Coca production in Colombia

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Coca eradication in Colombia.

In 2012, coca production in Colombia amounted to 0.2% of Colombia's overall GDP and 3% of Colombia's GDP related to the agricultural sector.[1] The great majority of cultivation takes place in the departments of Putumayo, Caquetá, Meta, Guaviare, Nariño, Antioquia, and Vichada.[2]

History[edit]

Before the 1990s, harvesting coca leaves had been a relatively small-scale business in Colombia.[3] Though Peru and Bolivia dominated coca-leaf production in the 1980s and early 1990s, manual-eradication campaigns there, the successful rupture of the air bridge that previously facilitated the illegal transport of Bolivian and Peruvian coca leaf to Colombia, and a fungus that wiped out a large percentage of Peru's coca crops made it more difficult for the cartels to obtain coca from these countries.[4]

In response, Colombia's drug cartels purchased land in Colombia to expand local production, pushing coca cultivation into areas of southern Colombia controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).[5][4] Colombia replaced Bolivia and Peru as the primary producer of coca leaf between 1996 and 1997.[4]

With only 14 percent of the global coca-leaf market in 1991, by 2004 Colombia was responsible for 80 percent of the world's cocaine production.[3] One estimate has Colombia's coca cultivation hectarage growing from 13,000 in the mid-1980s, to 80,000 hectac in 1998, to 99,000 in 2007.[3]

Another estimate has Colombia's coca cultivation hectarage growing from 40,100 in 1990 to 163,300 in 2000, but dropping to 78,000 in 2007 as a result of government eradication programs.[2] However, any effect of these eradication programs has been tempered by increases in productivity: Colombia's estimated coca production grew from 463 metric tons in 2001 to 610 metric tons in 2006.[2]

As of 2006, coca production in Colombia employed an estimated 67,000 households.[2] More importantly, coca production employs underage children and indentured laborers according to a U.S. Department of Labor report on child labor and labor conditions around the world. The 2013 research classified coca production under "Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor" and indicated the occurrence of "recruitment, sometimes through force, of children into illegal non-state armed groups to grow coca; perform intelligence and logistical activities; store and transport weapons, explosives, and chemical precursors to process narcotics; and participate in armed conflict".[6] In December 2014, coca production was still mentioned in a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor issued by the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.[7]

Environmental Effects[edit]

The Colombian landscape is damaged through the constant deforestation caused by clearing of fields for coca cultivation and government efforts to eradicate the coca plants.[8] Soil erosion and the chemical pollution caused by aerial spraying of glyphosate herbicide also have negative effects on Colombia's environment and people. [9]

Plots denuded of coca plants by mechanical means (burning or cutting) or chemical herbicides, such as glyphosate, are abandoned and cause serious problems with erosion in seasonal rains. Because of the continuous high demand for coca, once a plot is destroyed the planters simply move further into the forest, clearing new lands for coca production. It is this vicious cycle of unsustainable cultivation-eradication that has caused the environment in coca producing zones to suffer substantial decline.

Aerial spraying of glyphosate herbicide, one of the most controversial methods of coca eradication, has taken place in Colombia exclusively because of that government's willingness to cooperate with the United States in the militarized eradication of coca after signing Plan Colombia in 2000. In fact, Colombia is the only country in the world that permits aerial-spraying of drug producing crops.[10] In many cases the spraying is carried out by American contractors, such as DynCorp, using planes and helicopters to spray glyphosate on coca plantations. Aerial spraying has been repeatedly condemned by human rights and environmental activists because of its effect on human populations and local soil and water systems. In December 2000, Dutch journalist Marjon van Royen found that "because the chemical is sprayed in Colombia from planes on inhabited areas, there have been consistent health complaints [in humans]. Burning eyes, dizziness and respiratory problems being most frequently reported." In some areas, 80 percent of the children of the indigenous community fell sick with skin rashes, fever, diarrhoea and eye infections.[11] Because the glyphosate is sprayed from the air, there is a much higher chance of human error when spraying suspected illegal coca plantations. In many cases the wrong fields are sprayed, resulting in not only a total loss of the farmer's crop- but the loss of that field altogether as nothing will grow where the herbicide has been sprayed.[10] Though official documentation of the health effects of glyphosate spraying in Colombia are virtually non-existent, neighbouring Ecuador has conducted studies to determine the cause of mysterious illnesses amongst people living along the border of Colombia and has since demanded that no aerial sprayings occur within 10 km of the border because of the damages caused to the people, animals and environment in that area.[10]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2013/August/colombia-grows-quarter-less-coca-crop-according-to-unodc-2012-survey.html
  2. ^ a b c d Robert Steiner and Hernan Vallejo. "Illegal drugs". In Hudson.
  3. ^ a b c Ann C. Mason. "Internal Armed Conflict". In Hudson.
  4. ^ a b c Arlene B. Tickner. "Internal armed conflict and peace negotiations." In Hudson.
  5. ^ Ann C. Mason. "Drug trafficking and the origins of paramilitarism". In Hudson.
  6. ^ 2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor -Colombia-
  7. ^ List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor
  8. ^ "Cocaine destroying rainforest parks in Colombia". Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  9. ^ Hugh O’Shaughnessy and Sue Branford, Chemical Warfare in Colombia: The Costs of Coca Fumigation (London: Latin America Bureau, 2005.)
  10. ^ a b c Hugh O’Shaughnessy and Sue Branford, Chemical Warfare in Colombia: The Costs of Coca Fumigation (London: Latin America Bureau, 2005.)
  11. ^ Driven Mad by Itch, NRC Handelsblad, December 28, 2000

Works cited[edit]