Eradication No Fix-All Solution to Coca Growing in Peru

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Peru has failed to supplement its remarkable success in coca eradication with effective strategies that encourage farmers to plant alternative crops, meaning authorities still face an uphill battle in reducing cocaine production.

Less than half of all growers in Peru received financial support or assistance from the government after their coca crops were destroyed last year, according to the Associated Press. The majority of the 95,000 farmers affected by eradication in 2014 either rejected what they say is inadequate compensation or were offered nothing at all.

One family interviewed by the Associated Press grew bananas after their coca crops were forcibly eradicated in 2013. The family earned just $1 for the entire bundle of bananas, a pittance compared to the nearly $1,000 they can make every four months by selling coca. 

Peru has followed an aggressive eradication policy in recent years, and managed to destroy a record 55,000 hectares of coca in 2013 and 2014. Peru is no longer the world’s top coca producer, according to the United Nations, a title it claimed from Colombia in 2013.

InSight Crime Analysis

The AP report reflects how even a successful eradication program like the one implemented in Peru falls short if authorities provide no viable alternatives to coca growing. Even when faced with the threat of having their crops destroyed, farmers will seek to continue planting coca it they have no other option for making a decent living. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Coca

A similar dynamic can be seen in Colombia, where coca production rose nearly 40 percent in 2014, according to White House estimates. Based on information from various sources on the ground, InSight Crime believes Colombia’s coca production will continue to rise at a similar rate in 2015.

Colombia’s decision in May to halt aerial fumigation will also likely impact the country’s level of coca production. As much as 70 percent of the coca grown in Colombia is controlled by rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), presenting a significant security concern for manual eradicators. Peru — which prohibits aerial fumigation — abandoned its eradication program last year in the jungle region known as the VRAEM, due to security risks presented by insurgent group the Shining Path.

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