Managing opium: Policy choices for Afghanistan (2007)

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Income from illegal opium poppy cultivation helps sustain the livelihoods of millions of rural Afghans, but also provides significant revenues to criminals and armed groups fighting the government. Although at first glance Papaver somniferum ? the ?sleep-bringing poppy? ? is a seemingly innocuous flowering plant, its seedpods can deliver opium as well as powerful narcotic derivatives like heroin, morphine, and codeine. During the millennia since these anaesthetic effects became known, some people have celebrated opium?s pain-killing potency while others have condemned the social consequences of the drug?s recreational use. Wars have been fought because of opium, and it is no exaggeration to say that this species of poppy has changed the course of history. Today the global debate over opium focuses on Afghanistan. With international help, the country is trying to rebuild after decades of war and instability. Among the many challenges its government faces is the widespread and illegal cultivation of the opium poppy. Income from this agricultural sector helps sustain the livelihoods of millions of rural Afghans, but at the same time opium provides significant revenues to criminal gangs and armed groups fighting the government. What should be the Afghanistan government?s policy toward growing poppy? Three options have been debated: eradicating the crop with a poison spray, legalizing the practice and selling the harvest for lawful morphine production, and seeking alternative livelihoods for opium farmers.
Language: English
Imprint: International Development Research Centre (IDRC) News 2007
Series: News bulletin,