January 30: Japan and the United Nations will extend financial support to former poppy farmers in Burma.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry announced Monday it will provide financial assistance to former poppy farmers and their families through the UN’s Trust Fund for Human Security.

The project aims to improve living conditions by implementing food-for-work and food-for-training programs. Officials say the effort will help create income-generating opportunities through agricultural and skill training. It will also introduce alternative crops and improved agricultural technology in order to increase food production and productivity.

Last year, the UN’s drug agency reported that opium poppy cultivation in Burma fell to just over 21,000 hectares. The agency says it dropped by 34% in 2005.

A ministry statement says former poppy farmers in Burma’s Shan State are impoverished due to the absence of alternative income opportunities following a ban on poppy cultivation by the Burmese government.

Poppies can be used to make the illicit drugs opium and heroin.