Coca farmer in Nariño, Colombia

The Colombian government has announced a new strategy of offering land titles to coca growers in return for abandoning their illicit crops, a bold move, but one that fails to address what farmers can grow and sell instead.

Presently around 60 percent of coca farmers do not have deeds to the land where they farm, according to the director of a government anti-illicit crops program, Javier Florez. 

The government now plans to offer the farmers land titles if they agree not to replant coca after crops have been eradicated, which currently happens in 42 percent of cases, as El Tiempo reports. According to Florez, the strategy aims to incentivize farmers to give up coca cultivation and to ensure that they then only grow legal crops, as if they are found with coca they will have to forfeit their land titles.

The program is already underway in the department of Vichada and the government will next turn to Meta, Nariño, and Putumayo.

InSight Crime Analysis

The government's proposal is an interesting strategy that not only combines the carrot and stick approach to coca farmers without resorting to judicial punishments, but also recognizes the land rights issue that goes to the very heart of why so many small scale farmers resort to coca cultivation.

However, what it fails to take into account is the economic side of this issue. As has been demonstrated by the consistent failure of crop substitution programs, finding legal crops to replace coca is extremely difficult.

Farmers not only require a crop that produces sufficient and reliable yields, they also require access to markets, which in the isolated rural areas where coca is usually grown often proves to be very hard. Farmers growing legal crops are also subject to the whims of the global commodities markets and can be left financially destroyed by price crashes.

In contrast, coca is a hardy, high yield plant, there is always a steady market and price, and the buyer will happily come to the grower. If the government fails to help the farmers find a viable legal crop to grow on their newly titled land that can compete with this, then the plan is unlikely to see long term success.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...