Afghanistan: Failure of Expectation

The Taliban is not the only threat facing Afghanistan. The rise in poppy cultivation places the country at risk of moving from narco-economy to narco-state, and as eradication efforts continue to prove wildly unsuccessful, the threat increases. Yet the reasons for poppy's growing influence in the country are not hard to determine. Demographic shifts in the population, decades of war, the financial support it provides the Taliban and war lords, government corruption, and what many farmers feel is a lack of understanding on the part of their own government, all contribute.

For Afghan farmers there are a number of distinct advantages to growing poppy. It is a relatively easy crop to tend, a plus in a country where almost all labor is done by hand. Poppy also needs little water compared to other crops, an asset in a country where all irrigation is gradient fed, making poppy a practical choice.

Missteps by the U.S. government following the fall of the Taliban add to current eradication difficulties. In the years following the fall of the Taliban, the U.S. offered assistance to farmers willing to forgo poppy cultivation. But farmers say the assistance never arrived. The result has been a failure of expectation on the part of farmers, and a return to poppy.

In "Failure of Expectation" reporter Shaun McCanna goes to the poppy fields of Afghanistan, and speaks with farmers who feel that growing poppy is their only choice.

A Casualty of the Afghan Opium Trade

As the world's biggest supplier of opium and its derivatives, Afghanistan not only faces skyrocketing cases of drug violence and addiction, but also of girls being traded to settle drug-related debts.

Afghanistan: "Failure of Expectation" on Foreign Exchange

Spring marks the beginning of the fighting season in Afghanistan, and as Afghan and western forces prepare for the Taliban offensive, others will be preparing to battle the country's second greatest threat: poppy.

But eradicating Afghanistan's most prolific and illicit crop will be hampered by past missteps and what Afghan farmers perceive as a lack of understanding when it comes to the problems they face.

A video by Shaun McCanna and Lee Ann Nelson
Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting / Flamingo Productions

Round three: Winning essays

In June 2008, The Pulitzer Center partnered with Helium to continue its third round of the Global Issues/Citizen Voices Writing Contest. Contestants chose topics for their essays from prompts related to different Pulitzer Center reporting projects. Find their winning essays below.

How does stigma and discrimination, as witnessed in Jamaica, perpetuate the global HIV/AIDS epidemic?
Read winning essay by Glynnis Hayward