Afghanistan: $50 mln to coax farmers away from opium growing in south
AKI – Adnkronos International
Lashkar Gah, 4 August (AKI) – The US overseas aid agency and the Afghan agriculture minister on Monday unveiled a 50 million dollar investment project to halt opium production in southern Helmand province.
The project is at aimed encouraging farmers in the province switch from opium to other crops. Part of the cash will be spent on a modern agricultural research centre and a new airport at Lashkar Gah – the first purely civilian-controlled airport in Helmand.
Over half of the world’s opium was grown in Helmand in 2007. The joint US-Afghan project will give opium growers incentives to cultivate new crops such as pomegranates, pistachio nuts and almonds instead of poppies.
A purpose-built processing centre at the new Lashkar Gah airport will enable the new crops to be properly stored and packaged.
Fighting between Taliban insurgents and NATO forces in Helmand makes it hard to transport perishable produce to markets.
Much of Helmand’s opium production was under Taliban control until they were forced to withdraw partially from the province earlier this year.
Ninety percent of the anti-opium project’s funding will come from the US government’s overseas aid agency (USAID) and 10 percent from the Afghan government.
Some 18 million dollars will be allocated to paving the 2,200-metre (yard) runway, building the new airport terminal and constructing the agricultural centre.
The remainder will be spent on agricultural development in the province, ensuring markets for the farmers and providing technical assistance.