[Guest post by DRJ]
The British plan to pay Afghanistan poppy growers not to plant or harvest crops:
“Gordon Brown is planning a radical scheme to subsidise farmers in Afghanistan to persuade them to stop producing heroin, as part of a wide-ranging drive to re-energise policy in the conflict the prime minister now regards as the front line in the fight against terrorism.
The Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown has admitted that the rise in opium production in the country means Britain “cannot just muddle along in the middle” and must come up with more imaginative ideas on opium eradication.
Ministers are looking at what Lord Malloch-Brown describes as a system of payments loosely along the lines of the common agricultural policy to woo the Afghan farmers off opium production. The government is conducting joint research on suitable economic incentives with the World Bank.”
The British will also target middlemen and distributors through economic and other punitive methods, while hoping to win the voluntary support of producer-farmers through subsidy payments:
“Lord Malloch-Brown recently returned from Afghanistan to tell peers: “The Department of International Development is looking at whether we can put on a more formal and structured long-term basis what one would controversially describe as an Afghan equivalent of a CAP, with subsidised purchase of legal crops to make returns more like those from poppy.”
But he added: “We have to do a much better job of not targeting the farmers, the producers whose hearts and minds we are trying to win in the counter-insurgency effort. We have to target the industry above that – the financiers, the shippers, the drug big men who are benefiting from the production. We know who they are and the government of Afghanistan know who they are. A system banning them from travel, listing them and freezing their bank accounts, hitting at the industry’s infrastructure, strikes me as an area in which more can be done.”
He pointedly added that only the US favoured aerial spraying of opium crops.”
I grew up in a cotton-producing area where it was common for fields to lie fallow because of US government payments to induce farmers not to plant. It was quite popular with the cotton producers, and it’s worth a try to see if Afghani farmers will respond to similar economic incentives. It’s certainly a long overdue experiment.
In addition, I wouldn’t rule out spraying. Together they constitute a “carrot and stick” method that strikes me as a traditional Western approach to changing undesirable behavior.