Bolivia Makes Fertilizer from Seized Coca Leaf

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The Bolivian government announced that it has developed an organic fertilizer using confiscated coca leaves, which could help use up the country’s surplus coca crop as President Evo Morales searches for ways to implement his “coca yes, cocaine no” policy.

The government has so far directed over 45 tons of seized coca to the project, which has now completed its first phase — the production of the fertilizer — reported La Razon. The second phase involves assessing its efficacy, and will continue until the end of September 2013.

Laureano Coronol of the Public University of El Alto (UPEA) described preliminary results as “encouraging,” adding “the preliminary results show a high quality fertilizer.”

According to officials, the fertilizer could be used both for home gardens and large scale agriculture, La Patria reported.

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Earlier this month Bolivia won a victory in its fight to protect its coca-growing heritage, when it was readmitted to the United Nations anti-drug convention with an exemption making traditional uses of the coca leaf legal within the country. This victory puts even more pressure on President Evo Morales to ensure the country’s coca crops are not funnelled into the cocaine trade.

Current legislation allows for the legal production of 20,000 hectares of coca, which produces more coca leaf than is currently consumed on the legal market. It is believed a substantial percentage of that crop is used in cocaine production.

While the fertilizer is currently being produced from illegally produced coca leaves, if it is successful it could help Morales find the necessary balance between pleasing his political base by allowing legal coca cultivation, and meeting his international obligations to combat drug production. Other legal uses for coca that officials have suggested range from soft drinks to toothpaste.

This is not the first time Bolivia has announced plans to use coca as a fertilizer. In 2011, the government announced it was working on an organic fertilizer by mixing coca with tree leaves and chicken manure. It is not clear whether the fertilizer now being produced is an evolution of this project or whether their first attempts were a failure. 

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