Research for a Better Afghanistan


Cultivating Opium: In spite of and despite ongoing eradication
The anticipated ramifications of the 2014 Transition do not include a reduction in illicit agricultural activities in Afghanistan. Reinforcing the findings in AREU’s January 2013 paper on opium in Helmand and Nangarhar, AREU’s latest Case Study suggests that Afghanistan cannot afford to be complacent with regards to poppy cultivation: All gains must be carefully measured, policies and programs contextualized, and a long-term commitment made visible. Field research carried out in May 2012 focused on individual household decision-making and the economic, social, and political contexts in which those decisions are made, placing opium poppy cultivation in the broader livelihoods, governance, and political context. While the author cautions policymakers and development practitioners against applying evidence from the fieldwork areas to situations across the country, research on the districts of Char Bolak and Chimtal in “poppy-free” Balkh, and in Jurm and Khash in the now “moderate” producing province of Badakhshan, suggests:  Coercive approaches to tackle poppy cultivation will be unsustainable in the longerterm in Balkh, whereas a half-hearted coercion in Badakhshan has led to uneven results. Coercion to abandon poppy when viable sources of livelihoods are not in place can be counterproductive to both population welfare and government goals of stability. Simple crop substitution is an inadequate approach to creating “alternative livelihoods,” as the economic benefits of cultivating poppy far outweigh that of any other single crop. Good governance and security can facilitate the development of markets and trade critical to ensuring long-term transition to licit agricultural activities.

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A Little Bit Poppy-free and a Little Bit Eradicated: Opium poppy cultivation in Balkh and Badakhshan Provinces in 2011-2012 is available for download at _________________________________________________________________________
About AREU The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) is an independent research organisation based in Kabul. AREU’s mission is to inform and influence policy and practice through conducting highquality, policy-relevant research and actively disseminating the results, and to promote a culture of research and learning. To achieve its mission AREU engages with policymakers, civil society, researchers, and students to promote their use of AREU’s research and its library, to strengthen their research capacity, and to create opportunities for analysis, reflection, and debate. AREU was established in 2002 by the assistance community working in Afghanistan. For more information, please contact: The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit 3rd street on the left, Charahi Haji Yacoub toward Charahi Shaeed House no. 144, first gate on the right Shahr-i-Naw, Kabul Phone: +93 (0) 799 608 548 Email: Website:

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