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OPEC grants $20m for boosting agriculture in Balkh

Mazar-i-Sharif, December 11, 2007 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The Organisation of the Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) has pledged $20 million for the promotion of agriculture in the northern Balkh province.

Balkh Governor Atta Muhammad Noor said this at a press conference in Mazar-i-Sharif on his return from a two-week visit to Austria, where he was invited to a conference on cultivation opium poppies and smuggling in Vienna.

He said representatives from European countries and the UN deputy secretary attended the conference. Atta added he was invited to the moot because poppy cultivation had had been eliminated from the province and there was relative peace in Balkh.

In recognition of poppy eradication, he pointed out, the OPEC granted Balkh $20 million to boost agriculture in the province for the achievement. The governor promised the grant would be spent on providing farmers alternative livelihoods and establishing agricultural farms.

The USAID and WFP have also pledged millions of dollars for the promotion of agriculture in Balkh, Samangan, Jawzjan, Faryab and Sar-i-Pul provinces. Atta raised the issue of alternative livelihoods for Afghan farmers and asked the international community to support the government in eradication of poppies and training police.

Atta argued although the international community accused Afghanistan of producing over 80 percent of world opium, no Afghan could sell drugs in London or Paris. He suggested the traffickers were mostly foreigners.