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“Blood ivory” generates significant revenue for terrorist groups

Posted by African Press International on October 3, 2013

“Blood ivory” generates significant revenue for terrorist groups

NEW YORK, 3 October 2013 (IRIN) – Organized environmental crime is known to pose a multi-layered threat to human security, yet it has long been treated as a low priority by law enforcers, seen as a fluffy “green” issue that belongs in the domain of environmentalists.

But due to a variety of factors – including its escalation over the past decade, its links to terrorist activities, the rising value of environmental contraband and the clear lack of success among those trying to stem the tide – these crimes are inching their way up the to-do lists of law enforcers, politicians and policymakers.

The recent terror attack on the popular Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has placed environmental crimes like the ivory and rhino horn trade under increased scrutiny. Al-Shabab, the Islamist militant group that has taken credit for the attack, is widely believed to fund as much as 40 percent of its activities from elephant poaching, or the “blood ivory” trade. The Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel group active in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, is also known to be funded through elephant poaching.

Rising incomes in Asia have stimulated demand for ivory and rhino horn, leading to skyrocketing levels of poaching. Over the past five years, the rate of rhino horn poaching in South Africa has increased sevenfold as demand in Vietnam and other Asian countries for the horn – used as cancer treatments, aphrodisiacs and status symbols – grows.

“Drop in the ocean”

On the international stage, politicians – alarmed by increasing evidence of links between terrorist organizations and organized environmental crime – are taking a more visible stand against wildlife trafficking. In July, US President Barack Obama set up a taskforce on wildlife trafficking and pledged US$10 million to fight it.

But this is a mere “drop in the ocean”, says Justin Gosling, a senior adviser on environmental organized crime for the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, which was recently launched in New York.

“If developing countries really want to assist, they need to put up quite a bit of cash,” he added.

Funded by the governments of Norway and Switzerland, the Global Initiative is a network of leading experts in the field of organized crime, which aims to bring together a wide range of players in government and civil society to find ways to combat illicit trafficking and trade.

At the Global Initiative conference, Gosling presented a draft of The Global Response to Transnational Organized Environmental Crime, a report documenting environmental crimes around the world. Such crimes are on the rise in terms of “variety, volume and value”, the report says, and their impact is far greater than the simple destruction of natural resources and habitats. “They affect human security in the form of conflict, rule of law and access to essentials such as safe drinking water, food sources and shelter,” the report says.

The crimes documented range from illicit trade in plants and animals and illegal logging, fishing and mineral extraction to production and trade of ozone-depleting substances, toxic dumping, and “grey areas” such as large-scale natural resource extraction.

Most vulnerable

The most fragile countries – those lacking infrastructure and effective policing but often rich in untapped natural resources – are the most vulnerable to exploitation, and the poorest communities suffer the most. “For millions of people around the world, local reliance on wildlife, plants, trees, rivers and oceans is as strong as it has ever been,” says the report.

Communities are losing food supplies and tourism jobs through unsustainable hunting, fishing and – often illegal – deforestation. In vulnerable countries like the Maldives, for example, populations are at risk from rising sea levels and climate change brought on, in part, by deforestation.

It is impossible to quantify what proportion of organized crime is environmental crime, although 25 percent is a commonly repeated figure. This number comes from a UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimate of the scope of the problem in the Asia-Pacific region, and it is often extrapolated as a global estimate. Even less is known about how much organized environmental crime drains from the legitimate economy. To complicate matters, the line between environmental and other organized crime is often blurred, since the same trafficking networks are frequently used for both.

“We’re not really trying to look at environmental organized crime in terms of value,” said Gosling. “We’re looking at the global response to the problem. Who are the actors, and what are they doing? Is it sufficient, and if not, what can we do?”

Boosting enforcement 

Current efforts are failing. Part of the problem is that legislation and penalties vary enormously between countries. “The range between what may be considered acceptable and highly illegal is vast,” says the report, which argues for better synchronization of goals. There are plenty of international and country-specific strategies but few linkages between them.

Illegal logging is a common environmental crime

A perennial problem is that the environmental agencies tasked with handling environmental crime lack the capacity or jurisdiction to stop it, while law enforcement agencies fail to prioritize it. But as the financial incentives of these crimes soar – a rhino horn can fetch $250,000, for example, and a single fishing trawler expedition can bring in $1 million worth of fish – so do the stakes.

