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Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy

Founder(s): European Commission
Status: Completed
The multi-year “Applied Thematic Research into Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy” (WOL) is the largest ever project undertaken by AREU. It was designed to provide policymakers with an accurate picture of the complex role natural resources play in Afghan farm systems, with the ultimate aim of improving the sustainability of rural livelihoods and reducing farmers’ reliance on opium production. The eight-province study was conducted in collaboration with numerous implementing partners, including the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) and German Agro Action (now Welthungerhilfe—WHH).
The research found strong evidence of systemic inequalities that limited access to natural resources for many Afghans. While geography, ethnicity and politics play a part, traditional community-level institutions such as mirabs (village water masters) often compound the problem by enforcing existing power and wealth structures, especially in areas where resources are scarce. This raises important questions over the applicability of programmes that target community-level institutions of resource management as a basis for growth.  The study also suggests that policies focusing on development via market mechanisms are unlikely to help the most poor, many of whom already struggle to meet subsistence needs or are locked in highly exploitative sharecropping agreements with wealthier landlords.
Farmers’ access to resources and markets, opportunities for alternative incomes and level of agricultural diversity all feed into a complex decision on whether or not to grow opium poppies. WOL data suggests that rural households are often more than willing to turn their backs on poppy production where viable alternatives exist. Creating such an environment is critical to ensuring the legitimacy and longevity of bans on opium production, and will be one of the country’s major policy challenges in the coming years.
Publications from this research project:

The Performance of Community Water Management Systems

This case study was undertaken as part of the AREU’s applied thematic research project “Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy” (WOL). This is the second report on community and social water management and builds on the initial survey work Read More

Options for Land Registration

This study was undertaken as part of AREU’s applied thematic project, “Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy” (WOL). As the Government of Afghanistan adopted a new Draft Land Policy in January 2007, and as strategies were being devised to Read More

Opium Poppy Cultivation in Nangarhar and Ghor

The report is part of the applied thematic “Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy” (WOL) project. This particular report looks at the results of fieldwork in two specific provinces where opium poppy is grown: Nangarhar and Ghor. The report Read More

Livestock Production and Health

This study was undertaken as part of the initial stage of the AREU’s applied thematic research project “Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy” (WOL). This paper is the output of exploratory fieldwork undertaken in March and April 2006 in Read More

Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy: Annotated Bibliography

This bibliography was developed around the themes of natural resources management and agricultural livelihoods, which were central to the EC-funded project “Applied thematic research into Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy” (WOL).

Baseline Study: Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy

The research is expected to provide evidence-based recommendations for improving the effectiveness of agricultural policy and rural programming addressing the recognised lack of understanding about the ways in which rural livelihoods are constructed and respond to change.

Land Tenure

This study was undertaken in cooperation with the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) in Ghazni and Herat, and German Agro Action(GAA) in Nangarhar and Kunduz. This report presents findings from two rounds of field visits conducted between Read More

Opium Poppy Cultivation in Kunduz and Balkh

This study was undertaken in March 2006 in the northern Afghan provinces of Kunduz and Balkh as part of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit’s applied thematic research project “Water Management, Livestock and the Opium Economy.” The fieldwork was designed Read More

Livestock Husbandry

Produced in cooperation with the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) in Ghazni and Herat and German Agro Action (GAA) in Nangarhar and Kunduz, this report presents the findings from research into livestock husbandry which took place during Read More

Social Water Management

Produced in cooperation with the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) in Ghazni and Herat and German Agro Action (GAA) in Nangarhar and Kunduz, this report presents findings from research which took place during November and December 2005 Read More