KABUL (SW) – Officials and experts on Monday discussed the study “The Helmand Food Zone: The Illusion of Success”, highlighting problems of increased poppy cultivation and corruption.
The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit’s research consultant Dr. David Mansfield, who is the author of the paper, presented his findings to a significant number of high-ranking government officials, representatives of national and international agencies, and civil society organizations.
"While the HFZ has finished, the consequences live on,” said David and added, "They [PEF and the Governor’s forces] couldn’t get agreement around the targeting strategy for eradication."
The study reports that the short term success of the Helmand Food Zone with regards to its association with reducing poppy was far outweighed by the role the program played in: (i) creating the conditions for unprecedented amounts of land to be brought under poppy cultivation than ever before; (ii) institutionalizing forms of corruption that further alienated the rural population from the authorities; and (iii) helping set in motion a process of agricultural intensification that is likely to lead to the displacement of at least half a million people in the next decade.
The paper argues, “However, as yields recovered in 2016 and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces lost control over larger tracts of rural Helmand, farmers returned to poppy cultivation in ever greater numbers,” adding that “So much so that by 2017, UNODC estimated that there were 144,000 hectares of opium poppy in Helmand as a whole; and the United States Government's estimates of poppy cultivation for the Helmand Food Zone indicated that there was even more poppy within its boundaries than when the program began in 2009.”