There is evidence that heavy weaponry, such as rocket mortars and semi-automatic weapons, as well as helicopters, are being used by poachers, says investigative journalist Julian Rademeyer, whose book, Killing for Profit, exposes the illicit rhino horn trade in South Africa.

Frequently, top players like alleged kingpin Vixay Keosavang, who is dubbed “the Pablo Escobar of wildlife trafficking” and is said to operate with impunity in his home country of Laos, have links to government officials and other powerful elites.

And no amount of policing can eliminate the fact that environmental crimes are widely seen as a passport out of poverty. Rademeyer, who presented his findings at the conference, found that young men from destitute villages in Mozambique who entered the Kruger National Park to poach rhinos were regarded as heroes in their communities because of the money they brought home.

“Many communities on the Mozambican side of the Kruger Park don’t benefit from its conservation efforts. They face a stark choice: go to Johannesburg illegally and try to find work or poach rhino horn, for which they can get anywhere from $200 to $2,000 per horn,” he said. Without alternative choices, “there will be a constant line of ready recruits to occupy middle positions in these trafficking networks”.

Cooperation needed

Rademeyer said the Global Initiative could facilitate faster action through information sharing: “These syndicates move and adapt very quickly. The only way to stop them is to move quickly, too.”

Signing endless memoranda of understanding does not speed up the bureaucratic and diplomatic delays in dealing with transnational environmental crime. Unlike the murky and rapidly evolving world of cybercrime, environmental crime is “a more conventional commodity trade. There are no excuses for why we can’t deal with it,” says Rademeyer.

Steven Trent, director of Environmental Justice Foundation (EFJ), agrees. His organization monitors the effects of illegal fishing on people’s livelihoods in some of the poorest countries in West Africa, including Liberia and Sierra Leone. EJF has also exposed how people are being trafficked on these illegal fishing vessels, either to fish as unpaid labourers or for the sex trade in Asia. Very often, the culprits are companies that “knowingly or sometimes unwittingly” fish illegally and send their products to wealthy countries.

Some solutions to combatting environmental crimes need not be high-tech or complex, he argues. A start would be for every fishing vessel to have a mandatory license number. “When it comes to organized crime, people tend to complicate things, but sometimes there are basic solutions which could bring quick dividends,” he says. “Transparency and traceability are some of the best and simplest tools to combat corruption.”

“Grey” areas such as industrial-scale logging, where the law is often unclear or unevenly applied, are also robbing people of their livelihoods and habitats. Research conducted by Global Witness in Liberia and Cambodia reveals that huge logging concessions are being given out in these countries with “no recourse to the people living there”, says the organization’s director, Gavin Hayman, who argues that countries need to share more information about their enforcement strategies.

As much as one quarter of Liberia’s land area has been given over to logging, Global Witness research reveals. In some cases, communities have been chased off their lands and stripped of their livelihoods. In Cambodia, activists resisting loggers have been killed.

It is imperative for players to get out in the field and find out what local communities actually want, Hayman says. Otherwise, these vulnerable populations can and will fall victim to environmental crime.

pg/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Enforcing the law – Growing marihuana in Swaziland

Posted by African Press International on September 9, 2013

MBABANE, – The ongoing decline of Swaziland’s economy has left many people with no livelihood other than subsistence farming – including the growing of cannabis . But cultivation of “Swazi Gold” – as it’s known to weed enthusiasts – is still barely keeping households afloat. 

By global standards, Swaziland’s marijuana cultivation is nowhere near the levels seen in major cultivation countries, such as Afghanistan, Morocco or even neighbouring South Africa. But according to Andreas Zeidler, regional spokesperson for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), although there are no official figures and the geographic area under cultivation is relatively small, the amount of marijuana being grown in the kingdom is “not insignificant in the region”.

While Swazi Gold is known globally for its high quality, most of it ends up on the domestic market and in South Africa where a small packet sells for US$2 on the streets. The real money is in export further afield – the best quality cannabis is often earmarked for compression into one or two kilogram blocks that are smuggled via South Africa and Mozambique to Europe.

