Helmand farmers to be offered millions to stop growing poppies

Author: By Kim Sengupta in Helmand

The news of the financial incentive due to be offered across Helmand and other parts of southern Afghanistan comes a week after the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee accused the British Government of “mission creep” in trying, but failing, to tackle a wide range of issues including stamping out the poppy trade.

Under the new scheme, farmers will be offered options ranging from buying vegetable and fruit seeds at low prices to taking up labouring jobs in public works in place of selling their poppy crop to traffickers.

British and American officials say this is a more acceptable alternative to stepping up the eradication programme which has led to anger among farmers and clashes with Afghan government forces sent to destroy poppy fields.

Proceeds from the opium trade are believed to fund the Taliban and fuel the endemic corruption that has gravely weakened governance in Afghanistan.

The plan, in the short term, needs to be in place by the autumn when farmers in the south tend to borrow money from drug traffickers and the Taliban for the fallow winter months. In return they agree to produce a certain amount of their poppy crop to their creditors.

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