Photos: Afghanistan woos farmers with saffron to sap poppy production

The Afghan government and international aid agencies have been trying to wean farmers from the lucrative poppy cultivation and transition instead to saffron for a number of years. However, a steep returns barrier and lack of established market channels made progress slow with poppy and opium production still rampant.

Updated On Oct 31, 2017 03:47 PM IST 11 Photos
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Women separate stigma from the saffron crocus, during a harvest near the village of Goriyan in Herat, Afghanistan on November 08, 2010. Over the past decade, Afghanistan has tried to give farmers alternative cash crops such as fruits and saffron to wean them away from poppy farming --the lifeblood of the Taliban insurgency. Despite counter-narcotic efforts shifts towards saffron have shown little results. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Women separate stigma from the saffron crocus, during a harvest near the village of Goriyan in Herat, Afghanistan on November 08, 2010. Over the past decade, Afghanistan has tried to give farmers alternative cash crops such as fruits and saffron to wean them away from poppy farming --the lifeblood of the Taliban insurgency. Despite counter-narcotic efforts shifts towards saffron have shown little results. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Updated on Oct 31, 2017 03:47 PM IST
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Workers pluck saffron flowers on a farm in Herat. In western Herat, which borders Iran, the challenge is seen to be able to convince farmers of the long term benefits of replacing poppies with the purple crocus plants whose highly prized stigmas produce the spice used for seasoning and colouring agent in cooking. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Workers pluck saffron flowers on a farm in Herat. In western Herat, which borders Iran, the challenge is seen to be able to convince farmers of the long term benefits of replacing poppies with the purple crocus plants whose highly prized stigmas produce the spice used for seasoning and colouring agent in cooking. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Updated on Oct 31, 2017 03:47 PM IST
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An Afghan woman picks saffron flowers in a field in Herat. The Taliban, which banned poppy cultivation when it ruled Afghanistan, now appears to wield significant control over the country’s heroin production, providing insurgents with billions of dollars, officials told Agence France-Presse. (Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

An Afghan woman picks saffron flowers in a field in Herat. The Taliban, which banned poppy cultivation when it ruled Afghanistan, now appears to wield significant control over the country’s heroin production, providing insurgents with billions of dollars, officials told Agence France-Presse. (Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

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Local poppy farmers harvest the opium sap from the bulb of the plant during a ten-day harvesting period in Fayzabad, Afghanistan. Farmers are paid about US$163 for 1kg of the black sap - the raw opium that oozes out of poppy seed pods when they are slit with a knife. Once refined into heroin, the Taliban sells it in regional markets for between US$2,300 and US$3,500 a kilogram. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images)

Local poppy farmers harvest the opium sap from the bulb of the plant during a ten-day harvesting period in Fayzabad, Afghanistan. Farmers are paid about US$163 for 1kg of the black sap - the raw opium that oozes out of poppy seed pods when they are slit with a knife. Once refined into heroin, the Taliban sells it in regional markets for between US$2,300 and US$3,500 a kilogram. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images)

Updated on Oct 31, 2017 03:47 PM IST
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Afghan workers pluck saffron flowers on a farm in Herat. For farmers, poppy is a lucrative crop which can quadruple their income compared to cotton or corn. The government, along with international aid agencies, has been promoting saffron but these efforts have not shifted production away from poppy. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Afghan workers pluck saffron flowers on a farm in Herat. For farmers, poppy is a lucrative crop which can quadruple their income compared to cotton or corn. The government, along with international aid agencies, has been promoting saffron but these efforts have not shifted production away from poppy. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

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An Afghan holds a bouquet of poppies at a farm near the city of Kandahar on May 13, 2011. The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium indicates that in 2015, about 1,500 hectares grew saffron, while 183,000 hectares grew poppy. Afghan farmers were using about 122 times the amount of land to grow the opium-producing plant. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

An Afghan holds a bouquet of poppies at a farm near the city of Kandahar on May 13, 2011. The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium indicates that in 2015, about 1,500 hectares grew saffron, while 183,000 hectares grew poppy. Afghan farmers were using about 122 times the amount of land to grow the opium-producing plant. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Updated on Oct 31, 2017 03:47 PM IST
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An Afghan woman gathers saffron flowers after picking them in a field on the outskirt of Herat. Unsurprisingly, poppy cultivation levels are also on the rise. According to the UN Office on Drug and Crime, poppy cultivation increased by 10% and average yield per hectare increased by 30% between 2015 and 2016. (Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

An Afghan woman gathers saffron flowers after picking them in a field on the outskirt of Herat. Unsurprisingly, poppy cultivation levels are also on the rise. According to the UN Office on Drug and Crime, poppy cultivation increased by 10% and average yield per hectare increased by 30% between 2015 and 2016. (Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

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A boy sorts out saffron flowers that were picked on the outskirt of Herat before they are processed for saffron. There slow adoption of saffron is caused by two factors. First, the plant requires large capital investment, bringing significant returns only after two years of planting. For poor farmers, without substantial savings, planting saffron remains out of reach. (Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

A boy sorts out saffron flowers that were picked on the outskirt of Herat before they are processed for saffron. There slow adoption of saffron is caused by two factors. First, the plant requires large capital investment, bringing significant returns only after two years of planting. For poor farmers, without substantial savings, planting saffron remains out of reach. (Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

Updated on Oct 31, 2017 03:47 PM IST
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A woman separates a stigma of during the saffron harvest near the village of Goriyan in Herat. Another reason despite inputs by saffron unions is the lack of efforts to raise awareness about Afghan saffron in international markets. Without strong marketing efforts, there is little international or local demand for Afghan saffron, which discourages small farmers. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

A woman separates a stigma of during the saffron harvest near the village of Goriyan in Herat. Another reason despite inputs by saffron unions is the lack of efforts to raise awareness about Afghan saffron in international markets. Without strong marketing efforts, there is little international or local demand for Afghan saffron, which discourages small farmers. (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Updated on Oct 31, 2017 03:47 PM IST
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Crocus Staves lay on a table, during the saffron harvest near the village of Goriyan in Herat. In contrast, farmers receive substantial support for growing poppy, including receiving credit from opium traders. US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement told AFP: ‘More than 90 per cent of all heroin consumed in the US is of Mexican origin. But in Canada, more than 90 per cent of the heroin consumed is of Afghan origin.’ (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Crocus Staves lay on a table, during the saffron harvest near the village of Goriyan in Herat. In contrast, farmers receive substantial support for growing poppy, including receiving credit from opium traders. US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement told AFP: ‘More than 90 per cent of all heroin consumed in the US is of Mexican origin. But in Canada, more than 90 per cent of the heroin consumed is of Afghan origin.’ (Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Updated on Oct 31, 2017 03:47 PM IST
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An Afghan worker sorts saffron at a cleaning centre in Herat. Until such issues are addressed, poppy cultivation will continue to dominate Afghanistan, which produces 80 percent of the world’s opium, with around 4,800 tonnes of the drug bringing in revenues of three billion dollars in 2016, according to the United Nations. If trends follow previous years, according to the UNODC opium production would still provide about half of the Taliban’s revenues as it did in 2016. (Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

An Afghan worker sorts saffron at a cleaning centre in Herat. Until such issues are addressed, poppy cultivation will continue to dominate Afghanistan, which produces 80 percent of the world’s opium, with around 4,800 tonnes of the drug bringing in revenues of three billion dollars in 2016, according to the United Nations. If trends follow previous years, according to the UNODC opium production would still provide about half of the Taliban’s revenues as it did in 2016. (Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

Updated on Oct 31, 2017 03:47 PM IST
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