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TOPIC: crop substitution


Colombia Pushes Coca Farmers Into Legal Crops — But It's No Clean Fix

Convincing coca farmers to plant legal crops is better than spraying poisonous pesticides to wipe out the plants. And yet it turns out these crop substitution programs are problematic, disrupting livelihoods and unintentionally causing violence and deforestation.


BOGOTÁ — Since cocaine was made illegal, various strategies have been implemented to control its supply. One such strategy involves the development of substitute crops for farmers and rural territories that cultivate the coca plant, who essentially rely on an illegal economy. This approach represents a significant improvement over established drug eradication policies.

Firstly, the policy understands that coca growers often choose the crop because of financial pressures and a lack of opportunities in the legal market. The policy also emphasizes protecting the human rights of people in areas with coca farming. While the development of substitute crops is far from perfect, it is a more efficient and cost-effective way to reduce coca cultivation, compared to trying to eradicate it entirely.

Academics María Alejandra Vélez and Estefanía Ciro, among others, point to a major problem: the policy is still based on the idea of eliminating coca cultivation. While seeking in theory to resolve the structural factors that push people into the coca economy, it has yet to be proved as an effective method of curbing cultivation.

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