The farmers are weeding the fields at the moment in Helmand. It is a family business, and they insist there is no alternative.
"I only have a small area of land and 10 people in my family," one farmer says angrily. "I can only grow enough wheat to last two months on this land, so the only way to feed them is growing poppies."
It is very fertile land, but the farmers complain the cost of fuel to pump irrigation water and the lack of markets and infrastructure makes anything else untenable.
Another man had his poppy crop eradicated last year, but it will not stop him trying again. "I lost my poppies, but those grown by the rich and the powerful aren't touched. So why should I stop growing them?" he asks.
Leithead also paid a call to Balkh, part of the "opium-free north":
After meeting and drinking tea with a number of contacts in different homes outside Mazar, a bearded, cheerful drug dealer took us to a place where they displayed plastic bags of liquid opium. He explained how the traffickers would come round to all the villages, buying what they had before taking it out of the country. "Ordinary people like you and I can't take drugs out of the country," he explained. "Only the foreigners and the big men with contacts can do it. They are stopped at police checkpoints, but they call the police chief, or a minister or the governor and they are allowed to pass."
But poppy cultivation has indeed decreased! Instead:
Although they have lost a profitable crop, for now another alternative is bridging the gap. In a mud compound a short walk away another man goes through the process of stripping the buds off giant cannabis stalks. In the autumn vast forests of marijuana plants scatter the landscape. It is something that has always been done here, but the price has gone up by a factor of four in just a year.
Richard Holbrooke, principal foreign affairs adviser to Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton, slammed the Bush administration's pressure for crop eradication in the Washington Post:
But even without aerial eradication, the [crop eradication] program, which costs around $1 billion a year, may be the single most ineffective program in the history of American foreign policy. It's not just a waste of money. It actually strengthens the Taliban and al-Qaeda, as well as criminal elements within Afghanistan.