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Pomegranate dens?
November 10, 2008 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Pomegranate is the Answer. James Brett perhaps has an answer to Afghanistan's Opium issue: On the drive back to Peshawar I saw the same farmer in his fields harvesting his crop. I asked my driver to stop the car. On the card I had previously bought I wrote the words ‘Pomegranate is the Answer’ and ran into the field to go and talk to the farmer. My translator called after me “Don’t go in there you could get shot” but it all happened in a second and I called back to him “come on I need you to translate” . Upon reaching a surprised farmer I asked him many questions and talked to him about the affects of Heroin and also the possibilities of Pomegranates. He explained to me about his family , children, how he lived and why he grew opium. I explained how it was possible for him to change his situation working together with other farmers and how this would help the people of Afghanistan and the rest of the world. He appears to be having some success. (previously 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ...) via Crooks and Liars
posted by caddis (56 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now all Afghanistan has to hope for is that the global demand for pomegranates will outweigh the global demand for opiates. How hard could that be?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:27 AM on November 10, 2008 [23 favorites]


People have been saying "X is the answer" since 2001. Every so often a new expat fresh off the fucking boat will have a brilliant idea and some lazy journalist who's flown in for the weekend and met this expat in the French restaurant will write it up with the result that there's a triumphant report in a column near you: "saffron is the answer"; "melon is in the answer"; "rose oil is the answer"; "cumin is the answer"; fucking pomegranite is the answer.

Then they actually trouble to do the maths and see that either the Iranians or the Pakistanis are three times as cost-efficient at producing the same crop, the foreign markets are all flooded, there is no domestic market. But by the time they've come to this realisation, they've wasted a couple of hundred thousand on setting up the project, put together a wonderful plan, hired two external 'experts', and wasted a bunch of AFghan farmers' time.

After a while, it gets a bit old. If it was the answer, the Afghans would be doing it.
posted by YouRebelScum at 11:32 AM on November 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


With the prices I've seen for pomegranate juice, opium might just be the less expensive habit.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:37 AM on November 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Marisa, you have obviously never gotten yourself hooked on pomegranate. They don't call it "Satan's after-dinner treat" for nothing. I would stab a kitten in the face to get a pomegranate.

True fact: Did you know that the pomegranate used to be called a "Chinese apple?"
posted by Mister_A at 11:39 AM on November 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately, while pomegranate juice sure is tasty, I wouldn't want it everyday. However, if I'm addicted to smack, I'm sure I'd find that a) it gets me high as a fucking kite, and b) I NEED IT. EVERY. FUCKING. DAY.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:41 AM on November 10, 2008


I think the difference with trying to get heroin out of Afghanastan is that there is more than the simple price of product per acre at play. There are also well-armed people involved, and the debilitating effect of the drug on people.

Getting rid of opium means more than a change in the economy. It could mean stability that isn't possible with a drug economy. If growing drugs were simply cost of X vs cost of Y per acre, farmers wouldn't be trying so hard with corn and soy.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:47 AM on November 10, 2008


Nova Scotia sure wants tourists.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:50 AM on November 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


True fact: Did you know that the pomegranate used to be called a "Chinese apple?"

The first time I saw one, early 60's, some weird 10 year old kid had brought one in his lunch box. That's what he said it was. His parents drove a Citroën.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yourebelscum, idealistic white people ALWAYS know what is best for people of color, didn't you get the memo?

Seriously though, If I were a poppy farmer and at any minute a US Bomber could fly over and bomb my fields and my family I'd jump at any chance to change my situation. Despite my enthusiasm, I'd be suspicious of a guy wearing a suit covered in felt pomegranates.
posted by easy_being_green at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2008


Were you in NYC or nearby, StickyCarpet? My mom is a transplanted Brooklynite and had all sorts of weird names for stuff... like "churchkey" for can opener, etc. I like to try to figure out which are strictly regional and which are generational.
posted by Mister_A at 11:57 AM on November 10, 2008


pomegranate juice sure is tasty

I tried to run one through my centrifugal juicer, and it came out real bitter, I guess from the inner seed. What are you supposed to do, press them?
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:57 AM on November 10, 2008


