September 29, 2006

Rethinking Plan Colombia

Here is the third and final installment of The Christian Science Monitors series on the drug war in Columbia.

Dana Harman at CSM: Sandro Calvani, director of the UN’s office on Drugs and Crime in Colombia (UNODC) argues that Plan Colombia’s heavy focus on aerial spraying needs to be supplemented with increased efforts to deal with the social and economic roots of Colombia’s coca industry. Specifically, he wants the US and others in the international community to offer real strategies for rural development that would ensure alternative livelihoods for poor farmers who face destruction of their chief cash crop.

“Why do Colombians go back to replanting coca? Because it’s easy, and no one talks to them about doing something else,” says Calvani. The alternative development programs that have been attempted, he says, show clear, impressive results. A UNODC survey released in June shows that 70 percent of the fields eradicated through Plan Colombia are replanted. But if farmers receive alternative development assistance, states Calvani, the percentage of coca fields replanted dives to 3 percent, with the likes of coffee, hearts of palm, and red beans being planted instead: “Once coca peasants live on licit crops for one year, they never go back to the illicit economy.”

By Howie at 12:30 PM | Comments |