How the Cultivation of Coca fuels the production of Cocaine in Colombia

Life in the Amazon (COR-330-11)


Executive Summary:

Colombia’s battle with coca production is not a new fight; Colombia has struggled for decades with battling illicit coca production in the country. From the thousands of peasant families who grow coca leaves, to the few billionaire drug barons who direct much of the production, processing and trafficking of cocaine, earnings have enormous economic, social and political influence in Latin America. Colombia’s coca production in particular is still very serious even though it has recently fallen behind Peru as the number one producer. Coca production in Colombia has been strongly associated with increased violence and political instability throughout the entire country. Cocaine allows economic power to be bought, which influences and threatens democratic institutions. Apart from the corrupting power of such huge sums of narco-dollars on police and judicial systems, Congressmen are elected with cocaine funds, trafficking groups sustain banks and exchange rates fluctuate with the state of the trade. Coca production is also linked with deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution, and general civil unrest. Not to mention the untold healthcare costs associated with treating the drug addicts and abusers. The production of coca also disrupts other legal economic activities, and limits others because international corporations and national companies are afraid to do business in and around the regions. The Colombian government has made great efforts to control coca production and to secure the country to make it safe for its citizens; however, these efforts have had marginal impacts. The problem of coca production in Colombia is still an issue and efforts to eradicate coca in Colombia hasn’t been easy and seems to only displace coca growing to other areas of the country. Unfortunately, the current and past strategies of coca eradication have led to undesirable outcomes such as widening inequality and negative externalities such as environmental damage, displaced persons, loss in agricultural wages, and dispersion of violence. In Colombia, military interventions and a greater government presence have had a much better return on investment since eradication appears to have the opposite effect by increasing the intensity of production. Eradication and alternative crop strategies by themselves have small effects, but alternative crop development is less expensive and can deter coca production if profitable. So markets and infrastructure are essential for alternative crop development and creating substitutes for coca production in Colombia.

2 thoughts on “How the Cultivation of Coca fuels the production of Cocaine in Colombia

  1. Kenneth Taylor

    The dire coca/cocaine situation in the Colombia reminds me of the khat problem currently facing Yemen. Khat, or qat, is a chewable narcotic leaf with effects similar to nicotine and marijuana that is used by over 70% of the male population, and over 50% of all women in the country as well, though it is difficult to collect data on the khat habits of women in Yemen, as it is less acceptable for a woman to chew khat in public, and so most khat consumption by women is in private, and both of these numbers could be much larger. It is a common sight to see people in Yemen walking around the streets with cheeks-full of khat leaves, and the drug has become so ingrained in Yemeni culture that it’s common for most people in the nation to pack up and head home around 2 or 3 in the afternoon to go and have a long afternoon khat chew in their homes – the entire nation basically shuts down after lunch to go and get high and chill like the gang from That 70’s Show. Even children as young as 9 or 10 chew khat, sometimes in front of or with their parents.
    Many farmers choose to devote their land to khat production, as it the largest cash crop by far in the nation – forests, and other important food crops, have been displaced in favor of khat fields. This is a huge problem in nation with little water or farmable land to begin with. Many peasants grow khat to support their families, just as many peasants grow coca in Colombia. Like in Colombia, the government, health organizations, and religious institutions have tried to convince people to shift away from khat production, into the production of crops that can better help the nation.

  2. Amanda Ledwidge

    Colombia’s battle with coca production is indeed not a new fight — it reminds me heavily of China’s battle with opium. I suppose the biggest difference is where the source is coming from. While Colombia’s battle is all internal — being made in Colombia — China’s opium problem came from outside, and without China’s permission. No matter how much China tried to convince the Britain to stop exporting opium to them, it wouldn’t help, and thus the two Opium Wars. Unfortunately, China was not strong enough at the time to resist, and China suffered thoroughly. This left a huge scar on China, and grudges that remain today. In China’s long history, this is recent pain.


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