Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Investors promote growing flowers instead of poppies in Afghanistan

A group of Afghan and foreign businessmen have been trying to offer an alternative to Afghan farmers by urging them to grow flowers for perfume instead of poppies for drugs, National Public Radio reported on June 4.

In the face of record breaking poppy harvests and heroin production, the Gulestan Company was formed several years ago by American and Afghan businessmen who sought to help farmers transition from the narcotic crop into the business of growing flowers for perfume. The production process for perfume and heroin are both similar and simple, but according to the article, the new venture has been a frustrating and costly endeavor.

Barnett Rubin is an Afghanistan expert at New York University and one of the founders of the Gulestan Company. He said that despite its potential, the business faced daunting obstacles, both from local farmers and the government.

“After my experience trying to start a legal taxpaying company in Afghanistan, I understand very well why people prefer to go into illegal businesses,” Rubin said, blaming corrupt and inefficient Afghan government officials for many of Gulestan’s problems. “We kept trying to pay this tax, and every time we did, the officials in the local treasury department would ask us for bribes,” he added.

The mounting obstacles are forcing Gulestan’s owners to close the company. But local entrepreneurs like Abdullah Arsallah are not giving up. He hopes to resurrect Gulestan and redirect Afghanistan’s agricultural sector.

“It’s very easy to go into the drug business, but… that will not get us anywhere,” Arsallah said. “It’s a cycle that one has to break.”

For the full article, click here.


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