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Sunday, October 11, 1998 Published at 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK


World: Middle East

Lebanon's growing drug worries

Lebanon once produced 1,000 tons of hashish a year

The BBC's Christopher Hack in Beirut reports on fears about the re-emergence of drug cultivation:

Lebanon was a huge producer and exporter of hashish during the country's 15-year civil, which started in 1975.

The Bcharre Valley in the north of the country was one of the drug-producing capitals of the world, turning out around 1,000 tons of hashish a year.

But production stopped when the war ended and the government regained control.


[ image: Security forces destroyed hashish fields after the war]
Security forces destroyed hashish fields after the war
In a campaign to crackdown on the illegal drugs trade, security forces were ordered to destroy hashish fields and farmers were encouraged to switch to alternative crops.

International donors pledged $300m in aid to help farmers switch to other crops.

But they have only delivered a small part of that promise.

The United Nations is now becoming increasingly concerned about a return to illegal drug-growing and trafficking.


Christopher Hack: "Poverty in the region is only expected to increase"
Nasser Serjani, from the UN Development Programme, said: "The government only got $3m from the international community in the first phase, meaning we could only satisfy 1,500 farmers.

"That means we have 5% of farmers moderately satisfied and 95% who are angry because they haven't received a loan."

Without the loans, some farmers have returned to growing hashish despite the government's continued tough campaign because it is the only way they can survive.


[ image: Shouki Jafaar: family cannot survive on apple income]
Shouki Jafaar: family cannot survive on apple income
Farmer Shouki Jafaar, who used to depend on the income from illegal crops, now relies on apple growing after government pressure.

But competition from imports has meant there is no market for his produce and now his family is getting poorer.

"I cannot do anything for them," said Mr Jafaar. "The only way for us now is to grow hash because without hash there is no money. And with no money, there's no life."

Last year, the UN removed Lebanon from its list of drug-producing countries.


[ image: One in three farmers in Bcharre live in poverty]
One in three farmers in Bcharre live in poverty
Meanwhile, radicals in Lebanon launched what they dubbed "a hunger revolution" demanding help for farmers.

Now, the UN says one in three farmers in Bcharre live in absolute poverty without enough money to buy food.

The government is firmly committed to prevent a return to illegal crop growing, but without international help poverty will increase, driving farmers back to growing hashish.





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