An Assessment of the Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Sustainable Alternative Development

Key Determinant Factors for Opium Poppy Re-cultivation in Southeast Asia
01 May 2010

This study looks at the impact of the global economic crisis on alternative development initiatives in the Golden Triangle region, but also identifies the key determinants of opium poppy re-cultivation as well as possible solutions. Governments in the region have adopted national policies and strategies to counter the problem, however long-term political and financial commitment together with increased international support will be required to address the issue.


Between 1998 and 2006, Opium production in Southeast Asia declined from an estimated 1,437 to 335 tons. Over the same period, opium cultivation decreased from an estimated 158,230 to 24,000 hectares. In this time a number of countries have been declared opium free, Vietnam in the year 2000, Thailand in 2003, and Laos in 2006. The last decade has also seen a steady decline in opium cultivation in Myanmar.

However, in recent years there has been resurgence in opium cultivation in South East Asia, estimated to be 30,388 hectares, producing 424 tons. The 2008 Southeast Asia Opium Survey stated that whilst some ex-poppy farmers had returned to opium cultivation, other communities were engaging in opium cultivation for the first time. Between 2007 and 2008 there was a 26% increase in opium poppy cultivation in the region.

As a result of the global financial crisis, the market price and demand for products produced or collected from the forest by ex-poppy farmers has dropped. At the same time the cost of basic household items has increased. There has also been a sharp increase in the value of opium driven by the reduced level of production. Each of these factors has provided renewed incentive for farmers to resume or begin opium cultivation, compromising the efforts made to reduce production over the last decade.

The situation outlined is further compounded by a lack of viable alternative sources of income for (ex) poppy farmers. Although the decline in opium cultivation in the region has in part been due to policy intervention by local authorities, these campaigns have failed to address the poverty that drives communities in the region to grow opium. Current interventions that aim to provide farmers with sustainable alternative livelihood options are insufficient. They represent an emergency response that is necessary to prevent a humanitarian crisis, and further interventions are needed to sustain the socio-economic development and livelihoods of the former opium farmers. These factors, combined with additional geopolitical and regional changes, have contributed to the increasing trend of opium cultivation in the region. If these factors are not addressed in a timely and proper way, opium cultivation in Southeast Asia is likely to further increase in the coming years.

This study will assess the impact of the current global financial crisis on sustainable livelihoods and alternative development efforts in the Golden Triangle region2, with specific reference to the key determinant factors that lead to opium poppy re-cultivation. It will recommend coping strategies and related policies as well as future interventions that address this emerging situation. The study will take into account the new Political Declaration and Action Plan on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem, which was adopted at the 2009 session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna.

May 2010
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Re-Asserting Control: Voluntary Return, Restitution and the Right to Land for IDPs and Refugees in Myanmar - cover
kramer-unodc.pdf(pdf, 4.07 MB)