"By selling wheat seeds and fruit saplings to farmers at token prices, offering cheap credit, and paying poppy-farm laborers to work on roads and irrigation ditches, U.S. and British officials hope to provide alternatives before the planting season begins in early October. Many poppy farmers survive Afghanistan's harsh winters on loans advanced by drug traffickers and their associates, repaid with the spring harvest.
"We need a way to get money in [farmers'] hands right away," said a senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan.
The program replaces the Bush administration's focus on crop eradication, which "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars," according to Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Destroying the crops succeeded only in "alienat[ing] poor farmers" and "driving people into the hands of the Taliban," he told reporters last week.
But many previous U.S.-funded crop-substitution programs have failed as well, from Asia to Latin America. A similar plan in Colombia, begun in the late 1990s, has barely made a dent in the level of cocaine production, although the country began to stabilize in recent years as its U.S.-trained military adopted new strategies against armed insurgents and civil institutions were strengthened.
Officials maintain that the new Afghan plan differs from unsuccessful "alternative" plans because it is an integral part of a military-development strategy that includes tens of thousands of U.S. troops to keep the Taliban and traffickers at bay while Afghan security forces are being trained. Plans call for hundreds of U.S. and international aid experts to work directly with farmers and local officials until the Afghan government has matured. " Washpost
We should not be in the business of re-structuring and reforming Afghanistan, but if we are going to try to do that, then attempts like this are inevitable.
It seems to me that there are too many moving parts in this scheme. "selling wheat seeds and fruit saplings to farmers at token prices, offering cheap credit, and paying poppy-farm laborers to work on roads and irrigation ditches," etc. The more complicated you make things like ths, the more likely it is that there will be unforeseen consequences.
Why not do what I suggested before and simply buy the crop at the farmyard gate. The prices that the farmers get are quite low and this would not cost a lot. It would also have the joyous side effect of financial ruin for a lot of Afghans who vaguely remind me of people like Walid Jumblatt in Lebanon.
Ah! I suppose that the puritan heart of America would recoil in horror from encouraging these farmers in their production of this "sinful" crop. Of course! I should have thought of that! pl