The relatively easy money of marijuana cultivation is enticing more unemployed and poor people, despite the fact that it is illegal. It is mostly used to support the immediate needs of households, particularly in remote areas of the country where access to services is difficult and expensive, and where markets for other cash crops are far away.

Maize production in the country has been declining steadily for the past decade, which has led to persistent food insecurity. But Swaziland has a climate and soil which allows for several harvests of cannabis per year. The government, however, is not considering legalizing marijuana and has not looked into whether cannabis, or hemp, has the potential to become an economically viable crop. Despite the large amounts of marijuana – ‘insangu’ in the Swazi language – produced, few of these farmers get rich off the business, as the wholesalers who transport the product to urban areas pay them a tiny fraction of the street value.

Andrew Dlamini, the 27-year-old nephew of marijuana farmer Clearance Dlamini, says no Swazi farmer has ever gotten rich from marijuana cultivation, no matter how much is grown. It is merely one way to earn cash in the impoverished mountainous areas. “It doesn’t pay to grow insangu for Swazis. You make more selling avocados, or even eggs,” he said.

Growers destitute

For Gogo (“Granny”) Thwala, 75, cannabis cultivation is a matter of survival. Sale of the weed, which grows abundantly around her mud-and-stick house, means she can buy food for herself and the six grandchildren who live with her.

“I am too old to grow food. We did when my husband was alive and my children were here. Two of my three children passed on, and I look after their children. Two of them are too small to work the fields, and the other four are in school,” Thwala told IRIN.

“The police came, and I told them that I am an old woman and I cannot look after my garden. These dagga weeds, they just grow anywhere, and how can I control them?”

She receives the usual pension for older Swazis provided by the government, which is $15 a month. However, the government sometimes fails to pay pensioners even this amount. Like 70 percent of Swazis, Thwala lives on communal land under a chief. She and her family live in chronic poverty, as do two-thirds of Swazis, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Her grandchildren do not need to do much to maintain the homestead’s marijuana garden, which stretches spottily between maize plants, trees and boulders over a half-acre plot. Some cannabis plants grow over 2m high along the sloping hill directly behind her hut. Larger marijuana fields belonging to neighbours are cultivated in the crevices of surrounding mountains, making them more difficult to detect on the rare occasions when law enforcers take inspection tours.

Once the marijuana – also known locally as ‘dagga’ – has matured, her elder grandchildren cut the plants down and tie them into bundles. Buyers from South Africa arrive every two weeks. There is no standard payment; Thwala is happy to receive whatever she is offered. However, Dlamini said a bushel of marijuana could fetch a few hundred rand, and very few people receive more than $100 dollars from a drug dealer.

Facing arrest is not something she worries about. “The police came, and I told them that I am an old woman and I cannot look after my garden. These dagga weeds, they grow just anywhere, and how can I control them?” she said.

Many Swazis find it difficult to understand why the state would spend so much money on policing and destroying cannabis when the plant, which is indigenous, has been used for centuries.

Enforcing the law

In a report on drug strategies in Southern Africa, the Institute of Security Studies notes that transnational drug trafficking networks are “firmly entrenched at both the local and inter-regional levels… “Local crime networks run domestic distribution of cannabis and some harder drugs, while foreign nationals ensure the smooth distribution and transhipment of both soft and hard drugs to regional and international markets. Corruption of police, airport security, customs officials and some politicians ensures that the majority of consignments pass undetected across borders.”

In addition, interception efforts, drug seizures and interdiction at national borders have shown limited or low success rates, the report found, as “the focus of law enforcement authorities has been on the low-level dealers, consumers and couriers, who are easily replaced with new recruits”.

“Swaziland is signatory to international drug accords, and we have to discourage the trafficking of drugs grown in Swaziland from crossing the border,” said a source at the Ministry of Justice.

According to the Royal Swaziland Police Department, an ongoing operation destroys marijuana grown for commercial purposes. Recently, marijuana valued at nearly $1 million was burned in a police operation.

But the nature of the cultivation, which happens mostly in remote and hard-to-access areas, makes eradication of the crops very expensive and requires a lot of capacity, “which is not sufficiently available to the Swazi law-enforcement agencies”, noted UNODC’s Zeidler.

