Handing over of the alternative livelihoods project in Jawzjan province

14 March 2011- A group of twenty to thirty men were standing next to the riverside, proudly looking at the dividing river walls they had built only a week ago. Most of the men are members of the local Community Development Committee of  the Shiberghan district. They received support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and World Food Programme to build a water management system for their villages. The dividing walls on the Daryaye Safeed river, which goes through Murghab village, will bring water to the fields of the five surrounding villages of the Shiberghan district.

"This is an important intervention at a time when the combination of high opium prices and low wheat prices may drive farmers back into poppy cultivation", said Mr. Jean-Luc Lemahieu at the handing over ceremony.

The level of poppy cultivation amplified in Shiberghan District in 2005 (506ha) and 2006 (828ha) after the increase in opium prices in 2004 (the farm-gate value was US$ 222/kg). Although the district has been poppy-free since 2008, UNODC decided to support the two villages of the district, due to the worrying rise of the opium prices in the last year.

In January this year, the national average price for one kilogram of dry opium in Afghanistan at the farm-gate level was US$ 267/kg . The current farm-gate price is the highest price reported since November 2004. The 2010 Afghan Opium Survey published by UNODC indicated that in 2009 farmers were willing to consider abandoning opium cultivation due to the low price it fetched.  But, after a steady decline from 2005 to 2009, prices are rising again and many farmers may consider a return to poppy cultivation.

"This is also an excellent example of how a small amount of money can have a major impact on both the community and the counter-narcotics situation. Hence, ensuring that both Shiberghan district and Jawzjan province maintain their poppy-free status", said Mr. Lemahieu.

With US$ 21,000 invested, UNODC reached 12 villages of Shiberghan district. Through this project over 27 kilometres of water canal were cleaned, 231 metres of retaining walls were constructed and 354 people from nearby areas round job opportunities for more than one month. WFP distributed over 24 tons of food through the Work for Food programme and added an additional 5% ratio for women-led households in these villages.

Sarfaz in his late seventies is from Murghab village. He has been working together with his sons and grandsons on the construction of the wall dividers of Daryaye Safeed river.

"I have a famil y of 30 members and all of them benefited from this project. We will be able to plant barley, vegetables and other crops on our land this year", says Sarfaz.

Over 400 families live in the Murghab village, but thanks to the divider walls five neighbouring villages will have access to the water.

"Jawzjan province has a lot of problems with water. Seasonal floods and droughts are an everyday reality. The UNODC project is important, because the water management and will have many beneficiaries", said Mr. Mohammad Aleem Saaie, the Governor of Jawzjan province.

Abdul, is a head of a seven member family from Baba Ali village. He was working as an unskilled labour in construction of retaining walls in Baba Ali Village.

"I am happy and grateful for the work UNODC provided to me", says Abdul.

Through the cash he received from this project as his daily wage, Abdul was able to buy some wood for heating for his family and through the food ratio he got from WFP to feed his family.

The UNODC provincial office in Mazar-i-Sharif in close coordination with the Pr ovincial Department of Counter-Narcotics has distributed among the villagers and project workers awareness raising materials on the harms and hazards of drugs use.

The initiative started on 1 January  2011 and was completed on 22 February 2011, under UNODC project Strengthening Provincial Capacity for Drug Control (AFG/I87), with the financial support from the Government of Finland.