June 21st, 2006 13:14 EST
Progress Reported in Fighting Coca in Andean Region By Eric Green
Washington -– More international aid is needed to help three nations in the Andean region -- Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru -- continue their recent successes in eradicating coca, the main ingredient used to make cocaine, says a drug agency of the United Nations.
In a June 20 statement, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime appealed for the aid to help poor farmers in the Andean countries make a livelihood growing legal crops instead of coca. The office said such alternative development, besides contributing to the prevention and reduction of coca cultivation, also helps the overall development of local communities in the Andean region.
Antonio Costa, executive director of the U.N. drug agency, said the three Andean governments are "trying to hold the line on the significant reductions" in producing coca that have been made in the past five years, with overall figures of coca production remaining nearly a third below their peak of 2000. (See related article.)
The aid, said Costa, is needed to "provide poor coca farmers with sustainable alternative livelihoods."
Costa's comments came at a news conference in Bogota, where he presented his agency's 2005 Andean Coca Survey. Costa's drug office said the survey showed that coca cultivation in the Andean region rose 1 percent from 2004 to 159,600 hectares in 2005. This increase reflected an 8 percent increase in coca cultivation in Colombia, while cultivation in Bolivia and Peru fell by 8 percent and 4 percent respectively, the survey said. Global cocaine production fell 3 percent to 910 metric tons in 2005. (See related article.)
Assistance already being provided to wean farmers from coca is proving effective, said Costa, but added that the amount of aid is much too small.
"Our aid efforts need to be multiplied at least tenfold in order to reach all impoverished farmers who need support," Costa said. He added that reducing coca production is a "major undertaking, but it could reduce poverty and the world supply of cocaine at the same time."
The U.N. agency said Colombia remained the world's largest coca grower in 2005, accounting for 54 per cent of total cultivation. Peru was second with 30 per cent and Bolivia third with 16 percent.
Global seizures of coca rose 18 per cent to 588 metric tons in 2004, the highest ever recorded, said the U.N., which added that for the third consecutive year, Colombia topped the rankings for seizures. Costa said the larger amount of coca seizures reflected improved cooperation in international law enforcement.
For its part, the United States continues to support coca eradication and alternative crop growing programs in the Andean region, where nearly all the world's supply of cocaine is produced.
The State Department said in a recently released report that the U.S.-supported program in Bolivia, for example, "strengthened the sustainability" of the legal economy in Bolivia's Chapare region. The department's 2006 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released March 1, said a "new, integrated alternative development approach in the Chapare provides for participation by municipalities" in Bolivian government decisions on development, implementation and monitoring of programs. This approach, the department said, "has helped reduce coca-related conflict and strengthen local commitment" to legal development.
In Peru, the U.S.-backed alternative development program aims to make coca reduction "sustainable through improving local governance, strengthening rule of law and increasing the economic competitiveness of coca-growing areas," the report said.
In Colombia, an estimated 64,000 families have received assistance through the U.S.-backed alternative development program.
The section of the State Department report pertaining to the Andean region and South America is available at the State Department Web site, as is the full text of the entire report.
The U.N. survey is available at the United Nations Web site.
For more on U.S. policy in the region, see Andean Region.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)