Kandahar officials hope poppy to decline this year
KANDAHAR CITY (Pajhwok): Counternarcotics officials on Tuesday hoped poppy cultivation would decline in southern Kandahar province this season as a result of some development projects.
Kandahar counternarcotics chief Gul Mohammad Shukran told Pajhwok Afghan News the projects under the Food Zone programme had been carried out in districts where poppy cultivation had increased.
He was upbeat implementation of the projects would help reduce cultivation of the illicit and subsequently drug smuggling and use.
The USAID-funded Food Zone Programme is aimed at preventing poppy cultivation in Kandahar by creating awareness about the hazards of drugs and taking measures to discourage poppy cultivation and executing welfare projects.
The programme is being implemented in Zheri, Maiwand, Shah Walikot, Panjwai and some other districts of Kandahar.
Shukran said in areas where the bulk of the crop was cultivated had multiple problems, including water scarcity, thus leading farmers to grow the banned plant.
He said the government had addressed some basic issues of people under the USAID-funded programme to prevent them from growing poppy this year.
Currently 40 development projects were underway in more than seven districts of Kandahar, he said.
Of the projects, 11 were construction of canals which were about to complete in Zheri, Maiwand and Panjwai districts.
He said the under construction canals were 143 kilometres long and their completion would enable farmers to irrigate their farms and orchards.
Besides the canals, the Ministry of Counternarcotics had approved the construction of Ishqabad dam in Maiwand district and work on the project would be launched soon, Shukran said.
He added water of seasonal rains would be stored in the dam for irrigation for tens of thousands of hectares of land in Panjwai and Zheri districts.
All the schemes would be implemented in line with people’s demand and needs, he said, adding that people had promised not to grow poppy in their fields anymore and instead they would switch to saffron, basil and fruit crops.
He said poppy eradication campaigns were not as effective as development projects in reducing poppy growing in the province and that his department had launched awareness programmes in districts.
The official asked the ministries of agriculture, counternarcotics and rural development to find market for legal crops in order farmers were encouraged to quit growing poppy.
Shukran said the number of people addicted to drugs in Kandahar has reached 130,000 with females constituting 10 percent of them, saying their population was increasing with each passing day.
Last year, 224,000 hectares of land was cultivated with poppy crop in 132 districts of the country but the bulk of the crop was grown in 10 districts of Kandahar, Helmand, Farah and Nimroz provinces, making 56 percent of drug production. Up to 30,000 hectares of land was cultivated last year in Arghandab, Zheri, Panjwai, Maiwand and Shah Walikot districts of Kandahar.
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