Report Draws Funds for Afghan Region

News and Press Release
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IWPR story into increased poppy production in Kapisa spurs authorities to provide extra cash for eradication of crop.

By IWPR - Afghanistan
4 May 11

Officials in the Tagab district of Kapisa province have said that an IWPR report on poppy cultivation in the district proved invaluable in them getting a 1.5 million US dollar grant from central government to help with efforts to persuade farmers to grow other crops. (See: Opium Poppies Creep Back in Afghan Province)

The story, published on March 30, detailed the factors behind the renewed cultivation of poppy in the district, highlighting an increase in the price of opium and the lack of assistance to farmers in finding alternatives. Residents accused the government of reneging on promises to reward them if they switched to other crops.

Local officials said that IWPR reporter Maiwand Safi’s questions had helped alert them to the problem even before the report was published, and spurred them to seek further assistance from Kabul.

Director of the counter-narcotics department in Kapisa province, Abdul Alim Ayar, said, “I want to first thank the IWPR reporter for getting in touch with us regarding this problem, for collecting and analysing information about the different factors behind the issue and for drawing our attention to the matter which motivated us to take serious action.”

This information had enabled them to set up meetings with officials from the ministry of counter- narcotics, he added, which resulted in the extra funds being allocated to assist with poppy eradication in the district.

The money will be used to both encourage farmers to grow alternative crops and promote the regeneration of the region.

“If media outlets make such efforts, all our affairs will change for the better, people will be more content and the government will have no headaches,” Ayar added.

Some farmers in Tagab said they had initially scoffed at the reporter’s interest in their situation.

One local, Samiullah, said that when the elders returned delighted from the governor’s office with the news that, due to the work of a journalist, their district had been given 1.5 million dollars “I remembered the reporter who said he was from IWPR. He came with a notebook and pencil and interviewed me.

“In fact, I even laughed at him the first time, thinking ‘how he will be able to change anything with a notebook and a pencil’. Now I know how powerful that pencil was.”

Tagab district police chief Pacha Gol Bakhtiar also praised Safi for alerting him to the problem.

“When the IWPR reporter contacted me several times regarding the re-cultivation of poppy, I summoned the elders of the area and shared this matter with them,” he said. “I told them that poppy was being grown in their area and they had to stop this from happening.”

Bakhtiar said that the elders had agreed to his demands, adding, “I have reports that poppy fields were eradicated in most areas after that meeting.”

Another Tagab resident, Shahpoor, said, “I am surprised that the government is going to provide a poor district like Tagab with 1.5 million dollars. Now, the electricity supply is even going to be extended. May God bless anyone who assisted in this regard.”