“However, when it comes to intercepting the trafficking of the produce within Swaziland and at the borders, the Swazi police [department] does have capacity and regularly seizes large amounts and arrests suspected traffickers. Certainly, capacity in this regard could benefit from additional resources to further improve the law-enforcement response,” he added.

jh/kn/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Eliminating plan in process in Myanmar

Posted by African Press International on July 9, 2013

Upsurge of heroin use in Asia has created greater demand for Myanmar’s opium

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Focus on poppy eradication in Shan State
  • Myanmar accounts for 23% of world’s poppy
  • Increasing food insecurity in Shan
  • Stronger heroin demand in China

BANGKOK, – A recent peace initiative in Myanmar’s eastern Shan State could play a key role in poppy eradication in a country which is the world’s second largest opium producer, experts say.

“It’s a very important milestone,” Jason Eligh, country manager for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Myanmar, told IRIN explaining a new plan to wean farmers off poppy in rebel-controlled areas. “It demonstrates a good starting point in developing trust.”

The plan, involving the Burmese government and its military, an armed ethnic group in Shan State, and UNODC, will allow survey staff into Shan State, responsible for 90 percent of the country’s poppy cultivation.

Despite past government efforts to rid the country of poppy, the rate of cultivation has steadily risen over the past six years, experts say.

The government has vowed to partner with the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) whose Shan State Army (SSA) fought for greater autonomy since 1964 before signing a ceasefire with the central government in 2011. In current peace talks, both parties and the UNODC agreed to help destitute farmers with alternative development programmes.

The anticipated multimillion dollar plan, slated for 2014 to 2017, will aim to improve the state’s infrastructure, health, education and crop substitution, said Eligh, who added that UNODC has worked with the Burmese government and armed groups before, but not in an active role during a peace process.

“There are increasing rates of poverty and food insecurity,” he said of Shan State. “Opium farmers are not bad people, they are just poor and hungry.”

The World Food Programme estimates that the state had the nation’s third highest food poverty level at 9 percent.

Within the context of efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN – Myanmar is a member) to make the region drug free by 2015, the Burmese government announced the new approach to fellow members at a 9 May drug control cooperation meeting in the capital Naypyidaw. There, Minister of Home Affairs Lt-Gen Ko Ko told delegates that alternative development was the “fundamental solution” to reduce poppy cultivation, and called on international support and donors for funding.

However, the ceasefire between the government and SSA remains fragile and skirmishes continue.

Fighting against other armed ethnic groups in opium-producing zones is also a hurdle for Myanmar, which accounts for 23 percent of the world’s poppy supply.

According to the 2013 UNODC world drug report released on 26 June, the country is also a major source of amphetamine-type stimulants.

Drug experts view the increased levels of opium as a growing threat to human security in neglected border regions, where roughly 300,000 households grew poppies in 2012, up from 256,000 the year before, an earlier UNODC report said.

Assessment in Shan State

This summer, UNODC officials will conduct an assessment of SSA-controlled areas to gauge what projects need to be carried out in Shan State.

Chairman of the RCSS Lt-Gen Yawd Serk told IRIN that for projects to work, they must be implemented “through the participation from the people”.

Rural, rugged Shan State, which covers almost a quarter of the country and shares porous borders with China, Thailand and Laos, offers drug-traffickers several routes into foreign markets. Poverty and instability make illegal activity all the easier.

In 1999, the government launched an ambitious 15-year drug eradication master plan that initially had success with an 83 percent drop in poppy cultivation in its first eight years. Nevertheless, insufficient alternative livelihoods, plus the fact that dry opium’s market value is 19 times more than rice per hectare, pushed many farmers back to poppies, according to UNODC officials.

drug watch report by Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), run by Shan exiles in Thailand, said the opium trade is entrenched among poor farmers, rebel groups and pro-government militias who need to financially support their units, and drug syndicates who “take advantage of the state of affairs to invest, produce and trade in drugs”.

The upsurge of heroin use in parts of Asia, particularly in China, where there were 1.24 million registered heroin users in 2011, has also created greater demand for opium from Myanmar and even Laos, which grows about 3 percent of the world’s poppy plants, according to the UNODC drug report.

Two steps forward, two steps back

Compared to historical figures, the present rate of poppy cultivation is still considered low. In the 1980s, Myanmar was the top global opium producer until Afghanistan took over in 1991.

