Opium production currently accounts for around 45% of the GDP of Afghanistan, an astonishing statistic that sees Afghanistan as the world’s largest producer of illegal opium, supplying 93% of the world’s consumption. The Drug industry affects all levels of life in Afghanistan and is linked to politics, religion, endemic corruption, the economy of entire regions and the renewed efforts of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda across the country.
These images were shot over 3 days in conjunction with the Afghan National Interdiction Unit who are working with the American D.E.A in an effort to slow the production and distribution of illegal narcotics. At times it feels as if they are trying to hold back the tide, but their work is an act of faith and principle, and they are in it for the long term. As long as large swathes of Afghanistan are held in fundamentalist hands and as long as dire poverty without alternative are the norm country wide, Opium production will continue to be a familiar sight on the Afghan landscape.
These images range from a brief look at addicts in country, to the burning of 2500kgs of confiscated opium and refined heroin, to the capture of drug dealers as well as portraits with poppy farmers in their fields. This series ends with a few images of Afghan women who are attempting to escape the drug and poverty cycle by working in a vegetable export factory set up by USAID. These women serve to show that alternative industries are possible for Afghans if allowed to develop by the drug barons of the country. Considering the annual revenue generated by Opium production is rumored to be around 3 Billion dollars, it will be a tough transition.