Colombia’s police started to manually eradicate coca plantations along the Colombian-Ecuadorean border on Wednesday in an effort to destroy 12,000 acres of coca cultivation.
Mobile eradication groups are focusing on the southern department of Putumayo bordering Ecuador, one of the areas with the highest coca cultivation in the country. According to the latest report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Putumayo together with the southern departments of Nariño and Guaviare account for 54% of total coca cultivation in Colombia.
The police aims “to destroy 12,355 acres of coca from today until October 15,” said the head of the narcotics division of the National Police, Luis Alberto Perez.
“The departments of Putumayo and neighboring Nariño are (with 44,000 acres) the areas most affected by coca cultivation in Colombia because of drug traffickers who convert the coca leaves into cocaine,” added Perez.
In 2011, the government manually eradicated 84,000 acres of coca plants and sprayed a total of 254,500 acres. While aerial spraying remained at 2010 levels, manual eradication decreased by 22%. The decrease was attributed to fewer resources allocated to the anti-narcotics practice.
According to the United Nations, coca cultivation across Colombia rose in 2011 for the first time in five years. Around 64,000 hectacres were used to grow coca crops last year, an increase of 2,000 hectacres, according to the Office on Drugs and Crime of the international government organization.
Authorities launched the project in Putumayo following suggestions of the U.N. to the Colombian state that manual eradication should focus on areas where the largest concentration of coca crops were found. This would mean that the mobile eradication groups would not have to travel the entire country, but instead consolidate efforts in specific regions.