Authorities have suspended the fumigation of coca plantations in west Colombia following days of community protests.
Up to 5000 people have been blocking roads near the Panama border in the department of Choco since Sunday to protest the government’s eradication program.
Ivonne Caicedo from the Inter-ethnic Choco Solidarity Forum (FISC) told Colombia Reports, “these fumigations were killing the communities’ crops… as well as [contaminating] water sources and fish ponds.”
The protests came to an end late Wednesday following negotiations between community leaders and representatives from the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, and local politicians.
According to Caicedo, authorities agreed to suspend fumigation and in place the community would start a manual and voluntary eradication program partially funded by the state.
Caicedo said, “the important thing is the protest was listened to, the leaders and the communities were listened to because of their organization”
She added that some protesters remain on the streets but traffic is moving again.
The fumigation program began a week and a half ago in 14 municipalities in the Baudo and San Juan river basins.
Anti-drug police have been spraying an industrial strength weed killer, glyphosate, in an attempt to destroy the 11,000 acres of coca plantations in the area.
The territories are the collective property of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
None of the affected populations was consulted before the spraying was begun, despite the fact that it is a legal requirement.
A statement issued previously by community groups says they do not accept coca cultivation on their lands but reject the use of aerial fumigations to tackle the problem.
The use of the glyphosate in the eradication program has been highly controversial, with affected communities claiming it causes human health problems, kills crops, and contaminates food supplies.
Protests against the government’s fumigation program have also recently hit the department of Cordoba in northern Colombia.
Approximately 1,500 people have been protesting contamination of water supplies and residential areas by fumigation chemicals in the area surrounding the township of Puerto Libertador, according to Colombian NGO, CODHES.