Published on 23 Nov 2011 at 12:41
NANGARHAR – This southeastern province was once famous for poppy cultivation, heroin processing, and drug trafficking. Now, for the first time, farmers are trying something new, and legal: saffron.
Nangarhar’s Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock is trying to encourage farmers to try the new crop, with some success. Nangarhar’s farmers are hopeful that saffron can help solve their economic problems without bringing them into conflict with the law.
Mohammad Abaas, a resident of Rodat district, is enthusiastic that saffron will be a better choice than his old poppy fields.
“I am very happy to grow saffron – this legal crop,” he said. “We had to grow poppy because of our economic problems, and that terrible plant has caused many young boys in our province to become addicted to drugs. But now I am not worried. I grow saffron, which is profitable and has no harmful side effects.”
While farmers in some northern and western provinces of Afghanistan have been growing saffron for years, this is the first time that Nangarhar’s farmers have attempted to grow this precious plant.
Muhsal Khan, Distribution Manager at the Nangarhar Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, is upbeat about the new project.
“Saffron is a good alternative for our farmers,” he said. “The price of one kilogram of saffron is $2,000 domestically, and up to $6,000 when it reaches the international market.”
If properly trained, farmers could make as much from saffron as they did from poppy, without the danger and the worry. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, income to farmers from one acre of poppy was approximately $2,000 in 2010.
“Farmers will be able to receive approximately one and half kilogram of saffron from one acre of land if they are provided with the proper equipment and trained in preventing their product from diseases,” he said.
Farmers should receive training from domestic and foreign experts on how to grow and take care of saffron, he added. “I ask all our respected farmers to wean themselves off of poppy cultivation and grow saffron instead,” he said.
“We would never grow poppy if we had an alternative.”
“Saffron cultivation started two weeks ago in Nangarhar,” said Mohammad Hussein Safi, the head of Nangarhar’s Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock in an interview with www.bamdad.af.
“Farmers in Achin, Chaparhar, Dur-Baba, Goshta, Ghanikhil, Haskamena, Hisarak, Khogyani, Nazyan, Pachir Wa Agam, Rodat, Sherzad and Spingar districts are growing saffron now.”
According to Safi, farmers will be provided with the necessary tools to properly grow saffron and receive better crops. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock will find markets for farmers to sell their harvest, he promised.
Farmers in Nangarhar are happy about saffron, saying that they will continue to grow it if saffron proves more advantageous than poppy.
“We would never grow poppy if we had an alternative,” said Sher Afzal, a farmer in Khogyani district. “We had nothing except poppy that could support us. We were afraid while we were growing, collecting and selling poppy. But now we grow saffron with pride and there is no fear that the police will come and destroy our crop.
“Farmers will very gladly stop growing poppy if the government and foreign organizations provide us with alternatives,” he said.
- Kerry calls Afghanistan's Karzai to ease anger over Taliban office - NBCNews.com
- Taliban to Join Talks With Negotiators as Afghanistan Takes Control of Security - PBS
- First Take: Afghanistan's Karzai, unreliable as ever - USA TODAY
- Is Peace and Stability Possible in Afghanistan ? - PBS
- Taliban agree to peace talks with US over Afghanistan – full statement - The Guardian
- Officials: 4 US troops killed in Afghanistan - USA TODAY
- US Promises Smooth Transfer of Quagmire from Afghanistan to Syria - New Yorker
- NATO and Afghanistan - NATO HQ (press release)
- US, Taliban to meet in Qatar for 'key milestone' toward ending Afghanistan war - NBCNews.com (blog)
- Barack Obama has given the Taliban the upper hand in Afghanistan - Telegraph.co.uk