Alternative Development Program Opens a Window of Hope for Farmers in Helmand province

Farmers in Helmand for long have been growing poppy to earn a living. However, many struggled to make ends meet. The drought and the economic crisis pushed farmers’ economy down and they are facing food shortage.

The severe drought, economic crisis and the recent Opium Ban Decree by the De-facto Authorities (DfAs) has tripled the rural farmers’ concerns in Helmand province. Mullah Tur Jan, chairman of a Community Development Council (CDC) in Lashkargah says; “we do not want to grow poppy, but we have no other alternative to feed our children. We grow low value licit crops due lack of  improved agricultural inputs. From other side we have limited access to irrigation  water  and market for selling our products. We are grateful to the UNODC for  supporting our community through food security project and we want them to continue their support”.

UNODC under Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan(STFA) implements a two-year Food Security and Alternative Development project to support communities in Helmand province to move away from illicit poppy cultivation and adopt licit entrepreneurial avenues for a sustainable food security and livelihood. The project supports 5000 farmers in Helmand province with agriculture in income generation activities to meet their immediate basic needs and food security.

Project started in March 2022 and over 1631 farmer households provided with agricultural inputs, access to irrigation water, dairy processing equipment and backyards poultry farming. The interventions enabled farmers to enhance their food security and reduce their dependence to illicit opium poppy cultivation.

UNODC for long have been supporting farmers in Southern region. During years 2016-2020, UNODC supported 3000 farmer households through its Alternative Development program in Helmand, Kandahar and Urozgan provinces.  The project established 390 trellised grape vineyards, 220 hectares of fruits orchards, 566  greenhouses and vegetable fields, 90 hectares saffron. This support effectively contributed to bring poppy land under sustainable licit cultivation in the target communities.  

Farmers earn 1823 USD per year from a greenhouse, 292 from a vegetable field and 738 USD from a 0.2-hectare vineyard. It shows  62 %  increase in the farmers’ income compared to the income were earned by farmers from the same amount of land earlier.