Abdul Hamid’s pomegranate orchard has long been destroyed by bombs and drought, forcing him to cut down all of it to grow poppies as opium.
Pomegranate is a specialty crop in Kandahar Province, and it has not brought economic benefits to farmers in the area as before.After 20 years of continuous wars, the changeable land of the South Afghanistan Due to the drought, this situation continues to be affected.
The Abdul Hamid family in Afghanistan is no exception. Due to drought and insufficient water for irrigation, the 80-year-old and many farmers in the area have experienced many pomegranate crop failures.
Full-scale military operations Taliban Over the past year, there have been many difficulties. This month, he began to chop down the 800 pomegranate orchards that he had passed down through generations to save land for his family to grow poppies.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan is the world’s largest source of opium, accounting for 80% of global production. During the 20 years in Afghanistan, America And its allies have spent billions of dollars to get rid of the poppy, but no progress has been made. In 2020, the poppy cultivation area is about 224,000 hectares, an increase of 37% over the previous year.
Afghans and analysts worry that the return of Agandad farmers to “opium weapons” will spread, especially when the Central Asian country has since been struggling between an economic crisis and a cash shortage and the Taliban have come to power.
“Next year you will see a lot of poppy fields. Now we have nothing else,” said Mohamed Omar, a 53-year-old farmer in the area.
The pomegranate tree was once the pride of Arghandab and a valuable commodity exported to Pakistan, India and the countries of the Persian Gulf. However, as climate change causes the Arghandab River to dry up year by year, pomegranate trees are threatened.
Pakistan and India After the Taliban came to power, border controls have become stricter and the output of agricultural products has become narrower and narrower.
In October 2020, the Taliban launched a military operation to attack Arghandab, when farmers were preparing to harvest pomegranates. Homemade landmines can be seen everywhere, and many farmers who tried to harvest or protect their family land lost their lives. The Taliban movement has also cut many key roads and prevented people from bringing pomegranates to consumption points.
Safiullah is a 21-year-old Taliban fighter who has just been assigned to the police force of the new government. The Arghandab Garden is no stranger to young gunmen. He said that in the past year, he had infiltrated the area several times to ambush the security forces of the old regime.
“Many gardens were destroyed by bombs. I am also sad to see these beautiful lands destroyed,” Safiullah shared.
It was not until August that Kandahar Province was completely controlled by the Taliban that farmers in the Ar Gandab region knew of peace. The continuous war in the past year has left the pomegranate garden desolate.
The economic crisis after the Taliban came to power has made borrowing money to resume production an unattainable dream for farmers in the region.
Lewanai Agha is almost 80 years old. He has been attached to the pomegranate tree almost his entire life. Despite many ups and downs and countless wars, he never thought of quitting his job.
But last year, the situation was so serious that he gave up. Family income fell from US$9,300 a year ago to US$620 in 2020. His family killed 6 people in clashes between the former government forces and the Taliban. This year, there are only two pomegranate trees in the whole garden that bear fruit. There are still traces of bullets deep in the trunk. Agha stated that this year he will intercrop poppies.
According to observers, the average economic benefit of each poppy flower in these years is not as good as the pomegranate of Aganda, but one can count on its financial stability. This factory requires less water, and production and transportation are protected by smuggling networks, so people are not afraid to close the border.
“This situation makes Afghan farmers think. They clearly see the increasing risk of planting traditional pomegranate trees,” said underground economic expert David Mansfield.
The concept of “farm” life is too unfamiliar to the people of Agandab. The drought forced them to dig deeper wells than before. Grain fields or pomegranate orchards need to be cleared of landmines, and the Taliban have no plans to clear the landmines they planted on the land.
Hamidullah, a 35-year-old trader, said that he has been buying pomegranates from Arghandab for the past 10 years and shipping them to cities in Afghanistan. “If the situation does not change, I am afraid that in the next few years, the pomegranate tree will no longer exist,” he said.
Poppies are not an absolutely safe export for the Afghan people. Although the Taliban have relied on such factories to produce opium in the past to generate income for wars with the United States and its allies, they have sent a signal that they will break with the opium trade after taking office, similar to the leadership period. The late 1990s.
At a press conference earlier this week, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid stated that the Taliban had no intention of eradicating all poppies in the near future. He admitted that people are struggling with the economic crisis and it is difficult for the Taliban to decide to cut off their only way of life. However, he still encourages poppy growers to consider another route.
The Taliban leader in Arghandab has recently accepted to ignore poppy growers because he understands the difficult situation on the ground. However, the Kabul leadership can still change its mind and order the eradication of this tree in the future.
“This is a shameful behavior, we know it, but there is no other way,” said Omar, a poppy grower in Agandabu, standing next to the cut pomegranate tree. “Everyone here has cut down all the pomegranate trees.”
Nakaren (follow New York Times)