Spatial risk assessment of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan: integrating environmental and socio-economic drivers

<p>Recently the cultivation of opium poppy in Afghanistan reached unprecedented levels. It is agreed that the complex and coupled interactions of social, economic and environmental drivers are crucial for understanding the spatial and temporal dynamics of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. In this context, we present an integrated risk concept, which considers environmental and socio-economic drivers of opium poppy cultivation. A set of spatially explicit indicators for the environmental suitability and socio-economic vulnerability was established and populated from a variety of databases. Subsequently, novel methods of modelling homogeneous and spatially explicit regions of opium poppy cultivation suitability, socio-economic vulnerability and risk are developed and applied. The risk assessment results demonstrate the complex nature of the illicit crops production in Afghanistan and prompt a more profound examination of the drivers of opium poppy cultivation in a spatial context. The study also confirms what has already been widely discussed in literature: that reasons for cultivation are spatially diverse and often distinct, meaning that any formulation of generalized explanations cannot be drawn without ignoring a more complex reality. Thus, an integrative spatial view of risk, which integrates the social dimension as well as environmental parameters, is required to better identify context-specific intervention measures.</p>