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Opium Season: A Year on the Afghan Frontier

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  79 ratings  ·  18 reviews
A young American working on the brutal fault line where the war on terror meets the war on drugs. Joel Hafvenstein signed up for a year in Afghanistan in the heart of the country's opium trade, running an American-funded aid program to help thousands of opium poppy farmers make a legal living, and to win hearts and minds away from the former Taliban government. The author ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Lyons Press (first published 2007)
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Mar 28, 2013 Caroline rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Caroline by: Mikey B
This book is about Joel Hafvenstein’s experiences whilst working on a short-term project in Afghanistan in 2004/5, for a company called Chemonics, who are subcontractors to USAID - The United States Agency for International Development. The project was short, but broad in scope. Its aim was to employ roughly 50,000 people for roughly 50 days labour. Work included clearance and maintenance with water tunnels, canals, drains, wells and roads - in various parts of Afghanistan.

At this time, Afghanis
Mikey B.
Treacherous Development

A very sad story, but simply and strongly written.
Mr Hafverstein worked in Afghanistan as part of a U.S. foreign assistance program to help in the development of this poor, war-weary country.

Mr. Hafverstein's book is written at the grass-roots level. He describes the tribulations and heart-aches of trying to accomplish development in Afghanistan. Part of the purpose of the project he was working on is to take Afghani's off the cultivation of opium and to grow "legal" cro
The author has worked off and on in Afghanistan for many years with a US development agency. This book concerns the time he spent supervising a group of Americans who were authorized to come into the country quickly with millions of dollars and instantly create jobs for local Afghans in order to show them that they could earn money in other ways rather than growing poppies for the opium trade. It was well-written, knowledgeable and fascinating. The author has a deep love for the Afghan people bu ...more
Joel Hafvenstein spent a heartbreaking tour doing development work in central Afghanistan--- part of a project to provide jobs to entice local farmers away from growing opium. The book is an account of good intentions gone horribly wrong. Months of hapless if well-meaning work and building local ties come to a sudden, unexpected bloodstained end. "Opium Season" is a book about...failed hopes and the pain of watching poorly-planned efforts come to grief. A well-written book, and one worth handing ...more
This is a good look at what it's like to be thrown in over your head as a development worker in a post-conflict environment. Also, if you're wondering what happens when the shit hits the fan, this book will illuminate you.

It's also an interesting look at the politics and consequences of opium eradication, in Afghanistan and on a global scale.
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Mike Edwards
Joel has been an aid worker in Afghanistan for years, and wrote this book about his many personal experiences there. In the process, he becomes very familiar with the various programs that the Afghan government and NATO use to control opium production--both what worked for brief periods of time and what failed. It's an excellent read and an interesting story in general, and the lessons learned are incredibly useful interested in the ongoing war in Afghanistan and for understanding the supplier-s ...more
A straightforward, effectively rendered look at Afghanistan, its people and culture, and what it's like to be an NGO in that most complex of countries. Hafvenstein's story is most engaging when it focuses on the lives and customs of the Afghans, and stays away from the tangled mess that is beauracratic politics in Afghanistan. This latter aspect of the book was confusing and uninteresting, but fortunately not quite bad enough to sink the rest of it. Earnest and authentic.
I learned a lot about Afghanistan and a few of the varied people who live there and some about the people who choose to work there in USAID developement activities. The countryside sounds like the muted colored canvas of our basin and range province, with more mountains. The people, like people everywhere, only more poverty and no security-- except that provided by fueding warlords driven by an opium economy. Fascinating time travel...
Disclaimer: I'm a bit biased since this book was written by my cousin (not sure how many times removed... close enough to be family). A tremendously well-written contemporary narrative about the complexities of Western involvement in Afghanistan during the US intervention from the perspective of a young professional working for an NGO.
Hafvenstein should have waited to mature both as an author and to be able to approach his experiences in Afghanistan with the kind of perspective that only time can lend. However, I respect his decision to publish a timely account of U.S. aid efforts and failures in Afghanistan.
Book is a personal account of the U.S efforts (USAID sponsored) dealing with the non-military efforts administer irrigation contracts in southern Afghanistan during 2004 and 2005.
Jun 07, 2013 Delia added it
This guy worked for a company I worked for, hoping to get the inside scoop on development in Afghanistan (now that I'm doing it myself)
Excellent portrayal of both the decimated conditions in Afghanistan as well as the inability to implement effective aid programs.
I read this sme time ago but found it listed in my "to read" folder. The author brough back memories of my time in Afghanistan.
Interesting and seemingly honest look at life in the trenches of a development corporation for hire. Engagingly written.
I really enjoyed this book. Not only because it's about Afghanistan, but gives an honest account of aid workers lives.
I'm biased, but ... Mr. Hafvenstein can write.
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