Policing the Poppy Fields

Policing the Poppy Fields

After last year's record opium crop in Afghanistan, counter narcotics is a top priority for Britain, and the Afghan Government.

Over the last year, BBC correspondent Kate Clark has had rare access to the fight against a trade which fuels corruption and insecurity and bankrolls the Taleban.

In this two-part series, she asks just how effective these efforts can be.

Access granted

Kate Clark was granted unique access to Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Britain's Ambassador to Afghanistan, and his team as they join forces with the Afghan Government to take on the country's drug barons.

The United Nations have said that the Taleban made an estimated US$100m (£50m) in 2007 from Afghan farmers growing poppy for the opium trade.

Opium produced from the plants fuels the insurgency, threatens the stability of the country and leads to growing drug addiction in Afghanistan and the wider world.

The poppy plant poses the biggest threat to the fledgling democracy in Afghanistan.

In this series, Kate meets farmers in the northern province of Balkh and the eastern province of Nangahar, as the Afghan Government embarks on a battle for hearts and minds.

Growing addiction

The Afghan government says that the growing of poppy plants is against the teachings of Islam.

The number of addicts has quadrupled in two years and there are claims that many policemen are on drugs.

Opium and heroin addiction is eating away at the fabric of Afghan society.

A derelict building in the centre of Kabul is a stark symbol of the scale of the problem - up to one thousand addicts congregate there regularly to buy and smoke heroin.

But many farmers say that without the poppy crop it's hard to make ends meet.

In Balkh, they talk about growing cannabis instead.

In Nangahar, a farmer says he's had to sell his young daughter to pay off his debts.

Poppy growers feel betrayed.

They say promises of help to find alternative livelihoods have not materialised.

An Afghan Government minister warns that this anger could be playing into the hands of the Taleban and other anti-Government forces.

More from this series

  • Part One
    Kate Clark reports from Helmand where the Taleban insurgency is at its most fierce.
  • Part Two
    Kate Clark reports from those provinces where an opium ban is in force.