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Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many poppy fields have been (a) identified and (b) destroyed by UK forces in Afghanistan in each year since 2001; and if he will make a statement. [51606]

Dr. Howells: I have been asked to reply.

There was no system in place to identify poppy fields for destruction between 2001 and late 2003. Since late 2003, however, the UK has supported the Afghans in identifying 35–50,000 hectares of poppy cultivation annually. Areas identified for possible eradication are determined by a number of factors, including the security situation and the availability of alternative livelihoods.

On the destruction, or eradication, of poppy fields, the UK has provided and continues to provide financial and logistical support to a number of Afghan law enforcement forces. Afghanistan's first comprehensive eradication programme was initiated during the 2004–05 growing season. Final eradication figures in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey for 2005 can be found on the UNODC website at

UK military forces deployed under International Security Assistance Force can contribute to the broader counter-narcotics effort by providing the secure environment in which the rule of law can be applied; reconstruction can take place; and legal rural livelihoods can be developed. They are not there to take direct action against the drugs trade, including the eradication of poppy fields.

Alternative Livelihoods Programme

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will list occasions on which his Department attempted to maintain an alternative livelihoods programme in a country experiencing an ongoing conflict. [53837]

Hilary Benn: DFID's only current bilateral support for alternative livelihoods (i.e. alternatives to drug crop production) is in Afghanistan. Here, DFID's alternative livelihoods programme was developed substantially after full-blown conflict ended in 2001, although terrorist violence continues in parts of the country where we are supporting the Government to promote alternatives to poppy production. DFID also supports a UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) project in Myanmar, which aims to support the local population in meeting their food security needs following the banning of opium production.

DFID is currently considering assistance to help improve social services and provide livelihoods opportunities for poor people in the southern poor districts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab in Pakistan. These areas either experience low intensity terrorist violence or share a boundary with conflict areas.
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In past years (projects starting in the 1990s), DFID supported alternative livelihoods programmes in Pakistan (£4.4 million) that aimed to reduce poppy cultivation, and in Bolivia (£720,000) and Peru (£3.2 million) that aimed to reduce coca production, including projects led by UN drugs control agencies. A further £16 million was provided in the 1980s and 90s to broader agricultural research projects in non coca-growing areas of Bolivia of which some 10–20 per cent. may have had an impact on coca-growing households in adjacent areas. Some of these programmes coincided with periods of conflict and terrorist violence.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the (a) success criteria, (b) the budget for each of the next five years and (c) the expected duration is for the alternative livelihoods programme in Afghanistan. [53838]

Hilary Benn: Afghanistan is the only country where DFID has a bilateral alternative livelihoods programme (i.e. alternatives to drug crop production). The Afghan Government launched its updated National Drug Control Strategy at the London Conference in January which sets out the Afghan Governments policies and plans for tackling Afghanistan's narcotics trade for the coming three years and highlights four key priorities. These are (i) targeting the trafficker and trade, (ii) strengthening and diversifying legal livelihoods, (iii) developing effective counter-narcotics institutions and (iv) demand reduction. The UK has a three year plan to support this and DFID leads on UK support for alternative livelihoods.

Between 2003–04 and 2005–06 DFID's spending on alternative livelihoods in Afghanistan has increased ten fold. The forecast spend for this year is in the region of £45 million and we hope to maintain similar levels of funding in future years. The DFID livelihoods programme will support the Afghan Government's efforts to mitigate the impact of those who have lost their livelihoods, through the expansion of key Afghan Government National Programmes into priority poppy growing provinces; support programmes to improve farm and off-farm opportunities for poor Afghan farmers and labourers to access legal income from sustainable legal employment, credit productive assets such as infrastructure and social assets such as education and health services, and markets for legal goods; help generate an improved policy and planning environment for alternative livelihood programmes; and support greater financial and technical support from other donors, delivered in a more coherent manner in line with the Afghan Government's policies and plans.

