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Afghan Farmers Dissuaded From Opium Crop


UN’s Agriculture Arm Calls For Funds To Dissuade Afghan Farmers From Opium Crop

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ( http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/39789/index.html FAO) today appealed for $60 million to help stimulate Afghanistan’s rural economy so that farmers are deterred from turning to opium production for their income.

Three days before an international donors conference on Afghanistan begins in Berlin, the FAO said the country’s opium poppy production is booming and drug cultivation is now spreading into remote areas.

FAO’s Representative in Afghanistan, Serge Verniau, said, “rural poverty and the lack of income are the main reasons why farmers produce opium.” He said it may take more than a decade to set up sustainable, alternative income opportunities.

The $60 million requested by FAO is designed to support projects in Afghanistan’s four main poppy-producing provinces, and includes funds for crop production, irrigation, animal health, plant protection and nutrition education.

Mr. Verniau said Afghanistan could become an exporter of such products as nuts and raisins, but the country needs to have the right conditions so that farmers can produce.

Near the southern city of Kandahar, for example, years of drought have silted up the main reservoir, reducing water availability for farmers and hurting the once fertile local orchards.

Years of war, poor weather and instability have left many Afghan farmers desperately poor, despite the record crop harvest in the country last year. Mr. Verniau estimated 85 per cent of Afghans depend on agriculture for their survival.

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