So I'm reading the morning news on the CNN website like I do every morning and I come across the headline "Afghan farmers give up opium for wheat." I think, "yes, finally." So I clicked on the story but then realized it wasn't what I expected. CNN Story
Afghan farmers began growing poppies for one of two reasons: (1) Opium was more valuable than grain so they could make more money off of it, and/or (2) They were forced by the Taliban to grow opium because that's where the Taliban got their funds to operate.
So when I saw the headline, I thought one or two things might have happened: (1) People were starving making grain more valuable than poppies, and/or (2) The Taliban had been pushed out of areas making it possible for farmers to grow other crops. Neither of these things have happened.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been giving farmers seeds and fertilizers, plus helping them with irrigation. Okay, that's good, but what's to stop the Taliban from coming in and destroying the crops or terrorizing these people if they don't grow poppies for the Taliban? What's to prevent these farmers from going back to growing poppies if they discover there's more money to be had growing the more lucrative crop?
This is about survival for these people. They make so little money to survive on that they have to grow the most profitable crop. They also need to live and if they have to choose between being attacked and killed by the Taliban or cooperating with them, you can predict which choice they will make.
I got the impression that this change-over is happening in relatively safe areas, but there was no mention that the Taliban had been irradicated from these areas. If we know nothing else about the Taliban, we should know, they are persistent and they don't just go away. They regroup and return. There are no easy answers, are there?