Local authorities in the southern Afghan province of Helmand are hoping to provide local farmers with an alternative to growing poppy by rolling out a project to plant fruit and nut orchards.
Officials and farmers say that lucrative crops, especially the highly-valued pistachios, will help replace narcotics. Helmand province has long been Afghanistan’s leading producer of drugs.
According to the provincial department of agriculture, irrigation and livestock, 150 pistachio orchards have been planted so far this year under a UN Alternative Development project. A further 400 orchards are planned.
Pistachios are particularly suited to Helmand’s soil and hot, arid climate, and newly-planted saplings can be productive in three to four years.