Alternative Development

UNODC's Alternative Development  (AD) Programme aims to encourage and assist communities in Afghanistan to move away from illicit crop cultivation and the sale of poppy and support the transition to licit crop cultivation and adoption of other on-farm, off-farm and non-farm income generation activities for a sustainable livelihood. The programme was initially designed in 2016 in accordance with the national strategies of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), namely the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), National Drugs Control Strategy (NDCS), National Drug Action Plan (NDAP) 2015-19, and United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) Pillar-1 (Economic Development). 
The programme currently operates in four provinces in the south and east regions and is reaching over 20,000 vulnerable households. From 2016 to 2021, the programme supported over 60,312 people in 20 provinces - out of which 28,800 (48%) are women - with capacity-building support through training; exposure visits; exchange programmes; input distribution of tools and equipment; quality seeds and fertilizer; improved technology installation;  wastage reduction, packaging, branding and market support.
The AD programme is more than about subsistence and contributes to socio-economic development. In doing so, the programme is contributing to peace and stability, which are significantly associated with the reduction of illicit crop cultivation. It places special emphasis on women's economic empowerment and has supported women to recover from drug addiction, build their income generation capacity, and support their leadership and community participation.

Geographical Coverage

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Programme Activities

  • Alternative livelihoods
  • Introduction of best agronomic practices 
  • Provision of tools, equipment and machinery
  • Value chain development
  • Market linkage development
  • Watershed management and irrigation
  • Technical and vocational education and training



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.

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Poppy Ban

The poppy ban impoverished some of the most vulnerable groups of the society including landless and small-holder farmers, women headed households, youth and disabled. The significant loss of income due to the poppy ban without alternatives is creating a self-perpetuating negative feedback loop whereby poppy farmers are forced to cut back on their food and health expenditures leading to malnutrition and exposure to increased health risks...

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UNODC Mandate on Alternative Development

Alternative Development approach within the United Nations System was pioneered by UNODC (and its predecessor organizations, UNFDAC and UNDCP) from 1971 when work was focused solely on crop replacement and then gradually evolved until it has become a comprehensive and integrated response including drug demand reduction, law enforcement, public education and awareness raising, and the mainstreaming of AD in the wider socio-economic development framework by the end of 90s.