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Taxpayers to fund Afghan farmers

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Farmers in Afghanistan are to be given millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money to persuade them to stop growing poppy crops for heroin.

By Melissa Kite, Deputy Political Editor
The Telegraph (UK) / August 23, 2008

Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary, will announce this week that the Government is to pour money into the war‑torn Helmand province to encourage farmers to switch from poppy cultivation to wheat.

Ministers are to launch a campaign to persuade 26,000 farmers each to grow a hectare (2½ acres) of wheat in place of poppies, to cut heroin trade and address food shortages.

Afghanistan is facing a food crisis this autumn as a drought combined with soaring food prices has led to shortages and hunger. But the sky-high prices have encouraged some farmers to move to legal crops.

Mr Alexander will say that the Department for International Development (DfID) is donating £2million to the governor of Helmand’s short-term counter-narcotics plan, which is also backed by Britain’s Civil-Military Mission to Helmand, which is providing a further £2.125 million, and the US Agency for International Development.

The new initiative comes as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime prepares to publish its opium survey for 2008, which is expected to show the poppy harvest has stabilised or slightly reduced.

In a two-pronged attack, wheat seed, fertiliser and expert advice will be given to farmers in secure areas where crops can easily be monitored. The plan covers more than 37,000 acres of farmland.

In dangerous areas where the insurgents are still active, farmers will be able to collect seeds from British military bases but not fertiliser, which could be used on poppies.

But the sting in the tail is a warning that if farmers given help still grow poppies their crops will be wiped out.

In the rest of Afghanistan farmers will be offered vouchers to buy subsidised seed, fertiliser and tools. The DfID is providing a further £2million for this project.

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Written by afghandevnews

August 24, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Agriculture, Aid, Drugs

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