Opium pomogranates, that's the ticket.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:58 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or pomegranates, even.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:58 AM on November 10, 2008


LOL pornogranates.
posted by Mister_A at 12:01 PM on November 10, 2008


Were you in NYC or nearby, StickyCarpet? My mom is a transplanted Brooklynite and had all sorts of weird names for stuff... like "churchkey" for can opener,

That was Pittsburgh, and Catholic school to boot. Maybe your mom is just really old, like me. I have an antique, ornate bottle opener shaped like a key, with Latin text on it. "In Vinos Veritas," (it has a corkscrew, too.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:01 PM on November 10, 2008


It'll be the new tomacco!
posted by snofoam at 12:02 PM on November 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


What are you supposed to do, press them?

Yes, exactly. A potato ricer works really well. Be careful -- the juice stains fabric like nothing else.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:03 PM on November 10, 2008


at any minute a US Bomber could fly over and bomb my fields

This would never happen, unless they start having weddings in opium fields.
posted by Artw at 12:18 PM on November 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Were you in NYC or nearby, StickyCarpet? My mom is a transplanted Brooklynite and had all sorts of weird names for stuff... like "churchkey" for can opener, etc. I like to try to figure out which are strictly regional and which are generational.

I was pretty certain that a churchkey was a bottle opener -- specifically for opening beer bottles.
posted by smackwich at 12:26 PM on November 10, 2008


Why can't we have a hybrid of the two and have a pomegranate that's also and opiate? Quick, someone call Monsanto!
posted by cjorgensen at 12:32 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, my mistake - bottle opener.
posted by Mister_A at 12:35 PM on November 10, 2008


So, won't the local warlord have something to say about what the farmer grows? Seems like they're going to see their cash crop drying up and come down on the farmer with both feet.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:37 PM on November 10, 2008


True fact: Did you know that the pomegranate used to be called a "Chinese apple?"


Sorry that is an untrue fact.
The chinese apple was/is an orange.
The Swedes still call oranges apelsin apel=apple + sin from the word for China.
Pomegranate is a "grenade apple" lots of juicy little pips - there are of course many varieties in a range of tastes. The sour ones for cooking. The sweeter ones for eating directly.
The Persians do a some good koreskh with pomegranate juice and meat.
I feel hungry just thinking about it.

Would the americans leave Afghanistan faster if there were no poppies. I wonder.
posted by jan murray at 12:39 PM on November 10, 2008


Man, I’d like to ask a farmer a question. That’d be sweet.

“After a while, it gets a bit old. If it was the answer, the Afghans would be doing it.”

Well, yeah. But it’s a bit of catch-22 there. I mean - this, to me, seems kind of short sighted. So - solid.
But I suspect most farmers would trade piece of mind and autonomy for less money. In this case a bit less money, because the most lucrative end of the drug market is in distribution. And even if it’s not - you’re an unarmed farmer with a lot of exposure and it’d be a real shame if something happened to your family, wouldn’t it?
But before all this, they did used to grow non-opiate stuff. Crops you could legitimately (openly) sell.

So the big Magilla seems to be fixing the ecosystem, but:
Can’t do that until you stop the war and strife which is destroying the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
Can’t stop the war until you quell the insurgent and criminal organizations.
Can’t quell them until you get the people on your side.
Can’t get the people on your side until you find ways for them to support themselves without depending on the insurgents and criminals.
Can’t find ways for them to for them to support themselves until they can farm a cash crop.
Can’t find them a cash crop other than the (easy to grow) drug plants until you fix the ecosystem.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:47 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Isn't it possible, jan murray, that the nickname was applied to more than one fruit?

I have conducted extensive research.
posted by Mister_A at 12:53 PM on November 10, 2008


Man, I’d like to ask a farmer a question.

