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Background In 2005, The Senlis Council started its research into an Afghan Poppy for Medicine model. The initial findings were released in the form of a Feasibility Study at a conference in Kabul. Building on these initial findings and ongoing extensive field research, The Senlis Council has released its Poppy for Medicine Technical Dossier, including all technical specifications and the entire economic model of the system.

Afghanistan faces an unprecedented security and reconstruction crisis. Resolving Afghanistan’s opium crisis is the key to the international community’s successful stabilisation and development of the country. Yet, by over-emphasising failed counter-narcotics strategies such as forced poppy eradication, the United States-led international community has aggravated the security situation, precluding the very reconstruction and development necessary to remove Afghan farmers’ need to cultivate poppy. In 2006 Afghanistan produced 92% of the world’s total illegal opium, directly involving at least 13% of the country’s population.

A village-based economic solution to Afghanistan’s poppy crisis is available, which links Afghanistan’s two most valuable resources - poppy cultivation and strong local village control systems – through the controlled cultivation of poppy for the village-based production of morphine. Based on extensive on-the-ground research, The Senlis Council has developed a Poppy for Medicine project model for Afghanistan as a means of bringing illegal poppy cultivation under control in an immediate yet sustainable manner. The key feature of the model is that village-cultivated poppy would be transformed into morphine tablets in the Afghan villages. The entire production process, from seed to medicine tablet, can thus be controlled by the village in collaboration with government and international actors, and all economic profits from medicine sales will remain in the village, allowing for economic diversification. As internationally tradable commodities, village-made medicines would also benefit the Afghan government. Pilot projects are needed to enhance the controllability and economic effectiveness of this counter-narcotics initiative.

Current counter-narcotics policies are risking mission failure in Afghanistan

The counter-narcotics policies currently being pursued in an attempt to resolve Afghanistan’s poppy crisis are risking the international community’s entire stabilisation mission, but until the poppy crisis is positively and sustainably addressed, the country’s security and development crises cannot be resolved. As such, if the international community fails to resolve the opium crisis, its mission to stabilise Afghanistan will also fail, leaving the country vulnerable once more to penetration by international terrorists.

In particular, the forced eradication of poppy crops is fuelling support for the Taliban and the insurgency, thereby compromising international troops’ safety and their mission in Afghanistan; and poppy crop substitution programmes are failing Afghanistan’s farming communities. Forced eradication and poppy crop substitution strategies are failing to provide Afghan farmers with access to the resources and assets necessary to phase out illegal poppy cultivation. A careful re-assessment of counter-narcotics strategies in Afghanistan is necessary to successfully address the country’s illegal poppy production.

“If these foreigners really care about the people of Afghanistan, then why do they destroy our crops; why do they deprive us from the only source of our livelihood, without providing us with any alternative? Is this fair?”

Local leader, Kama District, Nangarhar Province, May 2006

A tried and tested, immediately effective Counter-Narcotics Strategy: Poppy for Medicine

Poppy for Medicine is an alternative counter-narcotics strategy that has been successfully implemented in many countries. It involves licensing the controlled cultivation of poppy to produce essential poppy-based medicines such as morphine, and unlicensed poppy cultivation remains a criminal activity.

Poppy for Medicine projects were established in Turkey in the 1970s with the support of the United States and the United Nations, as a means of breaking farmers’ ties with the international illegal heroin market without resorting to forced poppy crop eradication. Within just four years, this strategy successfully brought the country’s illegal poppy crisis under control.

An Afghan village-based model for medicine production and economic development

By transforming poppy into morphine medicines in Afghan villages, the entire poppy cultivation system can be controlled at two levels, by maximising Afghanistan’s renowned tradition of strong local control systems. With medicines being produced in the village, the villagers, together with government officials and international actors, can secure the entire manufacturing process, from the seeds to the final medicine tablets. ‘Exported’ directly from the villages to Kabul and international markets in tablet form, the trade in locally produced medicines can be completely secured.

The economic profits from Poppy for Medicine projects will remain in the village, providing the necessary leverage for farming communities to diversify their economic activities. Further, the profits generated by exporting morphine tables would accommodate all stakeholders, including middle-men and local power-holders. Producing internationally tradable commodities, Poppy for Medicine projects would also benefit the central government.

Locally owned and operated, village-based poppy control models would have beneficial ‘ink blot’ effects on security and economic development in the regions around the villages, and thus complement the international community’s mission in Afghanistan.

An Afghan village-based model for medicine production and economic development

By transforming poppy into morphine medicines in Afghan villages, the entire poppy cultivation system can be controlled at two levels, by maximising Afghanistan’s renowned tradition of strong local control systems. With medicines being produced in the village, the villagers, together with government officials and international actors, can secure the entire manufacturing process, from the seeds to the final medicine tablets. ‘Exported’ directly from the villages to Kabul and international markets in tablet form, the trade in locally produced medicines can be completely secured.

The economic profits from Poppy for Medicine projects will remain in the village, providing the necessary leverage for farming communities to diversify their economic activities. Further, the profits generated by exporting morphine tables would accommodate all stakeholders, including middle-men and local power-holders. Producing internationally tradable commodities, Poppy for Medicine projects would also benefit the central government.

Poppy plants


Locally owned and operated, village-based poppy control models would have beneficial ‘ink blot’ effects on security and economic development in the regions around the villages, and thus complement the international community’s mission in Afghanistan.

Poppy for Medicine model adaptable to local conditions

This village-based Poppy for Medicine model is grounded in proven, local control systems which were documented in extensive sociological and criminological field research undertaken throughout 2005 and 2006. The model can be easily adapted to the specific circumstances of different regions of Afghanistan, where poppy licensing is most needed.

An Afghan-owned solution to the Global Pain Crisis

Given the increasing global demand for essential poppy-based pain medicines such as morphine, Afghanistan is ideally positioned to address the substantial gap in the international market for these medicines.

Exported under special trade frameworks from Afghan villages and used within the region and globally, Afghan morphine would help address the global demand for essential pain medicines, which, according to the International Narcotics Control Board whose mandate is to ensure an adequate supply of morphine for medical and scientific purposes, 80 percent of the world’s population, including Afghanistan, face an acute shortage of essential morphine medicines.

By facilitating the production and promotion of an Afghan humanitarian brand of morphine, the international community can vividly demonstrate that post-conflict states such as Afghanistan have the potential to diversify their economies and become international trade partners.

Pilot Projects needed for next planting season

To fully test the village-based Poppy for Medicine model, pilot projects should be undertaken in the next planting season. These projects will define the precise parameters of Poppy for Medicine projects in different regions.

Download the Poppy for Medicine in Afghanistan pdf here

Pavot Pour Medicaments

Amapola para Medicina

Papaveri per Medicine

Мак Для Медицины в Афганистане