Plowing Under Poppy for Pomegranates

Mr. Rahmatullah is a 40-year-old farmer from Wazir village of Zheray district, Kandahar. He chose to eradicate his ready-to-harvest poppy crop and plant a pomegranate orchard in its place in order to provide a better future for his family and earn a larger, licit income.

Every year, Rahmatullah and his brother, Abdul Manan, would cultivate poppy on their two hectares of land to support their fifteen member family. “For years, we cultivate poppies on this land to feed our children. Other licit crops do not produce sustainable income to rely on,” says Rahmatullah.

The Kandahar Food Zone (KFZ) program recently launched a project to assist in establishing modern pomegranate orchards for poppy growers in Kandahar. “I was amazed when selected as a KFZ beneficiary through a transparent process. Farmers like me who do not have references hardly ever get assistance. KFZ is a life changer for helpless farmers,” says Rahmatullah.

He articulates, “My father and ancestors grew poppy on this two hectares of land. It’s ready to yield. I spent 150,000 AFA (USD $2,238) on growing it, but today I am eradicating it so that our children are not engaged in poppy as we were. The pomegranate orchard will provide us secure income for the future.”

With Mr. Rahmatullah’s permission, a tractor driver eradicates Rahmatullah’s two hectares of poppy crop in order to prepare the land for establishment of the new orchard.

In March 2017, the KFZ subcontractor responsible for new orchard establishment eradicated Rahmatullah’s poppy crop to prepare his two hectares of poppy-eradicated land and three hectares of abandoned land for the establishment of an additional new orchard. After soil preparation is completed, the KFZ program will provide Rahmatullah with 3,470 pomegranate saplings to plant on his five hectares of land and alfalfa seed and fertilizers to grow a perennial inter-crop in his orchards. These improvements and inputs will provide him income while the pomegranate trees mature.

Rahamatullah emphasized, “Farmers that have pomegranate orchards earn more profit than poppy growing farmers. Therefore, I will encourage other poppy growers to enroll in the KFZ program, I am confident they will also eradicate their poppy for pomegranate orchards.” He was expecting approximately 750,000 AFA (USD $11,194) from poppy, while after five years he expects to make approximately 3,123,000 AFA (USD $46,611) annually from his five hectares of pomegranate orchard. This equates to over 400% increase in income on this land from solely licit crops.