Gulab Mangal, the governor of an Afghani province, Helmand, wants to try a new approach to controlling opium poppies in his land. Helmand is the largest poppy producing province in Afghanistan, a lot of which goes to fund groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. He wants to stop the farmers from planting poppies, rather than destroy it once they plant it. His plan involves actively working with the farmers in his region to provide them with the seeds and training needed to grow new crops and improving their road systems so that farmers are actually able to get their product to the market. To me, this seems like a pretty effective way of reducing heroin production, if that is your goal. One might think this would be a program the US would really want to get behind.
So far, Mangal has secured over $8 million from the United States and Britain for seeds and fertilizer for 26,000 farmers, as well as for a public information campaign to let farmers know of his plans. But just weeks before the planting season, he was still fretting that they would not arrive in time. “Four months ago I raised my voice, but we have been delayed by bureaucracy,” he said. “We have to get to the farmers within one month.”The US funneled hundreds of millions of dollars a year into Plan Colombia, which consisted primarily of aerial fumigation tactics and other military-like activities. The best we could come up with is $8 million between us and Britain? I’m not advocating spending more money (any money, actually) on eradicating potentially intoxicating crops. I’m merely pointing out that this Afghan governor most likely knows the farmers in the area better than the US government. He has a plan that is much like policies many activist and scholars have been arguing for in coca producing areas since Plan Colombia began and before, and yet the White House continues to push for a similar eradication plan for Afghanistan. Yet more proof that the US War on Drugs is illogical and destructive at its very core.