The War On Terror: Collateral Damage On The Farm

September 14, 2012 10:03 AM
 

The war on terror has been waging in the borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan for years now, and government efforts at quelling bomb attacks have left area farmers without access to fertilizer. U.S. Military officials report that around 80% of the bombs used against U.S. troops are made in Afghanistan with fertilizer from Pakistan. In an effort to slow the production of explosives, Pakistan has banned agricultural fertilizer, leaving local farmers in desperate need of nutrients.

It has been three years since the ban on agricultural fertilizer took affect in Pakistan. The ban concentrates on fertilizers containing ammonium nitrate, a common ingredient in bombs, but has ballooned to encompass all agricultural fertilizers, including more benign nutrients. Local black markets have been able to smuggle fertilizers into the area in the past, but the price is in the neighborhood of six-times regular market price.

The result of the fertilizer ban has been devastating to local farmers. Yields are in dramatic decline and soil nutrition cannot support many more growing years without replenishment. As diminishing yields chase farm profits lower, farmers are left with less money at the end of the day to spend on inputs creating a circle of falling yields followed by reduced profit, followed by declining soil nutrient value, followed by falling yields, reduced profit...you see where this is going.

Military involvement has all but eliminated even black market fertilizer inventories and believes the ban has had an impact, diminishing the amount of large scale bomb attacks. But a spokesman for the Taliban in Pakistan dismisses the ban claiming their operation is unaffected.

As U.S. troops turn their attention to combating militants in the area, local farmers continue to sour. Most farms in the area are small, family run businesses and without significant nutrient carryover, soils will be less and less able to support crops. Locals have tried fertilizing with manure and other organic material but have had limited success at best. Until the region stabilizes and some real agricultural nutrient can be safely delivered to growers, unrest will increase proportionally to the decline in soil health and farm profitability.

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