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University of Oslo (UiO) (2010)

Afghan Opium : Critical assessment of the size of opium cultivation and the incentives of farmers

Presterud, Ane Ofstad

Titre : Afghan Opium : Critical assessment of the size of opium cultivation and the incentives of farmers

Auteur : Presterud, Ane Ofstad

Université de soutenance : University of Oslo (UiO)

Grade : Master of Philosophy in Economics degree 2010

From being a small scale producer of opium, the Afghan drug industry has grown dramatically during the last three decades. According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) the Afghan production now accounts for 79 % of all illicit opium in the world. The money from the industry helps finance conflicting groups in the country, such as the Taliban. The vast amounts of valuables tied to the industry further fuels conflicts as the stakes get higher. At the same time opium poppy is a crop highly adaptable to difficult conditions and has been the safe crop for farmers living in insecure areas. The first goal of this thesis is to summarize the theoretical expositions on the growth of the industry and to provide an estimate of the cultivation of opium poppy in 2005, based on micro data from the National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA) from 2005. The thesis also looks closer at provincial differences, the total number of people involved in the industry and reported opium eradication episodes. When comparing the results from the NRVA data to the reports of UNODC it is evident that the patterns of the Afghan opium industry are very different in the two expositions. The size of opium poppy cultivation in 2005 is smaller by NRVA estimation than what is claimed by UNODC, but more striking is the difference in number of households involved in the opium production. While UNODC estimates that about 309 000 families was cultivating opium poppy in Afghanistan in 2005, the same number was no more than 90 000 by the NRVA data. At the same time, on average each of these households cultivates larger amounts of poppy than what UNODC claims. The second part of the thesis is dedicated to the investigation of poppy farmers’ characteristics and their incentives for choice of crop. The thesis makes an overview of the theoretical work on the subject and compares the theory to findings in data from the NRVA survey. From the information available in the NRVA data it is evident that the average poppy farmer is not poorer than the rest of the population. On the contrary these families seem to have higher income, lower debt and in general better access to assets than the average rural household. The choice of the farmers regarding opium poppy cultivation seems more linked to the security situation than to their lack of resources. The end of the thesis also includes an investigation of other actors in the Afghan opium business, a part of the industry that has been subject to limited prior research.


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