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80pc of Brits support Poppy-for-Medicine initiative in Afghanistan

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Daud Khan

KABUL, Sept 4 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Following the failure of the current counter-narcotics policy of forced eradication, the Senlis Council Tuesday urged the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to initiate Poppy-for- Medicine pilot projects in Afghanistan.

The demand was made in light of a nationwide survey revealing that eight out of 10 people in the United Kingdom support the initiative.

According to the latest UN survey, opium cultivation in the southern province of Helmand was up by 48 percent since 2006, with overall poppy cultivation levels at an all-time high for the second successive year.

The UN report also noted the growing link between opium cultivation and the Taliban insurgency indicating a broadening financial relationship between opium farmers and the insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

The survey was conducted in four NATO countries – Britain, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands – during the second half of August. Troops from all the four countries are fighting in the restive southern zone of Afghanistan.

The findings showed that there was no majority public support for forced crop eradication. Instead, there is a widespread belief that government leaders should support the implementation of pilot “Poppy for Medicine” projects in Afghanistan in the next planting season this autumn.

“A sense of urgency is required. This is grim reading for the governments involved,” said Norine MacDonald QC, President and Lead Field Researcher of The Senlis Council. “The survey reveals in the strongest possible terms that these countries have lost their mandate for pursuing these US-led policies. In fact, more than eight out of ten support “Poppy for Medicine” and the implementation of a pilot projects.”

Poppy for Medicine projects would see village-cultivated poppy transformed into morphine tablets in the rural communities by bringing the important added value of the transformation of poppy into medicine at the local level. Farmers would be given the financial incentive necessary to sever ties with the insurgency, while the current world shortage of these pain-relieving medicines would be addressed, said the researcher.

“Prime Minister Brown has to regain grass roots support for his Afghanistan counter-narcotics strategy by adopting the “Poppy for Medicine” scheme,” said MacDonald. “The British people have recognised that the current counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan are failing and having a detrimental impact upon Britain’s mission in the country,” headed.

Urging the British premier to run “Poppy for Medicine” pilot projects in the next planting season, MacDonald said: “By integrating the Afghan farmers into a legal economy through poppy for medicine projects, we can give locals a financial incentive to sever ties with the Taliban, and develop a positive economic relationship with the Karzai government and the NATO troops operating in Helmand.”

According to the survey conducted by the ORB on behalf of The Senlis Council, 73 percent of those polled believe that Prime Minister Brown should personally endorse “Poppy for Medicine” pilot projects.

The survey also found that 74 percent of British nationals would oppose the chemical spraying of poppy crop – a programme the US has been promising for the next planting season.

“Chemical spraying would not only be catastrophic for the agricultural community of Afghanistan, it would turn them against British troops in Helmand,” said Paul Burton, head of Policy.

“Our research on the ground in Afghanistan clearly shows that chemical spraying would trigger a dramatic increase in hostility against the NATO troops and the Karzai government in Afghanistan. Chemical spraying would light a political fire under the Karzai government and the British troops operating in Helmand,” he warned.


Written by afghandevnews

September 4, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Posted in Agriculture, Drugs

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