It would be cool if AskMeFi had a weekly feature thread "Ask a _________ a question." We could get politicians and rock stars and scientists and priests and farmers and such. Not that the current system is not efficient, just that often a question doesn't occur to you until you are provided with a context.
posted by troybob at 12:54 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm partial to the pomegranate, mainly because it's my mother's maiden name. Literally. I discovered only a few years ago that the yiddish word milgroim is derived from the latin malum granatum, bearing witness to 1600 years of exile and migration.

exile around 160, name probably acquired around 1780
posted by Araucaria at 12:56 PM on November 10, 2008


I asked him many questions and talked to him about the affects of Heroin.
posted by horsemuth at 1:02 PM on November 10, 2008


I heard on the radio someone saying why the farmers don't grow normal crops.... they grow opium, someone turns up in a truck, pays them and takes it away. They grow vegetables they have to take it to market and have to pay tolls to bandits on the way. No profit.

Oh and personally I hate pomegranate
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:11 PM on November 10, 2008


Off-topic, on-thread: church keys of yore, and a modern shop which lists this bottle opener church key.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:14 PM on November 10, 2008


Poppygranates!
posted by gottabefunky at 1:15 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why don't they simply make heroin a medical problem, then the UN could buy the poppy harvest, give the growers a fair price for it, then sell it to junkies under controlled medical conditions?

In other words: you'd have almost the same laws against heroin as now, so heroin smugglers and dealers would still face the same punishments as now and junkies would get a safe place to be shot up by doctors and get clean drugs at a reasonable cost and medical supervision.

Since there's clearly an unstoppable demand for this commodity, the government is better to regulate and tax it than to continue an endless unwinnable war over generations.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:17 PM on November 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Sarah Chayes
posted by Restless Day at 1:21 PM on November 10, 2008


Po-mo granite?

If it was the answer, the Afghans would be doing it.

Well, possibly. There's something attractive in this idea, but it's really akin to market equilibrium and averse to innovation. The Afghans probably do need something like the university extension system that helped spread scientific agriculture across the Midwest. And agricultural export-based economies are inherently unstable, tied as they are to varying market conditions.

A lot of the issues in Afghanistan do explain why opium is one of the country's best crops. The remoteness, transportation, and security issues are all tied to the drug's profits. It doesn't matter how high the mountain pass is, the drug encourages and pays for local militia protection, and so forth. The porous border security is equally amenable to drug trafficking and terrorist/insurgent movement.

All that said, the country does need to feed itself. You can't give over every square inch to opium. It's probably better in the long run to foster local agriculture that limits the need for extensive road and security networks.

But really, what we probably need to do is deal with the Taliban. They were created out of the postwar chaos and were popular because they gave people security. Finding an equilibrium for that -- security that benefits both them and us -- is what diplomacy is all about.

In other words, if we return to the pragmatism of the Clinton Afghanistan policy.
posted by dhartung at 1:26 PM on November 10, 2008


But really, what we probably need to do is deal with the Taliban.

Indeed. I'd like to "deal" with them with lead. Because our earlier "pragmatism" included looking the other way while the Taliban virtually enslaved every female Afghani, killed everyone that wouldn't sufficiently bow to their rules and made nice with a guy a named Osama. The only difference between Afghanistan in the 90s and Darfur today is better PR.

Pomegranates aren't the solution, either. Schools, roads and sewers are the solutions. After that, we can focus on pomegranates.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:38 PM on November 10, 2008


Why don't they simply make heroin a medical problem, then the UN could buy the poppy harvest, give the growers a fair price for it, then sell it to junkies under controlled medical conditions?

There certainly is that, not to mention that all legal opiates are derived from the poppy plant in one way or another - Afghanistan needs a larger stake in that. Turkey currently provides a big chunk of the world's medical opioids. I'd like to see UN development money go into subsidizing Turkey to produce less, while helping to build Afghanistan's medical poppy industry. In other words, heroin doesn't need to be decriminalized for Afghanistan's poppy production to legally aid their economy, although I emphatically agree it would help.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would stab a kitten in the face to get a pomegranate.