Down but now rising – a problem with the plan

At the start of its drug eradication plan, Myanmar was growing poppy on roughly 100,000 hectares annually, before it dropped to 21,600 hectares in 2006 and then rose again to 51,000 hectares in 2012, according to UNODC.

Burmese officials were confident of stamping out all opium production by 2014, the final year of its plan, but in October 2012 they backtracked and extended the deadline to 2019. They said drug eradication was a “national duty” and requested help from local people, NGOs, the private sector and UN agencies to implement anti-drug campaigns, the Myanmar Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) reported.

“The government has realized that eradication is not the only way,” Eligh said. “They need to underline the human security causes so households aren’t facing hardship.”

Meanwhile, allegations of crooked factions within the Burmese military, called the Tatmadaw, have hampered progress. “The Tatmadaw has been giving cover to the drug traders and committing most [of the] corruptions,” said Lt-Gen Serk.

At the same time, national leaders have been accused of supporting the drug trade, with seven “drug lords” serving as members of parliament for the ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, led by reformist President Thein Sein, according to SHAN.

A bumpy road ahead

Many poppy farmers cultivate the illicit crop due to conflict and poverty. Education and health facilities are inadequate, and the few roads mean access to markets to sell legitimate crops is difficult, whereas drug-traffickers come to farms to buy poppy harvests, experts say.

In 2012, at least 45 percent of poppy farmers told those conducting surveys in Myanmar that they grew poppies to get more cash for food. “Opium is the safest and most profitable cash crop,” said Shawn Kelley, a UNODC analyst based in Bangkok.

Still, poppy farmers do not become rich. Drug-growing farmers earn roughly 1 percent of the global illicit drug income. In Myanmar and Laos, a poppy farmer can make just US$200 per year. Drug traffickers rake in much of the profits by exploiting these socially and economically marginalized farmers, according to the Alternative Drug Report, a critical assessment of the global war on drugs.

The report says “alternative development” does not impact overall drug crop production: any localized programmes only displace production and its problems to other regions or countries.

Ohnmar Khaing, coordinator of the Food Security Working Group in Myanmar, an umbrella group of national and international NGOs, argued that limited efforts have failed to fix the poppy issue. She told IRIN poppy farmers may find alternatives or other professions but it will need “investment and encouragement of regional governments and relevant stakeholders”.

UNODC says 95 percent of Shan State villages did not receive agricultural aid in 2012.

Although optimistic on the potential build-up of alternative development in Shan State, Khaing said she worried the programmes could be marred by poor coordination and lack of transparency.

In 2009, UNODC began at least two food security projects in the state, worth roughly $5 million for about a five-year period. The projects seek to reduce opium cultivation, improve roads, health care and education, yet they only cover 10 villages.

Depending on the situation, it can take up to a decade for an area to become sustainable, experts say.

Whether the current ceasefire will hold long enough for a robust programme in Shan State remains unclear.

sk/ds/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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A new poppy policy in Afghanistan

Posted by African Press International on July 8, 2013

Only 30 percent of Afghan’s one million drug users have access to treatment

HIGHLIGHTS

  • High levels of drug addiction
  • Poppy eradication underfunded
  • Farmers’ needs must be understood
  • Alternative livelihood programmes generally failed

KABUL,  – Despite a surge in efforts to eradicate poppy farming, the country’s opium production is at close to record levels, prompting calls for a change in policy – from analysts, as well as farmers impoverished by attacks on their livelihood due to the current poppy policy.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) 2012 Opium Survey found a 154 percent increase in Afghan government poppy eradication efforts in 2012, yet cultivation actually increased – up 18 percent on the previous year.

Afghanistan produces around three-quarters of the world’s heroin, recently retaining its position as the lead producer and cultivator of opium globally, according to the 2013 World Drug Report.

The latest assessment from April shows 12 out of 34 provinces expect an increase in poppy cultivation. Only in western Herat Province is cultivation expected to decrease.

Experts say these trends are worrying as the country is entering a key period in the next 18 months that will see the drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force and presidential elections to replace President Hamid Karzai.

“The potential negative ramifications of the transition on the drugs economy are alarming,” according to a report by the independent Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) in May.

“Afghanistan cannot afford to be complacent with regards to poppy cultivation. If the Afghan government and international community fail to restructure their priorities now, poppy cultivation will only increase, contributing to the already growing war in the country.”

