Multi-million dollar project for eliminating poppy cultivation fails
PESHAWAR: A report of the auditor general (AG) on the Bajauar Tribal Agency’s ‘Agricultural and Area Development Project’ revealed that the 5-year project had failed to achieve its desired objectives. The project, worth Rs 260 million, which was jointly funded by the governments of Pakistan and the United States, was supposed to be implemented from 1989 to 1994. Its objectives included the elimination of poppy crops in the Bajauar Agency by improving the socio-economic conditions of the people of the area and by providing them with alternative means of revenue generation.
In September 1988, an agreement was signed between Pakistan and the USA stipulating the financing of Agricultural and Area Development Projects for the Malakand, Mohmand and Bajauar agencies, with an initial commitment to spend $ 2.5 million in each agency. It as also agreed that the US would provide an estimated $ 2.5 million in financial assistance for the development of the Bajauar Agency over a period of five years, subject the Congress and State Department’s approval.
Poppy is grown in the area because it requires fewer inputs, including water and capital, and has a higher per acre yield than other cash crops grown in the area, an official of the Audit department told Daily Times. He said that one hectare of poppy produces approximately 27kg of opium, which is worth up to Rs 50,000 per kilo.
The report revealed that the project had failed to achieve most of its goals, which had not only reduced the project’s utility, but had also reduced local support for the project, forcing some to restart poppy cultivation.
Based on the findings of the audit, the AG has made various recommendations for improving the situation. He has recommended that project directors adhere to the objectives outlined in the PC-1, which must be revised by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, the body that approved the original PC-1.