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Photographer's Note

Afghanistan produces over 90% of the world's opium. This powerful narcotic is converted into heroin and most of it finds its way into European, Russian, and U.S. cities (Iran also has a major heroin problem). The opium used in heroin is found in the opium poppy, a plant that produces not only beautiful flowers, but a seed pod that contains the intoxicating substance. When the plant is ready, the green bulb-shaped pods (see photo) of the poppy are scored with a multi-bladed tool, which causes raw opium in the form of a white milky liquid to ooze out. This liquid is left to dry on the outside of the pod (which usually takes about a day) and turns into a brownish gum-like substance that is then scraped off and collected with a flat metal scrapping tool. The pods are scored multiple times until they no longer leak the milky substance. After collecting the gum, it is dried out in the sun and then stored until selling. The villagers I've spoken to say they prefer growing poppy over other crops because of its high return, the success rate of the harvest (it needs little water), and itís long storing capabilities. Although many Afghans refuse to harvest poppy on moral and religious grounds, it is estimated that up to 10% of the country rely on the plantís cultivation as their livelihood. It is an uncomfortable struggle for me, who works with poor people in villages and sees fields and fields of these poppies, knowing the great harm this plant can do, but also understanding why people grow it. Eradication will surely be a long and difficult process.

jaja1970, Brian has marked this note useful

Photo Information
  • Copyright: James McDowell (JMcDowell) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 17 W: 1 N: 81] (655)
  • Genre: Places
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 2006-05-17
  • Categories: Nature
  • Exposure: f/4, 1/1000 seconds
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2006-09-18 8:19
Viewed: 4249
Points: 4
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Additional Photos by James McDowell (JMcDowell) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 17 W: 1 N: 81] (655)
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