Voices from the borderlands 2022

Life stories from the drug- and conflict-affected borderlands of Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar

Voices from the borderlands 2022 presents voices and perspectives from seven borderland regions in Colombia, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Together, these countries are three of the world’s largest illicit drug producers. All have also experienced decades of violent conflict, as well some form of peace process in the last ten years.

This collection of life stories, gathered during our four-year research partnership, is intended for a broad audience of researchers, practitioners and policymakers working on issues related to drugs, development and peacebuilding.

The stories offer valuable insights into how illicit drugs, violence and conflict, poverty and development, and insecurity and resilience are entangled in the everyday lives of people in the borderlands. Our hope is that they challenge our readers to think about and engage more critically with how illicit drugs, development and peacebuilding interconnect in their work.

You can download the full PDF report, or dive into a chapter in the digital version below.


Transforming war economies into peace economies

About Voices from the Borderlands and the research behind it.

Why life stories?

Challenges and unique benefits of using life stories in research and policy engagement.

Life stories from Afghanistan

Our lives depend on cross-border trade

A story by Begum Jan

Kabul to Moscow with a suitcase full of heroin

A story told by Jangul

The risks and rewards of smuggling drugs

A story told by Aziz Khan

Life stories from Colombia

Life amidst coffee, coca, marijuana and war

A story told by César Mariño

Fighting for the welfare of others: Life as a social leader

A story told by Carmen

In war and peace, we black people always lose

A story told by Don Tito

Life stories from Myanmar

Life as the sole breadwinner of a family impoverished by drugs

A story told by Nang Khong

Twelve years in prison was the price I paid for using drugs

A story told by Sai Sarm

Cycles of trauma

A story told by Seng Raw


Common themes and insights

Making sense of the life stories with common themes around agency and voice, violence and peace, and borders and boundaries.

Implications for researchers and policymakers

Life stories raise questions, provocations and pointers for researchers and policymakers.

Comics and animations

Entangled lives: conflict and illicit economies in Afghanistan

This animation tells the story of a smuggler on the border between Afghanistan and Iran.

Colombia’s Broken Peace

This animation tells the story of Roger, an Afro-Colombian activist, and Joanna, a peasant farmer, as they navigate lives impacted by conflict and the illicit drug economy in Colombia’s borderlands.

Nang Nang and Sai Sai: Drugs and their impact on young people in Myanmar’s borderlands

This comic tells the story of Nang Nang and Sai Sai, illustrating the proliferation of drugs and their impact on young people in Shan State, Myanmar

Naw Hkam’s Story: Youth and Drugs in the Borderlands of Kachin State, Myanmar

This comic tells the story of Naw Kam, a young man who describes the impact on his life of sustained drug use

Jessica: Coca growing, stigmatization, violence and development in Colombia

This comic tells the story of Jessica, a social leader living in Putumayo on Colombia’s border with Ecuador, where many farmers grow coca

Jangul: conflict and drug trafficking in Afghanistan’s borderlands

This comic tells the story of Jangul’s from Nangarhar province in Afghanistan, and how he ended up smuggling heroin from Kabul to Moscow