illicit crops

The Ghosts of Development Past: Deforestation and Coca in Western Amazonia

For decades coca cultivation has been proposed as a cause of deforestation and attractor of migration to the forest frontier of western Amazonia. Evaluating the effects of coca cultivation has become a priority because averting deforestation has …

The Origins of Cocaine: Colonization and Failed Development in the Amazon Andes

Deforestation and Coca Cultivation Rooted in Twentieth-Century Development Projects

Most of the world's coca—the source of cocaine—is grown in the Amazonian forests of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. As cultivation continues despite eradication, a shift to giving farmers more incentives to abandon coca is currently proposed. Assuming …

The world drug problem and sustainable development

Illicit crop cultivation often occurs in forested areas and contributes to deforestation when it results in the clearing of woodland. Moreover, illicit crop cultivation frequently takes place in biodiversity hotspots hosting a large number of species …

A Bayesian Spatial Model Highlights Distinct Dynamics in Deforestation from Coca and Pastures in an Andean Biodiversity Hotspot

The loss of tropical forests has continued in recent decades despite wide recognition of their importance to maintaining biodiversity. Here, we examine the conversion of forests to pastures and coca crops (illicit activity) on the San Lucas Mountain …

Disabusing cocaine: Pervasive myths and enduring realities of a globalised commodity

For more than 30 years Colombia has waged an internal War on Drugs with the support of the interna- tional community. During this time, the illegal economy has evolved toward integrating cultivation with processing and trafficking, making Colombia the largest grower of coca in the world. The environmental impact of coca production and processing is vast, accounting for large quantities of toxic chemicals directly dumped onto the soil and watersheds, as well as most deforestation since the 1990s. The policies pursued to stem the coca economy, however, are based on unfounded assumptions about the behaviour of coca growers in the context of international markets. Despite their unfounded premises, these assumptions have acquired a mythical stature. In this article we review the most persistent myths about coca produc- tion with a view to understanding its links to environmental degradation. To this end, we present data on the economic and demographic background of coca growers, their impact on the environment, and their behaviour in the larger context of international markets and current eradication policies.

Forests in the Time of Violence: Conservation Implications of the Colombian War

Forest remnants in the Colombian Amazon, Andes, and Chocó are the last repositories of a highly diverse and endemic biota. Historical changes in the Colombian landscape have been dramatic, but the magnitude and rate of change has increased over the …

Forests in the Time of Violence; Conservation Implications of the Colombian War

Forest remnants in the Colombian Amazon, Andes, and Chocó are the last repositories of a highly diverse and endemic biota. Historical changes in the Colombian landscape have been dramatic, but the magnitude and rate of change has increased over the last half century, while conflict has consumed the capacity of Colombian society to respond to environmental threats. Academic experts in the study of the Colombian conflict have explored the social, political, and economic implications of the war. However, the environmental consequences of conflict are documented only when groups in conflict target salient economic resources. This paper presents the first analysis of the geographic distribution of forest remnants in relation to armed conflict in Colombia. Results show that guerrillas and/or paramilitaries range throughout areas of human encroachment into remnant forests. The policies promoted by Colombia's irregular armed forces range from “gunpoint conservation” rarely applied by guerrillas, to the rapid conversion of forests and crops to cattle ranches and coca (Erythroxylum sp.) plantations, following paramilitary occupation. Because the rates and extent of fragmentation are linked to such land use practices, armed groups may play a crucial role in determining the fate of Colombia's forests and their endemic biota.

Illicit Crops and Bird Conservation Priorities in Colombia

Over the last 5 years the amount of land in Colombia planted in illicit crops, such as coca and poppy, has grown an average of 21% per year and may account for half the total area deforested in 1998. I conducted a geographic analysis of the distribution of illicit crops relative to standing forests and areas of conservation priority for birds. Municipalities where illicit crops have been detected were overlaid on a forest‐cover map of Colombia and two types of conservation priorities for birds were plotted: distributions of threatened species and minimum‐area sets for conservation of all species. The sites of the highest conservation priority affected by illicit crops were in the southern Andes, the northern West Andes and adjacent Darién lowlands, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Serranía del Perijá, and the Serranía de San Lucas. The largest forested areas threatened by illicit crops were in Amazonia and the Amazonian foothills of the East Andes, sites of low conservation priority. Given current trends in the expansion of illicit crops and the narrow endemicity of some bird species, the conversion of forests for illicit‐crop cultivation may result in the extirpation of several bird species from affected regions. To impede this, those involved in illicit‐crop eradication and alternative development should give high priority to the protection of existing forest reserves and parks from the planting of illicit crops. Such efforts should also extend to areas proposed for conservation based on the diversity of threatened and endemic birds that are currently unprotected. The conservation of threatened and endemic birds in Colombian forests may hinge on successfully curbing incentives for deforestation, including the international trade in illicit drugs.

Could Peace be Worse than War for Colombia's Forests?

The forests of Colombia are influenced by the actions of armed groups and, in many cases, their settlers are economically dependent on illicit crops. Up to the present armed conflict has simultaneously discouraged organized exploitation in some frontier areas, and encouraged unsustainable use of natural resources therein. The Colombian government seeks to end the conflict by pursuing peace negotiations, and to eradicate illicit crops. How will these policies affect the forests? The environmental consequences of these policies are not only dependent on the unlikely economic success of alternative development, but on making informed decisions about infrastructure development in affected areas.