Mohammad Ahmadi, a young opium farmer in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar has the kind of confidence that underlines how meagre the results have been of years of effort and billions of dollars spent fighting narcotics.
“I’m not afraid of anyone. No one can harm me and the others while we’re harvesting poppy,” he said as he took a break from working his field.
As pressure grows for a political settlement to end 18 years of war in Afghanistan, the drug trade remains a major threat, leaving the country at the risk of becoming a “narco-state”, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. Congressional watchdog, said in recent report.
Growing opium is theoretically a crime in Afghanistan but it is a way of life for tens of thousands of farmers like Ahmadi, who feeds a family of 14 with the money he makes from selling the sticky, brown sap from the poppies in his fields to be refined into heroin.
Efforts to develop alternative crops like saffron for poor farmers have had some success, but overall, they have hardly put a dent in the drugs trade.
“I want to continue my studies but economic issues force me to do this,” Ahmadi said, blaming the government for