Yet, year after year, despite repeated calls to restructure priorities, little progress has been made.

Cultivation and local addiction

The rise of an opium-based economy is not just about exports – the country now has one of the highest levels of addiction in the world, according to UNODC country office regional representative Jean-Luc Lemahieu.

Afghanistan’s population of 30 million now has one million users – with more than 700,000, or 70 percent, having no access to drug treatment. Of particular concern is the rising number of female and child addicts.

Not only tribes and villages, but also drug-dependent districts, are sprouting up and having a domino-like effect across the country say Afghan analysts.

Qali a Zal, a predominately Uzbek district in northern Kunduz Province known for carpet weaving is just one example.

Kunduz Province, population 800,000, has more than 30,000 drug addicts according to Kunduz’s only drug treatment centre. Half come from Qali a Zal District, where women and children make up 40 percent of addicts.

At birth women rub opium oil on their babies’ navels to stop them from crying, so that the women can get on with their work undisturbed.

Due to lack of funding for a treatment centre or any existing health care services in the district, the addiction is passed from one generation to the next.

Most provincial counter-narcotics officials who spoke with IRIN point to funding as the source of the problem.

“Ask the Ministry of Counter Narcotics how much money they give each province to fight poppy eradication. Some provinces like Laghman, Nuristan and others have a budget of 17,000 Afghanis [US$300] a month. Government officials’ salaries are 10 times that,” said an Afghan official who preferred anonymity. “You can’t fight a multi-billion dollar industry without money.

“Several years ago in the south, police chiefs had limited manpower [to help cut down the poppy crop] so they were asking the `maliks’ (tribal leaders) to eradicate a portion of the poppy on their land.

“Then they would take pictures and send them back to Kabul as proof of eradication.”

For the country’s one million addicts, there are only around 90 drug treatment centres across the country, according to the Ministry of Counter-narcotics.

Most are understaffed, can only hold a small number of patients and are for short-term rehabilitation only, said Afghans.

“Only when you start offering sustainable alternative income sources and livelihood, can you start thinking about reducing illicit cultivation for those farmers that have a real choice between the legal and illegal economy”

This all means drugs merchants have little fear. “You have to have strong connections to be an opium trader,” said one trader from eastern Afghanistan who did not reveal his name for security reasons.

“Some time ago some of my friends were caught with drugs by border police. They contacted [top] officials and were released. Eradication could affect us but right now we have enough land to cultivate poppy even if the government decides to cut some areas down.”

Has eradication made things worse?

For the last decade, counter-narcotics experts say Western-backed initiatives in the country have largely focused on poppy farmers.

report by researchers David M. Catarious Jr. and Alison Russella from the Center for Naval Analysis (CAN) said initiatives fail to consider the motivations and needs of the poppy farmers who are “the most vulnerable and victimized link in the opium trade”.

Instead of alleviating the pressures that drive farmers to grow poppy in the first place, eradication programmes often exacerbate poverty, and so increase farmers’ dependence on opium.

“The eradication of poppy harms our life. If the government eradicates our poppy, then they should support us and find alternative methods,” said Saeed Kazim, a farmer from Khogyni District in eastern Nangarhar Province.

“If there is no work and no job our lives will be very difficult. Everything I have in my life, I owe to poppy.”

In southern Helmand Province where widespread eradication has taken place, AREU research found that poppy famers and their families dependent on the crop often fall back on negative coping strategies to deal with the loss of income.

In 2011, the study found that households, particularly those in Marjah and Nad Ali districts, reduced both the amount and quality of the food they were eating due to the government’s eradication efforts.

Opium harvest in in Badakhshan (file photo)

The families also held off seeking important medical care, withdrew children from school and stopped paying on loans or marriage-related settlements. Some even sold their long-term productive assets making future legal income generation much harder.

Compared to 2006, poppy production in Helmand has tripled and is expected to be even higher this year.

Jorrit Kamminga, director of policy research at the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), told IRIN that international counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan since 2003 had resulted in what he called “sequencing problems”.

“While pushing for forced poppy crop eradication, there was no way for alternative development programmes to keep pace with eradication. In other words, farming communities that were dependent on poppy cultivation had nothing to fall back on. It explains why, in the 10 years that have passed, the problem has not gone away and in many ways has even increased in size and scope.”

