The aid money “will provide the long term development support needed to build a more prosperous, safe and stable country by 2020 as well as emergency aid to help tackle a growing internal displacement crisis,” according to the government statement.
Between 2017 and 2020, it is planned that the money will be used for humanitarian purposes, including health and education.
The UK’s commitment comes at a critical moment – Afghanistan has seen real progress recently but the international community must show it is willing to stay the course. We cannot allow Afghanistan’s development to be undone and the country to roll back into conflict. That is why the UK is reaffirming our ongoing commitment and that is why we are pushing other donors to do the same.
- Priti Patel
Amongst the projects announced is spending on “agriculture prosperity”, including an intention to reduce rural poverty, increasing rural incomes by £34 million and creating 15,000 new jobs (including 1,500 for women) by 2018.
Opium production in Afghanistan fell significantly in 2015 - almost 50% down on the previous year, mainly due to poor harvests in the southern provinces, including Helmand where Britain has had most influence. Nevertheless, Afghanistan remains the world’s largest opium producer, accounting for around 70% of global production.
So with harvests down, the UK government's "investment" will be timely. It should be noted that while the announcement from Pritti Patel mentions “steps to tackle corruption”, at no point is the word “opium” mentioned.
It should also be noted that while Afghanistan remains the largest producer of opium in the world, none of that is going for pharmaceutical use, and in the UK, over 6,000 acres of farmland continues to be devoted to growing opium crops for that purpose.