Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of opium, which totals an estimated 15% of the gross domestic product. The cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan is both linked to domestic and international criminal enterprises and frequently contributes to Taliban coffers. As seen throughout the country, the cultivation of opium also leaves a trail of social ills, dismantled family structures, destroyed communities, and a legacy of corruption in its wake.
Given the ease of local marketability, opium poppy cultivation is a viable, albeit risky, option for farming households. The decision to cultivate opium poppy in a given year is determined by a variety of factors of which economic needs and lack of alternatives are the primary driving forces. To compound matters, poor access to urban markets and inadequate market-related infrastructure also play an important role in determining the profitability of growing opium poppies.
The marketing network is such that opium traders will often purchase at the farmgate, mitigating the challenges to farmers of transporting goods. For farmers with insufficient land to meet their basic needs, the labor intensity of the opium crop creates significant off-farm employment, through opportunities to work, e.g. as sharecroppers or itinerant harvesters.
Conditions of scarcity, displacement, state neglect, economic and geographic isolation, and livelihoods insecurity, including in situations of conflict, act as influencers on landholders of all sizes to engage in poppy cultivation.
Households of all sizes in rural communities are excessively dependent on low-value crops cultivated on a scarcity of arable land which are subject to increasingly severe droughts and floods due to climate change. Environmental factors are compounded by poor water management and transportation infrastructures which are insufficient to support the development of local economies. As a result, opium cultivation offers a drought-resistant option with much higher returns and a readily available market that feeds criminal enterprises and fuels an increasingly violent insurgency.
In order for this project to make an impact that reduces the cultivation of opium, it needs to be tailored to the context of Afghanistan. The Community Based Agricultural Rural Development (CBARD) is a community-based project introduces and strengthens local production and marketing of traditional high-value crops in 170 communities in the high opium-producing Farah, Badghis and Nangarhar provinces in Afghanistan. By demonstrating the viability of high-value agricultural-based interventions in improving local economies in these two provinces as a sustainable alternative to illicit crops, CBARD-West aims to reduce opium cultivation and will directly benefit an estimated 46,000 households (345,000 beneficiaries).
In addition to supporting local farmers with Farmers’ Field Schools, during 2017-2020, CBARD will build, develop, and/or strengthen existing public and private agro-business infrastructures in the strategic areas of irrigation, and agricultural facilities. The latter includes the introduction or strengthening of value-add steps through community-owned cooperatives or established small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by building or repairing key infrastructure such as greenhouses, dry and cold storage warehouses, and packaging and processing plants for specified high-value crops.
CBARD combines the Alternative Development approach with the proven effectiveness of area-based development (ABD) and community-based development approaches. Area-Based Development (ABD) approaches use the geographic area as the main entry point for intervention, rather than a sector or target group, allowing for a more holistic, integrated, inclusive, participatory and flexible approach. For example, to identify communities, CBARD has developed criteria for selection that focus on community’s accessibility and distance from markets, land and water resources available, type of crops cultivated and level of community engagement. A community-based approach promotes sustainable socio-economic development at local level by strengthening participatory governance and fostering community-based initiatives. This hybrid approach to developing alternative livelihoods in Afghan rural communities is previously untested in Afghanistan.
UNDP focuses on traditional agricultural products, such as fruit, nuts, grapes, and other perennial orchard crops, with well-established markets. Moreover, it looks to improve product quality through better sorting, grading, and processing, establishing stronger links between farms and markets, employing inexpensive, readily available, maintainable, and simple production, marketing and processing technologies, and reaching a large enough number of farmers to stimulate and sustain associated support and marketing industries.
Expected results/achievements so far
- 4,600 farmers (920 women) know how to set up an agribusiness
- 4,600 households receive agricultural kits and incentives for hosting Farmers Field Schools and contributing material
- 46,000 households learn about the dangers of illicit crops and alternatives
- 10 % community contribution to infrastructure rehabilitation
- 510 infrastructure projects
- 172,000 labor days contributed