The Government of Colombia continues its efforts against illicit drug crop cultivation through a variety of programmes focusing on legal alternative crops and the preservation of the environment.
Colombia is the world's largest coca bush grower. In 2011, 23 of Colombia's 32 departments had some area under coca bush cultivation and UNODC estimates that 63,660 of the country's households were involved in the cultivation of that illicit crop. This has led the Government and the international community to design an innovative programme that also addresses security issues.
Experience has shown that it is not enough to eradicate illicit drug crops to bring about a lasting solution to the problem. This is why UNODC supports the Government's efforts to assist farmers who give up cultivating coca bush through alternative development initiatives such as the Forest Warden Families Programme and the Productive Projects Programme. These initiatives ensure that former coca bush farmers have legal and adequate incomes. These rural activities are integrated into broader socio-economic development strategies and benefit rural, indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations.
UNODC estimates that the area under coca bush cultivation in Colombia has declined by 15 per cent from 73,000 hectares in 2009 to 62,000 hectares in 2010. During the last decade (2000 to 2010), cultivation levels have been reduced significantly by 62 %. These declines signal an advance of sustainable livelihood programmes and are due mainly to a combination of alternative development and law enforcement measures.
"Products of peace"
The Colombian Government, UNODC, other international partners and the local private sector support farmers' associations engaged in producing alternative development products, including beans, cacao, heart of palm, coffee, honey, coconuts, dairy products and gourmet sauces. Many of these enterprises produce organic products in environmentally friendly ways, making them profitable and competitive on domestic and international markets, including in supermarket chains such as Carrefour.
Forest-Warden Families Programme
The Forest Warden Programme, created and coordinated by the Presidential Programme for Social Action of Colombia, has as its main objective the incorporation of farmer families into a process of voluntary eradication of illicit crops and the recovery of the forest in ecologically and socially vulnerable areas. UNODC monitors the achievements of the Programme with respect to voluntary eradication, forest recovery and socio-economic development. Additionally, UNODC supports the publication of "El Bosque", issued periodically with a circulation of 60,000 exemplars, explaining the challenges of becoming a forest warden, including progress and problems to be resolved.