Colombia’s government and demobilizing FARC guerrillas plan to eradicate some 50,000 hectares of coca in the South American country this year.
The target is half of what was promised by Defense minister Luis Carlos Villegas, who two weeks ago said the country would aim to eradicate 10,000 hectares.
But even eradicating 50,000 hectares is ambitious as the country is estimated by the United Nations to have 96,000 hectares. The United States even estimates that some 159,000 hectares of Colombian farmland were used for coca cultivation in 2016.
The 20,000 hectare goal set for 2016 was never met.
However, this year could mark a difference as the FARC, the guerrilla group that for decades was in charge to provide security for narcos and “taxed” coca growers vowed to assist the government in locating coca cultivation plots.
Additionally, a peace deal in place with the group that violently opposed the state since 1964 and 2016 included the eradication that, unlike in Colombia, in Peru has led to positive results.
Colombia, under pressure from the American government, has long prioritized the highly controversial and hardly effective aerial fumigation of a Monsanto pesticide that, according to locals, killed all agricultural crops and not just coca.
To make the Monsanto pesticide even more controversial, numerous health agencies have warned of the severe health hazards that come with the spraying of the chemical.
To coordinate the manual coca eradication efforts, the government inaugurated a new agency, Cocamm, which seeks the removal of several illicit crops, including poppy and marijuana.
This new agency will have government representatives from the 14 provinces where coca cultivation is most prevalent.
The FARC’s role in the eradication will be about locating and destroying landmines that have been sown to protect coca fields.
Cocaine and illegal mining are the two most lucrative sources of revenue for Colombia’s illegal armed groups and, since the peace deal with the FARC in November, mainly in hands by paramilitary successor groups like the AGC, dissident FARC rebels and the smaller ELN rebel group.