The success criterion for alternative livelihoods is a 10 per cent. year-on-year increase in uptake of legal livelihood opportunities. However success is highly dependant on progress with other strands of the National Drug Control Strategy, in particular improving the capacity of counter-narcotics institutions, law enforcement capacity and success in targeting the trafficker and trade.
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The experience from other countries shows that achieving sustainable reductions in drug cultivation takes a long-time. There are no quick solutions. We will continue to support the development of alternative livelihoods as long as there is a need to do so to help the Afghan Government achieve its counter-narcotics objectives.


Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in those regions of Sudan which are subject to the African Union Mission. [52948]

Hilary Benn: The African Union Mission in Sudan covers the three states of Darfur (Western, Northern and Southern). Across the whole of Darfur, there are 1.8 million internally displaced people and 3.4 million dependent on humanitarian assistance. The priority is to provide assistance and protection for them, and to find a political solution that will allow people to return home and rebuild their lives.

Darfur remains highly dependent on food aid. Although this year there is expected to be above average food production, the ability of Darfuris to bring in the harvest depends on security which remains extremely fragile in many areas. Even with a good harvest, an estimated 3 million people in Darfur will still require food aid.

The massive scale of the humanitarian relief effort in Darfur has, however, had a major impact on malnutrition rates, dropping to almost half what they were in the previous year. Likewise the recent WHO Darfur survey showed mortality rates have, in cases, reduced by two-thirds since August 2004.

The UK is the 2nd largest bilateral humanitarian donor in Darfur (after the US), providing over £96 million since September 2003. These funds have meant that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people have been provided with shelter, food, water and basic health care.

However, the situation still remains extremely fragile. I am particularly concerned about the impact that the deteriorating security situation is having on humanitarian operations, especially in South and West Darfur. If aid were reduced because of conflict, insecurity or funding shortages, humanitarian indicators would deteriorate very quickly. That is why improved security and a negotiated political agreement in Abuja are urgently needed.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with (a) the African Union and (b) the UN on the provision of humanitarian support and protection for internally displaced people in Darfur, Sudan (i) up to March, (ii) after September and (c) in the intervening period. [52951]

Hilary Benn: The UK has been a strong supporter of the African Union (AU) mission in Darfur, providing almost £32 million to date. During my trip to Sudan last
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week, I announced an additional £20 million in support of the AU mission. The AU has performed well in very challenging circumstances but the deterioration in security in Darfur since the end of 2005 has been marked by an increase in violence and banditry. This change has underlined that a peace support mission will be required for quite some time. This is why the UK supports the proposed transition from an AU force to a UN operation that will be able to provide the long-term stability required. While the final decision on transfer needs to come from the AU, I welcome their agreement in principle on 12 January and the UN's planning for such a contingency. Any timetable for this transition will depend on negotiations at the AU and UN.

During my visit to both Darfur (El Fasher) and Khartoum last week, I discussed these issues with both the AU (including the new Force Commander) and the UN. I stressed the importance of the AU force continuing to be fully supported and strengthened right up until any transition date. The role the AU plays in providing support to the humanitarian agencies and protecting civilians is critical to the people of Darfur and there cannot be any winding down of effectiveness in anticipation of the UN arriving. The UK, therefore, in addition to providing substantial funding, is encouraging our international partners to maintain and increase their levels of support to the AU. This includes taking forward the recommendations of the December 2005 Joint Assessment Mission which will assist in strengthening the AU's capabilities.

For the future, we support the need for a strong mandate to enable any UN force to protect the people of Darfur and to assist in the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance. We are in regular discussions with our donor partners, the UN and the AU on how any transition would be managed and how international partners could assist, including planning and logistical support. We will continue to encourage the UN and the AU force to co-ordinate their work, wherever possible.

To support the UN in their delivery of humanitarian assistance, in Sudan last week I also announced a £40 million UK contribution to the new Common Humanitarian Fund. This fund will allow the UN's Humanitarian Co-ordinator to fund the most important priorities and help to ensure there is greater co-ordination of the humanitarian effort.
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