Socio-economy & New Tech


Post-Doctoral Fellowships

United Kingdom

The Opium Market, Revenue Opportunities and Insurgency in Afghanistan’s Provinces

What do guns and flowers have in common? Talibans. We all know they are very active in both military operations and terrorist attacks all over the Afghanistan. However, we are less familiar with their main activity: growing flowers. In fact, 90% of the world’s opium comes from Afghan poppies, and this clearly has an impact on the Taliban’s acts of war. Vincenzo Bove has collected data on opium price fluctuations and confronted them with insurgency actions.
His results have shown that conflict induces an increase in opium production and therefore a reduction in opium prices, while the reverse mechanism – i.e., whether opium fosters violence – is weaker but persistent. Moreover, common factors, such as seasonality, ISAF strategies and weather conditions are among the main drivers of opium prices and insurgency activities. Where poppies grow, violence grows too…
My research focuses on security incidents in Afghanistan, such as armed attacks and bombings, that have been rising since 2003. Given the links between anti-government elements in the country and its drug economy, NATO forces and the UN consider poppy cultivation an obstacle to the long-term security of the region. My project examines the interaction between income and insurgency activities using monthly time-series data on opium prices; four alternative measures of relative income based on four occupational sources (wheat production, sheep-farming, non-farm activities, casual labour); and security incidents for 34 Afghan provinces over the period 2004-2009.

Drugs, Guns and Money

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University of Essex


United Kingdom