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Anti-opium drive hurts Afghan economy

2009-08-04 14:34 BJT

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Afghanistan supplies 93 percent of the world's opium, and the drug is one of the main sources of funding for the resurgent Taliban movement. However, the government's renewed campaign against opium production has had unintended consequences, hurting local farmers and driving an already marginal economy to the brink of collapse.

The economy of Shahran-e-Khash,in Badakshan province, nearly ground to a halt last year when the government began aggressively enforcing a ban on opium production.

Villagers were told they would no longer be permitted to plant their only cash crop.

Now,the village's shops are empty and local farmers are deep in debt. Entire communities risk spiraling into poverty.

Khanagha, Shopkeeper, said"Our dealings were in opium, not cash. We gathered opium, and outside traders came to collect it. Now, there is no opium, there are no traders, and nobody from outside comes. Nothing happens, and we have removed the scales from our businesses."

In government-held areas like Shahran, opium production has been drastically reduced, but at the cost of the livelihoods of thousands of people.

The villagers say they did as they were told,planting their fields with wheat, barley, mustard and melons.