Alternative Development: Critical to Myanmar's Future

Video courtesy of Sky Net TV © 2012

Jason Eligh, UNODC Myanmar Country Manager, is interviewed by Skynet's U Thet Win on UNODC's alternative development projects in South Shan State.

Myanmar is the world's second largest opium poppy grower after Afghanistan, accounting for 23 per cent of opium poppy cultivation worldwide in 2011. UNODC estimates that 246,000 households are involved in opium cultivation in Myanmar, with 91 per cent of opium cultivation occurring in Shan State.

Opium poppy eradication is a priority of the Myanmar government, and recent government campaigns have seen a significant increase in the area of opium poppy destroyed. However, although serving a drug control goal, this can have disastrous consequences for poppy-farming households which are generally very poor and often in debt. Many grow poppy simply to buy food and other subsistence needs.

"Done without first developing alternative livelihood options, the wide-spread eradication of poppy can increase food insecurity as households dependent on income from now-destroyed poppy scramble to find other sources of income to feed their families," said Mr. Jason Eligh, UNODC Myanmar Country Manager.

The main drivers behind recent increases in opium poppy cultivation are chronic poverty, decreasing rural food security, and regional insecurity due to armed conflict.

To support opium eradication efforts, in 2011 UNODC started to implement three new alternative development / sustainable livelihoods and food security projects in southern Shan State. Providing assistance directly to opium-dependent communities on the ground, these projects are funded by the European Union and the Government of Germany. They aim to reduce opium poppy production by providing alternative income-earning and livelihood opportunities. Support services include improved access to farm inputs such as seeds, seedlings, fertilizer, and tools; access to credit; improved infrastructure such as roads and waterways, as well as field irrigation; improved health service infrastructure; and, a variety of vocational training alternatives.

This assistance is made possible through the kind
support of the European Union and Germany

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