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Turning deserts into flowers: settlement and poppy cultivation in southwest Afghanistan

Mansfield, David (2018) Turning deserts into flowers: settlement and poppy cultivation in southwest Afghanistan. Third World Quarterly, 39 (2). pp. 331-349. ISSN 0143-6597

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Identification Number: 10.1080/01436597.2017.1396535


Supply-side interventions are often criticised for reducing illicit drug crop cultivation in one location only for it to rise in another: the ‘balloon effect’. The balloon effect is generally seen as an inevitable consequence of attempts to reduce opium and coca cultivation. But in Afghanistan, there is little evidence of this causal relationship and limited acknowledgement of the socio-economic, political and environmental processes that govern access to the factors of production such as land and labour. This paper examines the settlement of former desert areas in southwestern Afghanistan. It shows how the encroachment on this land and the rapid expansion of opium production since 2003 were supported by affordable deep-well technology, collapsed controls on the use of what is officially ‘government land’ and the relatively high price of opium that endured long after the demise of the Taliban prohibition of 2000/01. Finally, it reveals that the rate of settlement of these areas was affected by an opium ban imposed across the ‘Helmand Food Zone’ from 2008 to 2011 and shows how this drug control effort ultimately helped transform the province, bringing new land under permanent settlement and thereby increasing Helmand’s capacity to cultivate more opium poppy than ever before.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 Southseries Inc.
Divisions: IGA: United States Centre
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2017 14:38
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:37
Projects: EU FP7 Framework LINKSCH Research Project
Funders: European Commission

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