Colombia has made considerable advancements over the past two year in illicit crops substitution program to eradicate coca, said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD) .
UNOCD praised the progress Colombia has recorded in curbing illicit drugs production through alternative development scheme.
At the 2014 National Conference for Alternative Development in Medellin, UNOCD representative Bo Mathiasen showed evidence for the success of the project and improvements in quality of life of thousands of families involved in illicit crops substitution in recent years.
96,000+ families benefit
The results presented at the three-days event encompass data collected since 2012, when Alternative Development program was incorporated into the National Territorial Consolidation Plan. Since then 96.000 families in 1.721 villages across Colombia have benefited from the initiative.
FACT SHEET: Colombia coca cultivation
Beginning in 2011, through the Memoranda of Understanding, the Colombian government has devoted more than $111 million pesos in resources to aid communities affected by illicit crops. Between 2012 and 2014, alternative development programs allowed for securing of almost 1,5 million hectares of illicit crops-free land.
The Post-Eradication and Containment programs addressing the elimination of illegal crops with economic and social programs for the most vulnerable populations have turned out advantageous to thousands of farmers across the country. However, other beneficiaries include an estimated 9% of Afro-Colombians, 17% of displaced people and 5% of indigenous communities.
Already 49% of the participants declare that their incomes have increased since the onset of the Program. “In Antioquia, Magdalena, La Guajira and Norte de Santander, more than 40% of the beneficiaries belong to an association integrated in the program,” said Mathiasen.
Elsewhere, the UNOCD representative informed that more than 55.000 families have profited from various productivity projects by using around 43.000 hectares of land for legal purposes. Small-scale coffee and cacao farms form the largest group of enterprises assisted by the program. Some of them have generated sells of more than 6 billion pesos in the last years.
Area used for coca cultivation
According to Mathiasen, at the moment UNODC co-operates with more than 260 small producers’ organizations from 27 states (from the total of 32) in Colombia. The states of Antioquia, Magdalena, Nariño and Putumayo have the biggest number of organizations supported by alternative development projects.
Last year’s report by the UNODC revealed that although there has been a general reduction of illicit crops, a sharp increase among the major producers in regions bordering with Ecuador (Nariño and Putumayo) and Venezuela (Catatumbo) has also been registered.
“Nariño and Putumayo are the regions holding a lion’s share of illicit crops in the country. Organizational strengthening in these two states is fundamental,” explained the official.
Key to the peace process
“The endeavors of the Alternative Development project have to be in accordance with the actions of local governments, as well as those of trade unions and specialized bodies. The Alternative Development scheme is considered by the United Nations as a key element for the construction of peace in Colombia,” stressed the Danish representative.
In his final remarks, Mathiasen insisted that”the experience and the results achieved by the country so far will have to be taken into account in any potential future efforts to strengthen policies against drugs and illicit crops.”
The land planted with coca bushes has dropped from 64,000 hectares in 2011 to 48,000 hectares in 2013, the lowest figure since monitoring started in Colombia more than a decade ago. The latest report by the UNODC from June 2013, indicated a total drop by 25% in illicit crops in the country.
Earlier this year, the UNODC’s Executive Director Yury Fedotov hailed the accord reached in Havana on 16 May 2014 between the Colombian Government and FARC-EP on the subject of illicit drugs. The agreement is comprehensive and includes three sub-themes: substitution of illicit crops through comprehensive alternative development programs, demand reduction with an emphasis on public health services, and ending the production and commercialization of illicit drugs.