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The voluntary substitution of coca crops in Colombia requires comprehensive policies and an economic exit that benefits the farmers
The substitution of illicit crops in Colombia has been, for many years, a complex and sometimes unsuccessful process, since coca gives farmers more guarantees and income than any other crop, such as cocoa, for example.
Despite the disarmament of Colombia's largest guerrilla, coca cultivation continues growing. In fact, by 2018 coca crops beat their record, going from 146,000 hectares in 2017 to 171,000 in the following year, thus consolidating 65% of the coca crops in the world, according to El Tiempo reports in its special 'Coca and Peace '.
Not only is the income difference between coca and other products, but the few possibilities offered by the State when it comes to crop substitution. This is why the previous government devised comprehensive strategies that aimed to include different sectors of the country, to move towards the total voluntary substitution of crops, and not in forced eradication.
Government attempts to replace crops
In 2015, the Government of Juan Manuel Santos made a first complete approach towards the vision of substitution of illicit crops. The Integral Strategy covered different work fronts: "social investment, substitution, interdiction, investigation and judicialization, consumption and institutional reform", according to the page of the Ministry of Environment.
The plan also offered support to communities that decided to substitute coca, with advice and funding, as well as the incentive to return them, owners of the lands, if they lasted 5 years legally cultivating. The strategy, although it encouraged voluntary substitution, did not rule out forced eradication in the second instance. In addition, it aimed to fight drug trafficking from all aspects, including cultivation, consumption, prevention, manufacturing, and trafficking.
Likewise, as a closure of the Santos Government, a support system was implemented by the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, where they seek to strengthen the country's economy and agriculture. starting from encouraging the production of licit crops.
This agreement referred to a discount of more than 90% on permits needed to start a new crop. The medium Portfolio, assures that "321 organizations of 23 departments will have significant future participation in the market", and that they promote cocoa, coffee, and rice market, mainly.
The same media cited what was said by the Superintendent of Industry and Commerce at the time about the products they use to replace coca crops: "We have seen that domestic products are very well received by buyers, so we hope that the offer of alternative development brands grows in the country. It is important to support our people, even more so when they left the illicit crop and are now engaged in offering products for the whole family. "
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Substitution alternatives, to be effective, must be linked to an economic change that occurs from the field to the city. It is for this reason that big difficulties have been encountered with involuntary substitution and that, despite the efforts, it has increased the cultivation of coca in the country.
In addition to individual initiatives, such as the creation of companies that sells coffee or cocoa, it has been seeking to expand the solution to a National level, which is why the concept of 'solidarity economy' has been necessary for the construction of peace. This solidary economy seeks to include private and public companies to support farmers who start their new crops, so that they have opportunities and, thus, licit crops have more profitability.
Solidarity Organizations, for example, has decided to support organizations from different municipalities in the country, granting them benefits and advantages in this economy. By promoting this type of benefits, the agricultural power of the country is strengthened and the drug trafficking business is weakened.
The solidarity economy, according to one of the officials of Solidarity Organizations says that it serves "to meet their basic needs and implement these productive projects, which begins to change the reality of the regions where illicit crops had large areas of land and today can be planted with products, which commercialized, will generate economic resources, reactivating the Colombian countryside "
In an interview with ¡Pacifista !, the chef Alejandro Cuellar, talks about the need for his guild to be inspired by these people and that, in addition, support the new industries that arise using products from these new crops: "we use gastronomy as a tool and a language through which we can communicate ideas".
In this way, the kitchen allows to visualize this need of the country and create opportunities for the peasants to see the substitution of coca viable. Thus, private initiatives also allow the emergence of new peasant enterprises to reduce illicit crops more and more.
LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez
Translated from: 'Colombia: el difícil camino hacia la sustitución de cultivos ilícitos'