Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 22nd February 2005.

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Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the (a) projects and (b) measures in progress (i) to end the production of opium and (ii) to substitute the production of opium with a sustainable agricultural sector in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The UK, as lead nation, is committed to supporting the Afghan Government in the implementation of their comprehensive National Drug Control Strategy and, in particular, the 1384 (2005) Counter Narcotics Implementation Plan. President Karzai launched the plan during the visit of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to Kabul on 16 February. The eight pillars of the plan include the development of the criminal justice system, the creation of alternative livelihoods for farmers and strengthening interdiction and law enforcement measures. The UK and its international partners are supporting many projects across all of these strands. It is too early to make an assessment of cultivation in 2005 but due to a number of factors there may be reduced planting this year.

I also refer the hon. Member to the written statement I made on Afghanistan: Counter Narcotics on 29 November 2004, Hansard, columns 17–18WS; I hope to make a further statement shortly.

Since then, we have increased our efforts on alternative livelihoods for poppy growers to $50 million this year, bringing to $100 million the amount the UK is spending this year on counter narcotics activity in Afghanistan.

The creation of alternative livelihood opportunities and an effective agricultural sector is crucial both forcounter narcotics efforts and for Afghanistan's longer-term development. An estimated 80 per cent. of the country's labour force are employed in the agricultural sector, though individuals' livelihoods strategies are often complex and may involve a number of different types of income generating activity. Action to develop licit alternative rural livelihoods must take place on many levels and include both long-term development and short-term measures.

However, rural development assistance is provided to all provinces across Afghanistan through national programmes managed by the Ministry for Reconstruction and Rural Development (MRRD), funded from the national development budget (and, soon, the new Counter Narcotics Trust Fund) and supported by the international community. Each programme focuses on redeveloping the infrastructure and underlying conditions necessary for growth, the development of an effective agricultural sector and viable licit alternatives to poppy cultivation.

Short-term seed delivery programmes are being implemented by donors, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The World Bank recently committed US$75 million for quick disbursing activities on alternative livelihoods and is currently developing an accelerated integrated rural development programme.

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