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Reducing opium production in Afghanistan

students studying at UEL

Reducing opium production in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is not a lost cause, even though it produced yet another record-breaking opium crop this year.

Dr James Windle, a senior lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of East London, said much could still be done despite the latest findings on opium production published by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

Windle argues in his forthcoming book that Afghanistan can reduce opium production if it learns from the experiences of countries which have suppressed opium farming.

China, Iran, Laos, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam have all implemented national policies which reduced their opium production by over 90 percent to below 20 metric tonnes.

Windle maintains that the state needs to play an active role in suppressing opium farming by focusing on development and conflict resolution.  At the same time Afghanistan should give farmers incentives to accept opium bans. The Afghan police force also needs to be improved.

“Forcefully eradicating farmers’ crops without providing alternative sources of income often creates an erroneous path in which farmers are further impoverished and alienated from the state,” said Dr Windle. “This more often than not facilitates conflict and consecutively reduces state authority.”

Approaches which focus on development and conflict resolution will eventually be needed to access isolated and hostile areas.

“As such, time and resources would have been better spent on any intervention which extends the state, be it conflict resolution or providing farmers with alternative sources of income,” said Dr Windle. “Unless the country is unified under a revolutionary government - such as the Taliban - this process will most likely take several years and a sustained commitment from international donors. Kabul and its donors should have fairly modest expectations of what can be achieved in the short- and medium-term.”

Windle’s forthcoming book, Suppressing the Poppy: A Comparative Historical Analysis of Successful Drug Control, is an examination of the effectiveness of strategies to tackle illicit opium production in Asian countries.

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