Despite concerted efforts by the international community, domestic drug enforcement agencies and the Afghan Government, poppy production continues to be a growing problem in Afghanistan. According to The United Nations, 90% of the world’s illicit opium comes from Afghanistan and the country is moving towards record levels of opium production.

The problem

For many farmers living in remote rural villages in Afghanistan, growing weather- and pest-resistant opium poppy seed offers a reliable source of income that is not available with other crops. On top of this, decades of continuous conflict has largely destroyed the infrastructure and institutions required for legal, high-value agriculture to flourish.

With no alternative option for providing their families with their daily food and income, many Afghans are tied into the illegal production of poppy and the opium trade. Widespread institutional corruption which allows drug mafias to operate in the country with relative impunity exacerbates the problem.

However, without a focus on providing alternative livelihoods options for those rural Afghans who are dependent on the cultivation of poppy, the eradication of the industry will severely disadvantage these individuals and their families. That is why Afghanaid is on the ground, providing viable alternatives for these communities to reduce the numbers of growers.

Our response

We recently launched a two-year project, in partnership with The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to provide rural Afghans with alternative livelihood options to complement activities which aim to reduce the production of poppy in Badakhshan and Takhar; remote, poor provinces in north-eastern Afghanistan.

Through this project, we aim to strengthen and diversify rural livelihoods in Badakhshan province, where there is significant opium poppy cultivation, and Takhar province, which serves as a transit point for opium trafficking. These activities will provide legal employment opportunities to local farmers, producers, processors and marketing organisations.

Working with close to 1,500 men and women, we will provide farming families with training, seeds and tools to improve the productivity and profitability of wheat farming; rehabilitate, expand and establish new orchards; strengthen the dairy value chain by setting up milk collection and processing centres; introduce new technologies in the cultivation and processing of oil crops; and support women to rear chickens through the provision of training, tools, feed and medicine.

A crucial component of the project will be the formation of producer associations which will provide men and women alike with a platform to link their products to markets at the provincial and national level and improve their bargaining power with buyers. The associations will also enable producers to access market information and services, benefit from economies of scale, and share technical knowledge, maximising their productivity and profits.

By creating strong alternative livelihoods for these poppy producers, this project will reduce the dependency of these families on illicit crops and support sustainable growth through legal income generation.