“Ninety-three percent of [the] world’s total opiate is produced by Afghanistan, and the crop was estimated [at] an export value of around $3.1 billion, which is equivalent to 46 percent of [the] Afghanistan Gross Domestic Product,” said wrote Jeffrey Clemens, a scholar of Harvard University.This statistics indicate that cultivating opium plays an important role in the contemporary economy of Afghanistan. There is a high demand for it in the market, and some argue that if cultivating opium is eliminated in Afghanistan that another county will just take its place. Others say that cultivating is a huge labor opportunity for Afghan farmers. The other salient point about cultivating opium has is the labor opportunity. About 366,500 Afghan families cultivated opium poppy in 2007 and 2008, according to Clemens. This means that huge part of land in Afghanistan is dedicated to cultivating opium – and a lot of labor is needed. Moreover, opium itself requires more cultivating than other crops. For example, while wheat requires just 41 days of cultivation, opium requires 350 days, according to Clemens. Opium also requires more labor during its harvesting time, which lasts longer – two to three weeks – than the harvesting time of other crops, like wheat. Opium laborers also earn more than triple the wages that laborers of other crops earn. They typically earn $6.80 per day, whereas laborers who cultivate wheat typically earn $1 or $2 per day. Opium cultivation affects more than just the economy, according to IRIN. “An interesting result of the labor-intensive nature of opium production is its effect on the rural household economy, the division of labor and opportunities for Afghan women,” according to one IRIN report. As Afghanistan is a traditional Islamic society, and women do not have much chance to work , and have economic Independence. Opium cultivations is a way that women in rural areas of the country can become economically independent. Bibi Deendaray, 55, is a female farmer in the poppy fields of the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. She says the crop has saved her family, according to an UNDCO report. “In fact, I should say it is not an illicit crop but rather a blessing, which saves the lives of my children, grandchildren and two widowed daughters,” she said. “In general, it is the only means of survival for thousands of women-headed households, women and children in our village whose men is either jobless or was killed during the war.” On one hand, people say that eradicating the crop will devastate women-headed households. But others say addiction is equally devastating.
The government of Afghanistan has taken some steps to eradicate opium. One of these steps was giving the law that opium should be eradicated and cultivating it is illegal. the other step was destroying some of the farmers lands. But some say that the government has been complicit in the drug trade.“Many Afghan Government officials are believed to profit from the drug trade,” a U.S. State Department report from 2009 said. The report added that narcotics-related corruption was particularly pervasive at the provincial and district levels of government. But others say the government can’t control the problem alone. They say that farmers must want to create a change. I believe that farmers are the root of this huge tree, so their decision can make a difference. But as cultivating opium is for their benefit – they can earn more money and support their household better – why should they decide to cultivate another crop? They say they worry that a new crop won’t earn as much money as opium does. I think that there are some alternative solutions that can bring a change in the mind of the farmers, and a change in the life of women, as well as the whole nation. Firstly, as media has an unbelievable impact on the society, some advertisement about the side effects and danger of opium – and also focusing on the point that it is against Islamic law and the government’s laws – can make some differences. It should be stressed that despite some short-term benefits, opium cultivation can’t offer sustainable solutions to women for either their economic needs or increased rights in the long run because cultivating it is against law and it will be vanished one day. Media can be especially effective in rural areas, where people might not go to school but do watch TV or listen to the radio. By hearing, thinking about and talking about the negative aspects of opium, farmers might change their mind and not plant opium.
Secondly, one of the alternative choices can be to cultivate saffron instead of opium. Saffron is a crop with a very high demand and high price in the world market. It is valued for it is color and taste, and mostly it is used for cooking as a spice and in tea.Abdul Samad, a farmer in the Herat province, says that more money can be earned through saffron than opium, according to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, nonprofit organization that operations in London and Washington, D.C. “I make more money than I used to,” he said. “With poppy, I got between US $400 and $600 for each jerib [half acre] of land. Now I make more than US $5,000.” In addition to being a valuable crop, saffron is also morally accepted by society and Islamic law and legally accepted by Afghanistan’s government. Cultivating it instead of opium will bring more prosperity to the society. More importantly, if the cultivation of saffron develops, women can also work and earn money as much as, if not more than, she could earn in the poppy fields. Cultivation of saffron may be the only medicine that can cure widespread addiction, which Ali says is worse than cancer.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.
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