Afghanistan experienced a 19 percent decrease in the land under opium poppy cultivation in 2008 in comparison with the previous year, according to a report prepared by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. But even as the Afghan government lauds the decline, UN experts worry about another spike in production. This concern is underscored by the fact that actual production of opium declined only by 6 percent in 2008 over the previous year, the UNODC report states.
Winning the war against drugs in Afghanistan will be possible only if farmers who forsake the cultivation of poppies receive a level of economic and technical assistance that can help them grow alternative cash crops, UNODC officials suggest. Presently, the level of aid being given to these farmers is insufficient to achieve the desired aim. In some poppy-free areas, especially in the North, farmers are opting to cultivate cannabis, a plant much more difficult to detect.
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Aunohita Mojumdar is a freelance journalist based in Kabul.