Monday, July 27, 2020

The switch from diesel to solar power has been a huge success for heroin producers in Afghanistan

[He] calls up a new screen on his computer.

It shows the entire Helmand valley.

He superimposes an image showing the area under cultivation in 2012.

Then, farmers were working 157,000 hectares.

A series of images show how this changed over time.

You can see the farms spreading out into the desert as farmers start using solar.

It looks like a fungus growing. But this is on a huge scale.

The area under cultivation has been increasing by tens of thousands of hectares every year.

By 2018 it had doubled to 317,000 hectares.

In 2019 it was 344,000 hectares.

"And it is continuing to grow," he says.

At the same time, the land is getting more productive.

His maps are shaded from dark purple - poor yields - through to light green, which indicates the most productive land.

As farmers switch to solar, you can see the area shaded green growing.

"All this water is making the desert bloom,"

And as the area under cultivation has grown, so has the number of people.

Mr Brittan estimates half a million people have migrated into the desert areas of Helmand in just the last five years.

His team has counted an additional 48,000 homes built in the same period.

And the impact on the world supply of opium appears to have been equally dramatic.
Speaking of solar power: