Critical Commentary: Poppy Farmers in Afghanistan

Posted on November 15, 2013 by


                                                                  JJ Janssen


            This article is about farmers in Afghanistan trying to grow poppy for living. Afghan farmers do this because it makes the most money as compared to growing other crops.  The Afghans need this profit to support their large families. The United Nations has created programs for Afghanistan farmers so they would not farm poppy but the people have no choice because they need to make money to survive.  Even the government officials in this country grow their own poppy or give out the land to farmers to grow poppy from them and to take a share.  The religious leaders also tax the people growing poppy 10% then leave them alone. Poppy is used to make cosmetics or drugs, but only 3% of crop is used by Afghans.   The poppy trade is only rising each year which could lead to dramatic changes, fighting, and loss of the land where the poppy is grown.

Analyzing the Article

            The author is Emma G Harrsion and she lives in Kabul, Afghanistan.  Ms. Harrison is a local and goes against the Afghan stereotypes that women only work around the house.  The author has a very powerful introduction to poppy. She starts off with telling the struggle of western efforts to stop the growing poppy in Afghanistan.  Ms. Harrison then hits you with the point that poppy production is only increasing and that Afghanistan is the world largest producer of opium. This raises the question of what is Afghanistan going to do to control opium if the United Nations programs are not working.  Will the United Nations have to use military force or just make the Afghan government deal with it?  The government bans the drug and will not allow farmers to grow it. But the interesting part in the article is that government officials rent out land to farmers to grow opium! They have a law and do not back it up because they want to make profit.

The author mainly focuses on the farmers and why the grow it. Many of the farmers talk about how they have big families.  The article uses a case of one family with eleven people and another family with a father that has nearly two dozen kids. The only way for them to support a big family is to grow opium.  This has a large economic impact in Afghanistan because not only are the farmers benefiting but the government officials are also because they tax the farmers and give them land to use.  If the farmers would try to grow crops that were mostly for food they would not make any money.  The exampole given is growing wheat amd beans which would not generate enough money to support a family.  Another surprising statement made is when the farmer talks about the government officials making profit off the opium. The farmers states that “government officials grow opium themselves, and if they don’t grow it themselves they rent out their land to farmers who grow it. If the officials don’t care about the law, there is no reason for us to respect it.”

The author does not make a determination if the farmers are good or bad.  The impression given is just that farmers are trying to make a living so they can support their family. The blame is placed on the government officicials since there is a law in place prohibiting opium growing, but the officials are ignoring it.

Key things to know about Afghanistan are the Taliban are mainly located in this area of the Middle East.  The leading religion in Afghanistan is Islam. The author of this story lives in Afghanistan and might have firsthand experience will the poppy growing because of the pictures. The government is trying to cut down on opium in Afghanistan.  There is evidence and graphs in he article showing that the process of decreasing of opium will take 10-15 years to really do anything.

These key ideas lead to western views that the poppy production is a way to fund terrorism with the money they are making of opium. It could make the people of Afghanistan look like drugs lords that live in a country without real laws.  People who talk about opium will not focus on the farmers they will focus and demonize the people of the country for growing it, but the farmers just trying to grow it to survive and raise a family.

            I agree with in this article that the farmers need to make money to raise a family.  The only thing that is does not tell is where the opium is going which is scary to think could be in our country.  The part that surprised me the most is when the government officials grow poppy even though there are laws against it since they are not enforced.  I like this article because comes from an author who lives in Afghanistan and has to deal with it every day.  In addition, the story is not one sided because talks from different point view farmers, the government and the United Nations efforts.  The big thing I took out of this article is that to make a change to poppy growing it would first take 10-15 year for a big change to happen.

                                                             Citation and Link

Harrsion, Emma G. “Afghanistan’s Poppy Farmers Plant Record Opium Crop, UN Report Says.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.

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