Moving with the Times: How Opium Poppy Cultivation has Adapted to the Changing Environment in Afghanistan
This “watching brief” has described a number of trends with respect to agriculture, land settlement, and opium poppy in several areas of Afghanistan. It highlights two separate but highly related issues. First, what will be farmers’ response to changes in technology and agro-economic conditions? While cost-reducing technology such as solar-powered tubewells may allow the cultivation of crops with lower returns than that of opium poppy, will farmers choose to grow these crops or will they stay with poppy? Will they even look to cultivate a second crop of opium poppy in May as some reports from the field suggest? Second, while the new technology has allowed the expansion of agricultural production to former desert areas and supported livelihoods for marginalised households, given Afghanistan’s tenuous water resources (leaving aside climate change) and population growth rate, how sustainable is an agriculture that continues to deplete groundwater resources by allowing their use on an essentially “free” basis?