Balkh farmers return to poppies after 6 years
MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Six years ago, the northern Balkh province was declared as a poppy-free province but this year the banned crop has been widely cultivated in some districts.
The poppy crop has been cultivated in Chamtal, Charbolak, Daulatabad, Shulgar and Balkh districts. The bulk of the crop is cultivated in Shulgar and Balkh districts where farmers say they returned to the crop due to the lack of attention to the agriculture of their districts by the government.
He has cultivated four acres of his land with poppy crop, a resident of Jar Kala area in Chamtal district, Abdullah Khan, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
“We know poppy is illegal crop, the government can destroy it, but if the government did not, the crop will boost our economy,” he said.
Khan said farmers faced the scarcity of irrigation water and agricultural equipment and as a result, they could not cultivate legal crops.
“Last year I cultivated cotton on five acres of land, but the crop was infected with diseases and produced nothing.”
He said half an acre of land usually produced 224 kilograms of cotton worth 16,000 afghanis but after deducting the input costs, it has no profit. “While the land produces 10 kg of opium worth nearly 80,000 afs,” he said.
A resident of Wazirabad village of Balkh district, Mohammad Ewaz, said there were rumors that people had cultivated poppy crops in the province so he also decided to cultivate half an acre of his land with the plant. “People of Boka, Tana and other parts of the district have also cultivated the crops in their lands.”
Similarly, a resident of Charbolak district, Bismillah Khan, said he had cultivated six acres of land with the illegal crop because other crops had low profit despite being grown on dozens of acres of land.
“The government doesn’t provide necessary assistance to farmers so they cultivate poppies for higher income,” he said.
Provincial Agriculture and Livestock Director Katib Shams told Pajhwok Afghan News farmers would not grow poppies if they were facilitated.
He said farmers in the current situation believed it was a right decision to to cultivate the illegal plant.
He said drugs mafia groups used to distribute money in advance to farmers to cultivate poppy and then they made the remaining payments to farmers at the time of harvests. “The lack of irrigation water is also a reason some farmers grow poppy.”
He said the government should provided needed facilities to farmers and force them to stay away from growing poppy again.
The director said department has 40 tractors but all of them were faulty and they lacked budget to repair them. The tractors earned 40 million afghanis in revenue to the government over the past few years but now there was no fund to repair them, he added.
However, officials at the governor’s house said many facilities had been provided to farmers and the agriculture sector would be developed more in future.
The governor’s spokesman, Munir Farhad, confirmed poppy cultivation in some parts of Balkh.
“We have received some reports about the cultivation of poppy in Chamtal district,” Farhad added, saying an investigation to find poppy cultivation in other districts of the province was underway.
He said the governor’s house had ordered all security organs to eradicate poppy farms wherever found.
“The government knows farmers’ problems, but it does not mean they should grow illegal plants,” he said, adding that Balkh had zero level poppy cultivation seven years ago and the provincial government was trying to maintain the pride. All poppy growers would be brought to justice, he added.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.