Vientiane, Laos - The European Union is to provide 1.9 million euros (2.5 million dollars) to wean villagers in Laos from the opium growing habit to counter a 58-per-cent jump in production in the country last year, news reports said Monday.
The EU grant is to assist 2,191 impoverished households in the northern province of Houaphanh switch from growing opium to legal crops, the Vientiane Times reported.
The project is part of a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) programme to stop opium growers relying on the crop as their main means of livelihood in the country's barren, mountainous northern regions.
The decades-old programme has thus far failed to achieve "opium-free" status for Laos. Last year, there was a 58-per-cent rise in opium production in Laos, amounting to 18 tons, according to the UNODC's South-East Asia opium survey for 2010.
"This was due to former opium farmers being tempted back into poppy cultivation by the high market price of opium and the chronic food insecurity they were facing," the state-run Vientiane Times reported.
Northern Laos suffered from drought and crop pests last year, according to UNODCexperts.
The UNODC has been conducting crop substitution programmes in north-eastern Myanmar and northern Laos since 1996, with the main funding coming from the EU and the governments of Australia and Germany.
Mon, 17 Jan 2011
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