Afghan Opium Trade Essay: Paragraphs 6, 7, 8 & 9

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Chandler Hood

Period 1, 3

Afghan Opium Trade Essay: Paragraphs 6, 7, 8 & 9

Afghanistan not only needs to eliminate its opium production, but also invest in an alternative source of revenue that will stabilize its economy. Alternative crops such as wheat, cotton, vegetables and hemp could provide Afghan farmers with enough revenue to support their families and provide benefits that opium poppy production cannot yield. Hemp could be used as a renewable energy, so in addition to the Afghan farmers selling hemp to other countries as an energy source and use it in their own daily activities, such as cooking and a heat source. In the BBC News article, “The solution to Afghanistan's opium?” the author states, “Hemp produces a fruit boasting the nutritional qualities of soya, oily fish and wheat combined.”1 Malnourished families could benefit greatly from growing hemp by reaping the nutritional rewards of hemp. Although Afghan farmers could benefit greatly from hemp, there is a large hesitation to grow the crop because the farmers are not familiar with the ways to harvest hemp. When the farmers grow the opium poppy they can be sure that there will be a demand for the crop and a large profit, however they cannot be so sure about a demand for a crop that they have never grown before.

The most mentioned method of opium poppy field eradication is raids on opium poppy farms by U.S. and British forces. These raids are selective, targeting the largest farms, and occasionally encounter insurgency resistance. One of the issues seen with this blunt method is the tension and fear that it strikes in farmers, possibly causing some farmers to unite with Taliban and insurgent forces. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime’s “Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007,” only 19,047 hectares of the total 193,000 hectares were eradicated in 2007.2 Due to a limited amount of soldiers and resources, only small portions of the opium poppy fields are destroyed. Another proposed method of physically eradicating the opium poppy fields is the aerial spraying of herbicide. This method of eradication would allow forces to destroy larger areas with a lower risk of incidence involving Taliban insurgents. The U.S. has refused to resort to aerial spraying because of concern that the herbicides may poison Afghan farmers and persuade them to side with Taliban insurgents. These physical eradications of opium poppy fields have been deemed largely ineffective, and could harm efforts to gain Afghan support.

One proposed solution to the illegal opium trade is by no means a form of eradicating opium. Afghanistan should permit farmers to grow opium poppies for medical purposes, such as morphine, and sell them to countries who are in short supply of medical related products. Selling the opium to other countries strictly for medical uses would benefit the lives of millions and eliminate the need for opium poppy field eradication budgets. Although the purpose for legalization of opium production and cultivation may appear just, the repercussions may outweigh the cause. In the International Herald Tribune’s article, “Opium in Afghanistan: Eradicate or subsidize?” the author states; “…Afghanistan's whole crop could be purchased for about $600 million - the "farm gate" price, not the street value of the heroin into which it is refined, which is over $50 billion.”3 If Afghan farmers were permitted to grow opium, they would make a far greater profit selling the opium illegally rather than legally. Legalizing opium may encourage more farmers to start growing opium, which in turn could allow more opium to be refined into heroin for the illegal drug trade. Many critics argue that permitting farmers to grow opium would cause farmers to switch critics and government officials from various nations have addressed this solution as something that would undermine the Afghanistan government and only worsen the situation.

Afghanistan’s contribution to the illegal opium trade can be described only as titanic. The processing and refinement of opium into heroin is funding Taliban insurgents this is not just Afghanistan’s issue; this concerns the entire international community. However, growing opium is the main source of income for many of Afghan farmers, so it is difficult to form a solution that will cripple the opium trade without destroying the farmers’ livelihoods. In this seemingly static situation there has yet to be a solution proposed that could serve as a medium. There is very little hope for a simple solution to this problem, but one thing is assured: it will take several years for Afghanistan to show any changes.

1 BBC News, The solution to Afghanistan's opium? (Accessed May 27, 2008)

2 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 page 6, (Accessed May 18, 2008)

3 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 page 6, (Accessed May 18, 2008)

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