Land used for coca cultivation in Colombia fell 25% in 2012, according to a report released by the UN on Thursday.
The report confirms figures released by El Tiempo in June, in which the newspaper claimed the area used for coca cultivation had dropped from 64,000 to 48,000 hectares between 2011 and 2012.
The state lacks a significant presence in these areas and they are heavily populated with rebels and bacrim’s – drug trafficking organisations formed from demobilized paramilitaries.
According to the General Luis Alberto Perez, the head of Colombia’s counter narcotic police, efforts by security forces in these departments were frustrated by such groups.
“An increased use of landmines by these groups means that eradication workers cannot pull out the plants by hand without the risk of stepping on a mine,” explained Perez in an interview with the BBC.
Bo Mathiasen, the United Nations office on drugs and crime (UNODC) Representative in Colombia, believes that there needs to be a greater focus on alternative development programs.
“The impact of the government efforts to eradicate illicit coca crop is visible. However, the 2012 and previous surveys show that after eradication takes place, cultivation often resumes in new or previously cleared fields.”
“Therefore, crop eradication, even when it yields positive results, must be complemented by alternative livelihood schemes to improve social, economic and environmental conditions and to achieve a sustainable reduction in the area under cultivation,” argued Mathiasen.
The report however, states that coca growing has decreased in 17 of 23 coca growing departments.
“Even though the police had eradicated less coca than in previous years, the force had increased its presence in those regions where most of the coca was grown, preventing people from planting coca bushes in the first place,” explained Perez.
Estimates of coca cultivation differ greatly depending on the source.
In a report released in July, the US claimed that the area used for coca cultivation had dropped from 83,000 to 78,000 hectares between 2011 and 2012, a fall of just 4.15%.
The US report also claims that coca cultivation increased in the department of Putumayo, while UN figures state that the department was one of which saw the greatest declines.