Afghanistan Farmers Reportedly Ditch Poppy For Beekeeping (VIDEO)

Afghan farmers are leaving their poppy harvesting days behind them in favor of a more lucrative beekeeping future, reports British Forces News.

Afghanistan's Helmand province is home to the country's largest poppy producing region, but Afghan officials say they've seen a 15% drop in poppy production this year.

This could be partly thanks to the American and British development programs that have funded beekeeping training courses as an alternative to the opium trade.

Marine Corps News recently reported on the latest three-day course to take place at a master beekeeping teaching farm at the Gereshk Agricultural College.

Farmers learned the basics from a fellow Afghan beekeeper and were given a starter hive, basic beekeeping supply and a set of beekeeping clothes.

Profits from beekeeping combined with fruit growing and fish farming could generate over $1,000 per year, well over the annual $450 profits from poppies, says the news source.

While TreeHugger praises the initiative for investing money in a sustainable profession, blogger Sami Grover questions the reporting of the Afghan government and the British Army. Ultimately though, Grover concludes that "given that every farming nation needs pollination to survive, and that bees around the world are struggling, this seems as good a place as any for our military to be spending their time..."

This isn't the first time that beekeeping as a profession has been encouraged. Bees Without Borders is an organization dedicated to training impoverished communities in beekeeping skills, and has volunteered their lessons in places such as the Niger Delta, Iraq, and India. Beekeeping in the U.S. has also gained attention recently, but in an unlikely place -- cities. This summer, "citizen scientists" in the U.S. took on the role of monitoring the declining wild bee population, HuffPost's Lucia Graves reported.

Bees play a critical role in our ecosystem. About one-third of the world's food supply relies on insects such as bees for pollination. Studies suggest that the bee population could be increasingly threatened by climate change.

Watch a video of Afghan farmers in Helmand learning the beekeeping trade: