Monday, January 23, 2006

Can goats and cows help stop heroin?

The Herald

(UK) Goats, sheep and cattle could be the key to winning the battle to stem the flow of heroin from Afghanistan, according to Scottish-based researchers.

A team of experts has been investigating alternative sources of income if Afghan farmers are forced to give up growing opium poppies.

The research, led by the Macaulay Institute of Aberdeen, looked at meat, wool, skin and hide production and determined that the price of meat in urban markets is sufficient for livestock production to provide an alternative source of income.
"Margins from livestock cannot, at the moment, compete with the returns being made from growing poppies," said Iain Wright, chief executive of Macaulay Research Consultancy Services.

"However, if policies which aim to curb poppy cultivation are to have any success they must provide alternative sources of income to rural families."

Mr Wright said that introducing restocking schemes and providing credit packages for farmers to help reinvigorate the livestock sector would give many poor rural families an alternative.
The project was carried out with Mercy Corps and the Afghan ministry of agriculture, animal husbandry and food.

"This study has shown that with a high demand for meat, livestock can play an important part in Afghanistan's agriculture and economy," said Mr Wright.

The increased demand for animal products, particularly in urban areas, has come about due to the population growth and economic recovery enjoyed since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2002.

"However, severe drought has meant that the numbers of livestock – and livestock farmers – have
out with Mercy Corps and the Afghan ministry of agriculture, animal husbandry and food.
"This study has shown that with a high demand for meat, livestock can play an important part in Afghanistan's agriculture and economy," said Mr Wright.

The increased demand for animal products, particularly in urban areas, has come about due to the population growth and economic recovery enjoyed since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2002.

"However, severe drought has meant that the numbers of livestock – and livestock farmers – have
decreased alarmingly in the last seven years, which has also seen sales of imported meat, mainly frozen chicken legs from Western countries, rise to one-third of the market share."

The report says opium poppy production – the basis for heroin production – has soared. In 2004, the crop was valued at £1.57bn and an estimated one-in-10 of the population was involved in poppy growing. Many of those involved are destitute and landless families with huge debts.

Afghanistan is the biggest producer of heroin in the world. The country's
government, with assistance from the international community, is giving high priority to the implementation of a strategy that aims to control and eventually eradicate the growing of poppies.

Graeme Smith

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