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Thousands of poppy plants destroyed in Afghanistan

27 January, 2015

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KANDAHAR: A top Afghan provincial official has said thousands of poppy plants have been destroyed in some 20,000 acres in Zhari district of the southern Kandahar province.

In a recent interview, district governor Jamal Agha told Xinhua that Zhari, a former Taliban stronghold, was known for its massive cultivation of poppy.

Kandahar province, with Kandahar city as its capital, used to be under Taliban control.

Kandahar and its neighboring Helmand and Zabul provinces, where Taliban militants remain active, are the major producers of opium poppy in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan supplies some 90 percent of the main raw material for the manufacture of heroin in the world market.

"We continue to destroy poppy fields and encourage farmers to replace poppy with legal crops such as wheat, rice, corn and etc.,"
Agha said.

Observers here said the success of the government's drive against poppy cultivation in Zhari would enable local authorities to initiate anti-poppy campaign in the neighboring Reg, Shah Wali Kot and Maruf districts and in the southern region in general.

"Our campaign to eradicate poppy fields in Zhari district would continue until all the fields would be destroyed," Agha said.

The district governor called on the central government to provide alternative crops, including improved seeds and fertilizer,
as well as financial support to farmers whose poppy fields have been destroyed.

"The central government should help farmers to earn a living by providing them with alternative crops and financial support," Agha said.

"We have orders from our superiors to destroy poppy farms in Zhari and we continue our campaign to achieve the goal," district police chief Mohammad Masoum Khan told Xinhua.

Once a Taliban bastion, Zhari has gradually been transformed into a peaceful community with residents growing various crops on their land, including wheat, ornamental plants. They also have vineyards.

Taliban militants had been smashed in Zhari about a year ago and since then the government has been busy rebuilding the district, according to Agha.

"The main reason for poppy cultivation is insecurity and poverty," Agha said.

He said since peace and normalcy has returned to Zhari, the government is in the process of building more schools, roads, health clinics and development projects to create job opportunities.

"Our only source for income was poppy cultivation. I had cultivated poppy and earned a reasonable income to support my family. But since the government has banned poppy cultivation, I want it to support us as we plant other crops in the form of seeds and fertilizer," said Abdul Rahim, a resident of Zhari.

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