In 2014, the number rose to three million. The survey shows an alarming increase in the number of drug users, including children and women, both in cities and rural areas.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.