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Crop Eradication Leaves Lebanon Peasants Hungry


In Lebanon, the United States funded illicit drug crop eradication efforts appear to have succeeded (locally). The opium poppies and cannabis plants have been almost totally eliminated after six years of troops burning fields and helicopters spraying contaminants on crops. Clinton's administration has gone so far as to remove Lebanon from its list of major drug-producing nations.

While this may seem like great news for the United States' "War on Drugs," it has left tens of thousands of peasants in Lebanon impoverished. The United Nations had planned to help them build irrigation systems and to help plant cherries, apricots and potatoes as substitute crops.

Farmers in the area say inadequate international aid, economic depression and broken promises have left them with little money to buy food. The $13 million in aid over the past several year covered only a fourth of the funds needed to provide adequate irrigation for the new crops. The drug eradication has been destructive to local economies and without long term alternative development programs farmers have had little choice but to return to the highly profitable farming of cannabis and poppy plants.

The situation has become so grave in Central Bekaa in Lebanon that a revolt has risen up under religious leader named Sheik Sobhi Toufeili. The Hunger Revolution, as it is called, has harnessed the resentment among farmers who feel the west has betrayed them. In Beirut, western officials have conceded that international aid programs provided for by the UN have failed to meet their objectives. Phil Coffin, policy analyst for The Lindesmith Center, a drug policy think-tank in New York, told the Boston Globe, "It is part of the misguided global drug war by the U.S. and the U.N., which ignores the economics of the drug trade and the fact there will always be poor farmers who will grow as long as there is demand for drugs."

Despite an apparent supply reduction in Lebanon, demand seems to have won the day in the end­­government reports show that global cultivation of opium has more than doubled since 1986.

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