The whole world would benefit from farmers in Afghanistan replacing poppy farming with alternative crops. Saffron yields about the same price as poppy and would hence be a viable possibility.
Other high-value high-volume alternatives are pomegranates, almonds and grapes. Catch is that the start-up period for such crops is too long. Establishing a grape vineyard there would take about three to five years. Obviously that’s not appealing to impoverished farmers. Not least since buyers of poppy provide them with monetary guarantees up front.
Another huge barrier in revitalizing the legal agriculture sector is the ongoing peace crisis. And poppy, unlike alternative crops, is harvested annually which also make it more lucrative for the farmers.
But is enough focus being made by aid organisations to change farmers’ minds as well as give them monetary guarantees up front for changing crops? Experts believe much more could be done in that respect. So maybe it would be a good idea for aid organisations to start coordinating their efforts to have a major impact?
Reducing the amount of poppy exported out of Afghanistan would benefit the whole world as well as contributing to making the country a better, and safer, place for the Afghan people. This is actually one of those unusual situations where aid would have positive affects around the globe. So wouldn’t it be good for the world community at large to pull toghether and start channeling more aid into compensating Afghan farmers for turning to, say, saffron?
What do you think? Should the world community make an effort by channeling aid to compensate Afghan farmers that change to alternative crops? Or should the poppy farmers just stick to poppy while we wait for peace in the area? Throughout history Afghanistan has been a challenge. Waiting for peace to come may be futile. So wouldn’t it be a good idea for the world to finally unite when it comes to Afghanistan and make an effort to do something to improve the situation in the country that doesn’t involve arms?
Photo: Steenberg’s photostream – flickr