Indeed, according to UNODC, poppy cultivation is not only expected to expand in areas where it already existed in 2012 but also in new areas or areas where poppy cultivation had stopped.

Window of opportunity

There is a window of opportunity for the Afghan government to start a more independent counter-narcotics policy with the end of the security transition in 2014 and reduced Western influence, said Kamminga.

The key component, essential to its success, say analysts, is that in its initial stages the model “de-links” from the programme’s overall drug control objectives.

Only later does it integrate a counter-narcotics focus in the broader policies of territorial control, institution-building, good governance and development.

“In other words, while you leave illicit poppy cultivation intact until the local government has firmly established its presence and basic services, you do not focus on crop eradication. Only when you start offering sustainable alternative income sources and livelihood, can you start thinking about reducing illicit cultivation for those farmers that have a real choice between the legal and illegal economy,” said Kamminga.

Under this putative new policy, farmers’ incomes will decline over time as opium phases out because few crops can compete with opium, but ideally people’s standard of living increases.

“If the Afghan government supports farmers they don’t need to grow poppy. If they build long-term projects in our area then the youth can help with that. But when unemployment increases, and a huge number of our youth are jobless and can no longer go to Pakistan and Iran for work because the conditions there are not good, you tell me… what should they do?” said Kazim, the farmer from Nangahar Province.

Alternative livelihood programmes

A standard approach by donors and aid agencies to reduce opium farming has been to create alternative livelihood programmes, schemes criticized by the World Bank back in 2008.

“The shift to an `alternative livelihoods’ concept was meant to encompass broader factors, including access to assets like land, water, and credit, as well as markets. But this conceptual improvement has not been translated into practice, as alternative livelihood programmes have continued to focus on discrete projects mainly involving other crops.”

Without wider development, poppy farming helps farmers survive.

“In my whole district there is no water,” said farmer Gul Khan from Charchino District of Uruzgan Province. “Farmers face difficulties from years of drought, and it is difficult to see any reconstruction from all the money distributed between government authorities; for these reasons we need to grow poppy.”

Successful projects in Afghanistan are few. Small-scale projects with international support such as replacing poppies with organic roses have often depended on continuing outside support and lacked sustainability.

Projects that have shown some degree of success, said Kamminga, share several commonalities: the possibility to cultivate crops with a high international market value, to effectively organize farmers into associations and cooperatives to increase their bargaining power vis-à-vis buyers, and a unique trait that added an increased value such as organic certification.

In Afghanistan pomegranates, almonds, saffron and some fruit production have shown market potential.

To dissuade the 1.6 million Afghans directly involved in poppy cultivation, said Kamminga, the number of beneficiary projects would need to be significantly more than the several hundred that exist today.

bm/jj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Additional funding for the fight against international crime

Posted by African Press International on May 12, 2013

The Government is to provide NOK 26 million for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Organised crime undermines development. The criminal networks embezzle the resources that should be benefiting society as a whole and they destroy the environment. Corruption and tax evasion lead to greater disparities between rich and poor,” said Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås.
Among other things, the funds will be channelled to efforts to combat environmental crime, illegal logging and illegal fishing, with a criminal market estimated to USD 70–200 billion per year, of which a majority is in developing countries. UNODC’s work to fight illegal catches and the trade in endangered animal species will be among the efforts supported. Norway will also support the organisation’s efforts to fight terrorism and corruption.
“UNODC is one of our most important tools in the global fight against organised crime,” commented Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.
“Organised crime is cross-border and international. Global criminal networks are also a major challenge in Europe, and they were highlighted in EUROPOL’s Serious and Organized crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA 2013). If we are to succeed in the fight against crime in Norway, we must contribute to the fight against crime at the global level,” said Minister of Justice and Public Security Grete Faremo.
UNODC will also use the funds from Norway in the fight against human trafficking, cybercrime and drug trafficking.
“If we are to succeed in the fight against drugs, our efforts must be broad-based. In our international efforts to fight drugs, Norway places particular weight on strengthening drug addicts’ rights to basic health services, and emphasises the importance of prevention,” said Minister of Health and Care Services Jonas Gahr Støre.   
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