From Golden Triangle to Rubber Belt?

01 July 2009
Policy briefing

In the Kokang and Wa regions in northern Burma opium bans have ended poppy cultivation, but have caused chronic poverty and food insecurity as a result.

Authors
ISBN/ISSN
  • 2214-8906

In the Kokang and Wa regions in northern Burma opium bans have ended over a century of poppy cultivation. The bans have had dramatic consequences for local communities. They depended on opium as a cash crop, to buy food, clothing, and medicines.

The bans have driven poppy-growing communities into chronic poverty and have adversely affected their food security. Very few alternatives are being offered to households for their survival. The Kokang and Wa cease-fire groups have implemented these bans following international pressure, especially from neighbouring China. In return, they hope to gain international political recognition and aid to develop their impoverished and war-torn regions.

The Kokang and Wa authorities have been unable to provide alternative sources of income for ex-poppy farmers. Instead they have promoted Chinese invest-ment in monoplantations, especially in rubber. These projects have created many undesired effects and do not significantly profit the population.

Conclusions & Recommendations

• The opium bans have driven communities into chronic poverty and have adversely affected their food security and access to health care and education.

• The Kokang and Wa authorities have promoted Chinese investment in mono-plantations, especially in rubber. These projects are unsustainable and do not significantly profit the population.

• Ex-poppy farmers mainly rely on casual labour and collecting Non-Timber Forest Products as alternative source of income.

• Current interventions by international NGOs and UN agencies are still limited in scale and can best be described as “emer-gency responses”.

• If the many challenges to achieving viable legal livelihoods in the Kokang and Wa regions are not addressed, the reductions in opium cultivation are unlikely to be sustainable.

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