Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Harvest Season in Helmand

Photographs by Safai, Ahmad Shah Patsoon and Abaceen Nasimi.
By IWPR
  • Men harvest opium poppies in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in April 2007.  Photo by Safai.
    Men harvest opium poppies in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in April 2007. Photo by Safai.
  • Workers flock Helmand’s capital, Lashkargah, from as far away as Pakistan to take part in the poppy harvest. Photo by Ahmad Shah Patsoon.
    Workers flock Helmand’s capital, Lashkargah, from as far away as Pakistan to take part in the poppy harvest. Photo by Ahmad Shah Patsoon.
  • A man sells tools used to collect opium paste from poppy bulbs. Photo by Safai.
    A man sells tools used to collect opium paste from poppy bulbs. Photo by Safai.
  • Workers meet with landowners to negotiate their wages before going out into the fields. Photo by Abaceen Nasimi.
    Workers meet with landowners to negotiate their wages before going out into the fields. Photo by Abaceen Nasimi.
  • A vendor sells tools to scrape poppy bulbs, allowing opium paste to ooze out to be collected later. Photo by Abaceen Nasimi.
    A vendor sells tools to scrape poppy bulbs, allowing opium paste to ooze out to be collected later. Photo by Abaceen Nasimi.
  • Workers scrape poppy bulbs. Paste is visible on bulbs that have already been scraped. Photo by Safai.
    Workers scrape poppy bulbs. Paste is visible on bulbs that have already been scraped. Photo by Safai.
  • A man smokes opium through a homemade water pipe in Lashkar Gah. Photo by Safai.
    A man smokes opium through a homemade water pipe in Lashkar Gah. Photo by Safai.
  • Recovering opium addicts rest at a treatment centre in Lashkar Gah. Photo by Safai.
    Recovering opium addicts rest at a treatment centre in Lashkar Gah. Photo by Safai.
  • Police conduct a raid on an opium processing plant in Lashkar Gah in July 2007. Photo by Safai.
    Police conduct a raid on an opium processing plant in Lashkar Gah in July 2007. Photo by Safai.
  • Opium smugglers are detained at police headquarters in Lashkar Gah. Photo by Safai.
    Opium smugglers are detained at police headquarters in Lashkar Gah. Photo by Safai.
  • Police use a dump truck to transport seized opium to a site where it will be destroyed. Photo by Safai.
    Police use a dump truck to transport seized opium to a site where it will be destroyed. Photo by Safai.
  • Opium oozes out of bags dumped at the destruction site. Photo by Safai.
    Opium oozes out of bags dumped at the destruction site. Photo by Safai.
  • Police burn confiscated opium. Photo by Safai.
    Police burn confiscated opium. Photo by Safai.
  • IWPR reporter Mohamamd Ilyas Dayee interviews Fazal Ahmad Shirzad, the head of counter-narcotics in Helmand. Photo by Safai.
    IWPR reporter Mohamamd Ilyas Dayee interviews Fazal Ahmad Shirzad, the head of counter-narcotics in Helmand. Photo by Safai.

Counter-narcotics officers are fighting a losing battle in Afghanistan, which last year supplied a record 93 per cent of the world’s opium, according the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. More than 50 per cent of Afghanistan’s opium was grown in the southern province of Helmand. Most of that opium is processed into heroin, feeding the habits of addicts worldwide.

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