Tackling the Afghan heroin problem one pomegranate at a time

It’s a well known fact that Afghanistan produces 90 per cent of the world’s opium which according to Tom Coghian of the Times Online generates almost all of the heroin consumed in Britain. However it seems that one of those one time addicts who has gone on to better things may just have a plan to reduce those figures with something as simple as a pomegranate.

The idea is the brainchild of James Brett; the founder of Pomegreat – a fruit juice company, and involves both the Afghan government and the farmers in the country. the main reason why Afghan farmers grow the poppies in the first place is because it brings money into their families that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to earn.

Mr. Brett discovered this during a trip to Kabul as he drove past the poppy fields which he related to Coghain

On impulse he stopped his car and went up to a farmer.

He said: “I talked to him about the effects of heroin and also the possibility of pomegranate. He explained about how he lived and why he grew opium. I explained how it was possible to change this situation. He agreed with what was said.”

The Afghan Government has offered support to the scheme, dubbed POM354. The scheme aims to raise annual sponsorship of £8 per tree, which would provide farmers with a salary through the five years it takes the saplings to start producing fruit.

After that, claims Mr Brett, pomegranate can generate more income than the equivalent opium crop.

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Currently an opium farmer in Afghanistan can earn $2,000 to $3,000 per acre but by switching to growing pomegranates they could earn up to $7,500 for each acre of orchard per year. The only other problem that could face farmers wanting to switch would be the various insurgent groups who depend on the opium trade for their funding or terrorist operations.