Afghanistan has been the world’s largest producer of opium up until 2022 when 233,000 hectares of land was cultivated with opium poppy yielding 6200 tons of opium which was the last opium poppy harvest allowed by the De facto Authorities (DfA) after the declaration of the 4 April 2022 dated decree on the "Prohibition of Poppy Cultivation and All types of Narcotics", (henceforth the “poppy ban”) prohibiting poppy cultivation, production, transportation, trade, export and import, and the use of drugs among the population.
In order to address the underlying causes of illicit crop cultivation, UNODC introduced an Alternative Development (AD) and Health (Sub-) Programme under its Country Programme for Afghanistan 2016-2021 aimed at implementation of a comprehensive and integrated response comprised of support to alternative livelihoods, drug demand reduction, law enforcement, public education and awareness raising, and the mainstreaming of AD in the wider socio-economic development framework and among all public, private and intergovernmental development actors. In this context, UNODC provided capacity building support to the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics (MCN) and the Alternative Livelihoods Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and contributed to the drafting of the National Drugs Control Strategy (NDCS), National Drug Action Plan (NDAP) 2015-19 and MAIL Alternative Livelihoods Policy. The AD programme supported over 76,854 households (48% women) across 72 districts in 20 provinces whose income increased by 30% on average and resilience was enhanced through diversification of on/off/non-farm income sources during 2016-2021.
Since 2017, UNODC AD Programme established 907 hectares of fruit orchards, 59 irrigation structures, 224 large and 200 small greenhouses and increased the agricultural productivity of cereals by 15%, vegetables by 40%, citrus by 50%, vineyards by 62%, and dairy and poultry by 15%. Farmers earned an annual revenue of USD 1,823 from large greenhouses, USD 911 from small greenhouses, USD 292 from open field vegetable cultivation and USD 480 from backyard poultry, USD 5263 from broiler and USD 717 from dairy processing.
Post- August 2021 “Stay and Deliver”
The overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021 led to a reversal of many of the development gains achieved in the past two decades. The economic contraction which began with the COVID-19 pandemic was exacerbated by the fall of the government leading to a 20.7% collapse in the economic output. Afghanistan’s GDP is estimated to have further declined in 2022 by 3.6%. A mere 1.3% increase in GDP is projected in 2023 if the level of foreign aid remains at US$3.7 billion. Increasing restrictions on women employment has also been contributing to this decline with an estimated cost of US$ 1 billion, or 5% of the Afghan GDP. As of 2023, the country is grappling with near universal poverty and remains to be the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. The current trajectory is towards a meagre recovery at best and a “very real risk of systemic collapse and human catastrophe.” at worst.
Despite the challenging and unprecedented situation, UNODC committed to “Stay and Deliver” and re-positioned itself and adjusted to the new realities on the ground to continue delivering its mandate in alignment with the UN Transitional Engagement Framework (TEF) which laid the principles of delivery under the new operational context. UNODC focused its efforts on providing humanitarian and basic human needs assistance through an integrated programmatic approach in the areas of life-saving assistance and promotion of livelihoods through income-generating opportunities among the drug and crime affected vulnerable populations.