The Mexico opium Network

México Unido contra la Delincuencia (MUCD) and Noria Research are proud to launch the “Mexico Opium Network

Motivation for The Mexico Opium Network

Mexico is the world’s third largest illegal opium producer, and the cultivation and processing of opium poppies provides a livelihood for many in the most marginalized rural regions of the country. Despite the magnitude of this illegal economy, there has been no dedicated effort to systematically increase understanding or gather robust empirical data on the opium market and its stakeholders.

What we know about social dynamics of opium production is largely the result of in-depth, local media coverage. At the national and international levels, opium production is treated primarily as a security issue, discussed mainly in the context of drug trafficking and violence, and reduced to quantifications by official data that fail to shed light on communities’ social realities. Moreover, international examinations of illegal crop production often treat Mexican opium as a footnote, despite its scale.

Mexico’s public debate and government agenda seldom address the political dimensions of the opium economy.  This means that many crucial questions are absent from the conversation, including the social problems faced by producing communities, the impact of public security policy in producing regions, or the methods of eradication, fumigation or destruction of crops. 

Analysis of the social, economic, and political characteristics and impacts of opium production in Mexico is effectively nonexistent. 

We therefore remain unable to answer basic questions such as:

How many farmers are economically reliant on opium poppy production in Mexico, and under what conditions?

How are these illicit activities regulated by informal structures?

What is the value of Mexico’s opium economy ?

How have eradication strategies changed cultivation practices, and how have security policies evolved?

Our Objectives and Next Steps

To counteract this dearth of knowledge, Noria Research and México Unido Contra la Delincuencia (MUCD) have launched the Mexico Opium Network. 

The Network will act as a clearinghouse for the production and dissemination of knowledge on opium poppy, from cultivation to consumption. We will analyze the complex opium poppy economy in Mexico, in all its key regions (Guerrero, Nayarit, Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua) and using a wide array of thematic analysis. 

Noria will provide expert fieldwork in poppy producing communities, and contribute with public policy analysis. Expertise from MUCD on public security and drug policy will be decisive in closing the gap between knowledge production, public policy design, and the international debates on illicit crops.

The evidence and data produced by our Network will be openly and freely disseminated to the public, generating an unprecedented source of knowledge in Mexican and international platforms.  

Starting in July 2020, the Mexico Opium Network will focus on 5 main activities


 Document the opium economy in Mexico and the evolution of security policy through qualitative fieldwork and quantitative analysis


Work with opium producing communities in collaboratively designing strategies for rural development.


 Convene an informed debate among civil society actors at the regional, national, and international levels.


 Develop an ongoing dialogue with social stakeholders, public authorities, and decision makers in national and international forums.


Offer alternatives that tackle the different dimensions of the phenomenon: rural development, drug policy, and security policy.

Why is opium production crucial to better understand the War on Drugs in Mexico?

Opium Dreams. What is Hidden Behind the Poppy Flower - Romain Le Cour Grandmaison

The reddest flower in the field. How Poppies Integrate in Mexico’s Agricultural Panorama – Paul Frissard Martínez

Drug-trafficking and Rural Capitalism in Guerrero – Irene Álvarez

Between Manna and Uncertainty. Poppy as a Political Opiate in Guerrero – Romain Le Cour Grandmaison

Sinaloa is not Guerrero. How Legal Economy helps the Illegal – Cecilia Farfán-Mendez

The pendulum of scarcity. Opium, Farmers and Internal Migration in the Golden Triangle – Marcos Vizcarra Ruiz

A three-headed crisis. Opium, Integration & Resistance the Indigenous communities of Nayarit – Nathaniel Morris

The Ethnography of Humiliation in the Sierra of Guerrero - Irene Álvarez

Negotiating with narcos, Sweet-Talking the State - Nathaniel Morris

Narrating the History of Poppies in Mexico. Infinite Possibilities - Carlos Pérez Ricart

Policy Report. Untangling Poppy from Violence - Paul Frissard Martínez, Cecilia Farfán-Mendez, Romain Le Cour Grandmaison

Key Insights Opium Project -
10 Key Facts, 10 Ideas & 10 Conclusions

About us

Founding Partners of the Network

Noria Research and México Unido Contra la Delincuencia (MUCD) will lead this unprecedented effort in Mexico.

International Partners

MUCD and Noria brought together four international organizations with relevant expertise: UC San Diego Center for US-Mexican Studies (USMEX, United States), Transform Drug Policy Foundation (TDPF, United Kingdom), and the Transnational Institute (TNI, Netherlands). 


Mexico & Central America programm

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