Eligh’s pilot project has already persuaded some farmers to switch, but they may end up switching right back.
A middle-aged farmer named Awa Wadaa grew opium for 20 years and was pulling in US$3,500 a year in the five-month poppy season when the UN offered him a way out. Last year, he worked year-round rotating crops of corn, potatoes and sunflowers, and earned just US$500.
“I don’t want to grow poppies. I understand it is illegal and that drugs hurt our children,” Awa Wadaa said.
However, the father of five added that without his poppy-farming income, he cannot afford to keep his children in school.
“If I can’t find a way to make more money, I will definitely go back to growing poppies,” he said.