True.
posted by pomegranate at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another pomegranate post?
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


True fact: Did you know that the pomegranate used to be called a "Chinese apple?"

Did you know the Chinese word for Tommato (fan qie) means "barbarian eggplant"?

What Afghanistan needs to do is legalize Opium production. That will remove the criminal element and reduce the ability of criminal gangs to operate.
posted by delmoi at 2:22 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey pomegranate, how does it feel to know that YOU are the answer to Afghanistan's problems? Intimidating, eh?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:26 PM on November 10, 2008


Especially ironic, since the word grenade actually comes from the French word for pomegranate.
posted by ericbop at 2:34 PM on November 10, 2008


Another pomegranate post?
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:02 PM on November 10 [+] [!]


Wait... I have a YT link of a pomegranate opening a screw-top jar to get at the shrimp inside...

Wrong thread? Sorry...
posted by IAmBroom at 2:40 PM on November 10, 2008


Mister_A: Your extensive research shows that the holy Pom was in deed called a chinese apple. Strange foreign things get a number of names. Just think of turkey (the bird) In Turkey (the country) they call it Hindi. In France its Dinde from India. I call it turkey. And it came from the Americas (indians?) .

On another note.The demonised Taliban had stopped all opium production in Afghanistan.
Now look whats happened.
Remember why the US invaded all those years ago?
And it wasnt so that women could go to school.
There werent any schools.
posted by jan murray at 2:58 PM on November 10, 2008


And it wasnt so that women could go to school.
There werent any schools.


I think getting at Osama bin Laden was part of it. And, also, there were some schools in the bigger cities.
posted by delmoi at 3:09 PM on November 10, 2008


“The demonised Taliban had stopped all opium production in Afghanistan.”

Oh, so you want everything to work right all at the same time? What are you some sorta.... guy that likes things working and stuff?

Doesn’t refute your point, but I don’t know that they weren’t rightfully demonized.
I don’t mean for their views (only). I mean for their unpredictabe and indecipherable interpretation of Sharia law.
And they we’re pretty harsh in their interpretation of Sharia law - whatever it was that day.

I mean, they were looking back fondly at the cutting of the rose. When you’ve got hard core fanatic sectarian Muslims going “Allah, these guys are way too f’ing tough on broads* over here” - you’re methods might be a tad harsh. Declaring 10 percent of the muslim population who have been there since the 18th century “not muslim” kinda bizarre. Like saying you can’t be Christian because you’re black.

On top of that, their ideology shifted with the political wind. So you’re not a muslim even though you’ve been one your whole life, your father and his father, etc. etc. - but what they meant by that changed today.
Of course, you’re still not accepted. Oh, plus we’re going to rape your women and kill your whole family off now.

Same deal with the opium: It’s cool? I can grow it? ‘Yeah, sure. In fact - grow more.’ ok.
*time passes*
‘Hey there!’ Hi yourself! ‘Still growing opium?’ Sure am. ‘Die infidel scum!’ *rat tat tat tat*

*or whatever the regional misogynistic equivalent is

It’s a complex problem.

Perhaps the gourd is the answer. Or the shoe?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:59 PM on November 10, 2008


Shoe Trees!
posted by Balisong at 5:06 PM on November 10, 2008


Why stop at pomegranates? Instead of shooting at us with guns, perhaps they can be persuaded to use bows and arrows.
posted by Brian B. at 5:10 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sigh. Everyone knows the Chinese apple is the Persimmon.
posted by eritain at 8:20 PM on November 10, 2008


Delightful poem, eritain.

