Afghanistan: Opium Winter Rapid Assessment Survey



In most of Afghanistan opium poppy planting has been completed. While the seedlings for the 2007 harvest have just started to grow, UNODC has assessed the likely cultivation trends.

This Winter Survey suggests that opium cultivation in Afghanistan in 2007 may not be lower than the record harvest of 165,000 hectares in 2006, although trends may vary among provinces.

Significant decreases are expected in the North. This welcome news is the result of several initiatives aimed at providing farmers and local leaders with incentives to switch to licit livelihoods.

The situation is worse in Afghanistan's richly fertile yet highly unstable southern provinces. Bear in mind that this region accounted for more than 50 per cent of all opium cultivated in Afghanistan last year.

This Survey looks at reasons why farmers decide to grow opium, or not. Evidence shows that villages that have received assistance are less likely to grow opium. Since this not a new finding, it would be desirable to build on this evidence by making Afghanistan the best example of how poppy cultivation can be countered by greater development assistance.

There is some good news on this front. A Good Performance Fund was recently established to reward provinces demonstrating significant progress towards becoming opium free. The goal for 2007 is to double the number of opium-free provinces from six to twelve. That will create an opium-free belt across the middle of the country so as to concentrate later efforts to combat crime and insurgency in the South.

The results also show clear correlations between insurgency and illicit drug-related activities. While this is not new, Afghanistan seems to be the most obvious case in the world of how drug cultivation, refining and trafficking fund political violence, and vice versa.

Using the results of this assessment, district and provincial authorities are now alerted about opium cultivation trends in their jurisdiction. This Survey helps authorities put names and places together in order to improve transparency and accountability. The government and other stakeholders can now better target eradication efforts as well as reward areas that are opium free. Over time this will contribute to winning back Afghanistan from the drug lords, province by province.

While opium attracts most attention, this report raises a new and disturbing trend: a significant increase in cannabis cultivation. The last thing we need is for Afghanistan to switch from one drug to another or - worse - to become a world leader in cannabis as well as opium production.

Antonio Maria Costa
Executive Director



Opium poppy cultivation trends

The Opium Winter Rapid Assessment Survey (ORAS) forecasts the following cultivation trends in 2007:

- An increase in cultivation in 15 provinces, mainly in the South, East and West;

- A decrease in cultivation in seven provinces, mainly in the North and North-East;

- No change in six provinces, mainly in the North and North-East;

- No poppy cultivation in six provinces, mainly in the central region.

Overall, opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is likely to increase in 2007. However, effective countrywide eradication may alter this trend.

Table 1: Expected opium poppy cultivation trends in 2007

Cultivation trend in 2007
No. of provinces
(15 provinces)
Uruzgan, Zabul, Hilmand, Kandahar, Day Kundi
Nimroz, Hirat, Badghis
Nangarhar, Kunar Laghman
Kabul, Kapisa, Khost, Ghazni
(7 provinces)
Balkh, Saripul, Samangan Bamyan, Jawzan
No change
(6 provinces)
Opium poppy-free
(6 provinces)
Panjshir, Parwan, Wardak, Logar, Paktya, Paktika

In 2006, opium poppy cultivation increased in 13 provinces, decreased in eight provinces and remained at the same level in seven provinces; six provinces were found to be opium poppy-free (Annual Opium Survey 2006 Report, UNODC). The 2006 ORAS pointed to an increase in cultivation, which was confirmed by survey results reported in August 2006. A total area of 165,000 hectares was under opium poppy cultivation in 2006, which represents an increase of 59 per cent as compared to 2005. That increase was chiefly attributable to large-scale poppy cultivation in the South, particularly in the Hilmand province. A decrease in cultivation was observed in the northern provinces in 2006.

The 2007 ORAS indicates a decrease in poppy cultivation in the North and North-East, but an increase in the main opium poppy-growing areas of the southern provinces, which may result in an overall increase in opium poppy cultivation in 2007.

However, these trends may be affected by the eradication campaign. While the Government and international stakeholders remain committed to eradication, few 6 Afghanistan Opium Winter Rapid Assessment Survey 2007 eradication activities had been reported in the provinces of Nimroz, Farah, Nangarhar, Laghman and Badakhshan by mid-January 2007 (only 653 ha of crops had been eradicated). To date, no eradication activities have been implemented in the northern and southern provinces.

The 2007 ORAS highlights the following key cultivation trends as compared to 2006:

- A sharp increase in cultivation in the provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Uruzgan;

- A sharp decrease in the northern provinces (Balkh, Samangan, Saripul) and in Ghor;

- An increase in the Hilmand and Kandahar provinces;

- Six provinces continue to be poppy-free.