Afghan farmers in Taliban birthplace resume poppy cultivation

10:22, May 18, 2011      

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Over two dozen people were seen busy in huge poppy field just 90-minute drive outside Kandahar's provincial capital city of Kandahar, 450 km south of Afghan capital Kabul.

Located alongside an asphalted road leading to Jalai district 20 km away from provincial capital Kandahar city, harvesting the illegal crop -- poppy field is in full swing as the farmers were extracting nectars from poppy capsules.

The interesting scene prompted this scribe to have chat with the poppy growers on their fields and find the reasons behind poppy cultivation in the war-ravaged country.

"I had given up poppy plantation five years ago but unemployment and poverty forced me to resume it," a farmer at his field Khan Gul said to Xinhua reporter in mid-April.

"We cultivate poppy to earn some money and survive because we are poor people and the government has done little to improve our living condition," Gul told Xinhua.

"If the government provides alternative crops we definitely replace poppy with, but unfortunately ......" Gul, who declined to reveal his age, went on to say.

Kandahar, the birthplace of Afghan Taliban in 1994, has been the scene of increasing militancy and poppy growing since the collapse of Taliban regime by U.S.-led military campaign in late 2001.

Even though Kandahar airfield outside Kandahar city has been serving as the second base of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan after Bagram airfield north of capital city Kabul, Kandahar has been regarded as the hotbed of insurgents and drug den.

"We will fight back if the security forces destroy our poppy fields," another farmer named Jan Dad said.

Showing his AK-47, he said all the farmers are equipped with fire arms to defend their poppy fields.

In fact, he was right in his claim as convoys of Afghans and NATO-led troops were passing the road without disrupting the poppy farmers.

Many places elsewhere in Kandahar poppy fields attract the travelers' attention.

Parallel to mounting pressure on Taliban to ensure security, Afghan government has also been fighting poppy cultivation and drug trafficking over the past few years to get the country rid of drug menace but the efforts have yet to deliver in Kandahar.

According a joint survey conducted by Afghan government and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 20 out of Afghanistan's 34 provinces had been recognized as poppy free in 2010. However, according to the survey, poppy cultivation in Kandahar in 2010 had increased by 30 percent.

Meantime, acting police chief of Kandahar province Shir Shah Yusufzai in talks with Xinhua in mid-April emphasized that the government had been drastically fighting poppy cultivation in this regard. He added that 4,047 acres of poppy fields had been destroyed over the past couple of months.

Children are also seen working alongside their fathers and brothers in the poppy fields.

"I help my father in poppy field and bring food to him from home," 11-year old boy Rahmat Gul murmured.

Source: Xinhua
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