I feel that the euphoria of Obamas election might lead to the myth of Afghanistan as the good war being firmly established.
It is a myth as the liberation of A:s women is a myth
Dont let the pomegranates and persimmons obscure the facts
posted by jan murray at 12:23 AM on November 11, 2008




Sorry, first link didnt work
Try again
posted by jan murray at 12:29 AM on November 11, 2008


Still no luck.
http://www.counterpunch.org/leupp10072008.html

was what I meant. Dont know why it didnt work.
Perhaps I should lay off the pomegranates a while
posted by jan murray at 12:32 AM on November 11, 2008


some lazy journalist who's flown in for the weekend and met this expat in the French restaurant will write it up with the result that there's a triumphant report in a column near you
Did you actually read the link? Because this was not just a lazy journalist but someone who actually build the company.
Unfortunately, while pomegranate juice sure is tasty, I wouldn't want it everyday.
But maybe you would if you had prostate cancer. For many people pomegranate is not "just" a fruit, but almost a medicine in itself.
posted by davar at 1:30 AM on November 11, 2008


Davar: Nah. Couldn't be bothered. I worked two years doing village-level research on opium production in the East and South East. The quote at the top says it all. Anyone who says there is "one" answer to the opium question doesn't know what he/she is talking about. We used to pin these articles up on our notice board, and count down the months before the project wrapped up and the expats went home. Maybe the project'll work for a village or two, but replace a crop that provides 50% of the legal GDP? Please.

dhartung: one of the reasons why opium is so attractive is that it draws on the Afghans comparative advantage: lawlessness. It's about the only crop where the Pakistani and Iranian farmer can't undercut them.

Incidentally, while accounts of their motivation differ, the Talibs probably only intended to crunch down on opium in 2001 so that they could shift the supply they had buried under the ground when the prices were high.

"Schools, roads and sewers are the answer". For fuck sake. Why didn't we all think of that? Let's all just do that and go home. According to the Afghan government, more or less, agricultural extension and electrification is the answer, along with education, health, and every other fucking thing. There is no simple answer. There is no single answer, nor even three. Afghanistan is complicated.
posted by YouRebelScum at 9:08 AM on November 11, 2008


I love how pomegranate is a trend now. It makes my friends and I look cooler for having already been on that bandwagon.

And that stabbing-kitten comment made me crack up laughing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:26 PM on November 11, 2008


Afghanistan is complicated....

True, life is complicated, but any solution probably needs to incorporate some other crop that gives the local farmers a similar return. It might not be pomegranates, who can tell from some guy in a suit with felt pomegranates, and I don't think anyone is saying that there is but a single answer, especially for one of the most backward, yet still somewhat sophisticated countries in the world. I personally think we ought to legitimize the opium crop and buy it to feed our ever expanding Oxycontin addiction. Fuck New Zealand, they don't take down our skyscrapers (sorry NZ), give some of that business to Afghanistan. In the meantime, if there is a crop that can help, then that is interesting. Yeah, perhaps this crazy brit thinks that it is the "answer" but really the interesting thing is if it is merely helpful. Anyway, outright dismissal of something merely because other ideas failed is failure in itself. I certainly have no ideological ties to this idea, and I fully realize that any "solution" involves taking these sophisticated yet primitive people into the modern age in some respect with jobs, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. and of course that is probably cheaper and more effective than bombs. Again, it is interesting that this crazy brit somehow convinced a province to change. Makes you think that perhaps even the people growing this stuff and or profiting off of their local farmers growing it are somewhat uncomfortable and looking for an alternative. Let's hope that it helps, but calling the glass half empty never helps.
posted by caddis at 6:36 PM on November 11, 2008


and I fully realize that any "solution" involves taking these sophisticated yet primitive people into the modern age in some respect with jobs, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. and of course that is probably cheaper and more effective than bombs.

Ronald Reagan once proposed strawberries for Colombia, but I don't recall if it was before or after his program of spraying the death-causing herbicide, paraquat, on the marijuana that made its way to North America anyway (according to my memory of a Rolling Stone article on the paraquat fiasco and the drug war). Both are supply-side approaches, a generation apart. We are tempted to see it as their problem and ignore the demand and distribution on this side of it (because that would mean we might have to fight the problem with big government and healthcare). The pomegranates will serve nicely to make large hedges to hide and protect their poppy fields.
posted by Brian B. at 9:53 PM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


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