Vice Squad
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Estimating Opium Production in Afghanistan

A few days ago co-blogger Mike noted the new UN report indicating that opium production was enjoying a boom in Afghanistan. How would anyone know? Does someone collect opium production statistics?

Well, yes, as this Slate Explainer article, er, explains. Satellite photography provides the big picture -- ha! -- and then 60 surveyors went into the Afghan countryside to get the straight, er, to fill in the details. This was dangerous work, but they seem to have come out of it OK, while somehow completing their assignment: "...the field researchers managed to survey nearly 2,500 villages, where they pressed the locals on such questions as how many families were growing poppies, when the harvest was scheduled, how much opium the poppies were expected to yield, and how much opium was selling for." Despite the photos and the surveys, the UN estimates remain highly uncertain.

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