An Alternative Livelihood to the Poppy Harvest

Larry Bradshaw FAF Development News Release

The employment of more than 1300 men—thanks to a solid waste management project funded by USAID’s Regional Afghan Municipalities Program for Urban Populations (RAMPUP) and implemented by FAF Development—is providing an alternative source of income to that provided by southern Afghanistan’s annual poppy harvest. In two years when RAMPUP ends, many of these laborers will become permanent municipal staff within the waste management department, allowing them to leave the necessity of illegal employment behind them.

“If I did not have this employment, I would be harvesting poppies… what other option do I have?” – Ahdmadullah

Ahmadullah of Loy Balakarz village sees it as a simple matter of survival: “If I did not have this employment, I would be harvesting poppies, or maybe even resorting to theft. I am not proud of this, but what other option do I have? The other option is for my family to starve.” Mohammad Nabi describes a similar dilemma: “My preference is for legal employment, but if I didn’t have this job, illegal means of income would be the only option left to me.”

The project also offers an alternative to a different form of illicit activity, that of an economic insurgent. Driven by the desperation of poverty, economic insurgents take up work planting explosives for the Taliban, regardless of whether or not they agree with group ideologically. Absent any other source of income, many men consider accepting money from the Taliban in order to survive.

The project is more than just short-term cash-for-work: laborers are long-term registered employees who pay income tax in accordance with Afghan law; they are provided specialized training based on their roles; and, they proudly wear reflective safety vests with “municipality” written across the back in Pashto. This sight provides residents with visible evidence of the Kandahar City municipal government providing services to its citizens.

RAMPUP assists governments in urban centers to increase the capacity of municipal officials, improve the delivery of municipal services, and supports economic growth initiatives, including own-source revenue strategies. RAMPUP funds service delivery improvements and small-scale infrastructure projects such as road paving, parks, and solid waste management.


Laborers wear their safety vests with “municipality” written across the back in Pashto, providing a visible presence of municipally provided services throughout Kandahar City.

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