KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan saw a drop in opium poppy cultivation in 2015 for the first time in six years, according to a U.N. and Afghan government joint survey released Wednesday.
The report's authors said unfavorable weather conditions were a major reason for the decline. They also pointed out there was a change in the methodology used to estimate areas of poppy cultivation, and while there was certainly a decrease, the percentage may not be exact.
The annual survey, published by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan's Ministry of Counter Narcotics, showed a 19-percent decrease in cultivation to 183,000 hectares (452,200 acres), down from 224,000 hectares (553,500 acres) last year.
Lower levels of cultivation meant there was also a 48-percent reduction in the potential production of opium this year, 3,300 tons compared to 6,400 tons last year. Average opium yield per hectare (acre) was also down 36 percent. Eradication was up 40 percent to 3,760 hectares (9290 acres), from 2,692 hectares (6650 acres) last year.
Officials said public awareness campaigns also played a role in the favorable statistics.
"We did our best to make farmers understand how dangerous that is for Afghanistan and how harmful it could be for the future of our country," said Zabiullah Daim, media adviser to Afghanistan's counter-narcotics minister.
The Taliban, which have been waging war against the Afghan government since 2001, are heavily involved in poppy cultivation and opium distribution.
Billions of dollars have been spent on counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan in the past decade, including programs encouraging farmers to switch to other cash crops like wheat, fruit and saffron.