UNODC's alternative development approach is based on the idea that illicit drug supply can only be reduced successfully by addressing illicit drug crop cultivation through poverty reduction within a framework of sustainable development. When measuring the impact of related development interventions, UNODC not only considers reductions in illicit drug crop cultivation and drug abuse, but strongly relies on human development indicators. Alternative development means giving farmers an economically viable, legal alternative to growing coca, opium or other illicit crops. This lies at the heart of much of UNODC's operational activity at the national, regional and sub-regional levels.

Alternative development projects focus on providing small rural farmers with licit income generation activities to reduce their dependency on income from opium poppy and coca bush. Efforts are also centered on health, education, basic infrastructure, community development and food security, among other areas. Special attention is given to environmental protection and improved markets for alternative development products. UNODC-supported alternative development also empowers communities while ensuring that both men and women benefit equally from development interventions.

Alternative development components


The Sustainable Livelihoods Unit (SLU) is the focal point for the UNODC alternative development programmes. If you need more information please contact us.


UNODC alternative development projects are designed to benefit small rural farmers who are involved in or at risk of becoming engaged in the cultivation of illicit crops. Almost 4.5 million people depend on income derived from the cultivation of illicit drug crops such as coca bush and opium poppy. In most cases, affected populations live below the poverty line ( Human Development Index) and typically 50 per cent of their income comes from drug crop cultivation.

UNODC works to reduce the cultivation of illicit crops through a variety of development-oriented poverty reduction and rural sustainable development strategies, including agricultural-based initiatives. UNODC implements multi-sectorial rural development projects in Latin America, South-East Asia and the southern part of Central Asia. Furthermore, UNODC helps countries to link their drug control approaches to development policies and strategies. Currently, UNODC supports and promotes alternative development projects in six countries: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Peru.


UNODC works in partnership with affected countries, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. In the field of alternative development, UNODC has forged strong partnerships with UNIDO, UNICEF, the European Commission, the Government of Germany (BMZ/GIZ), the Government of Thailand, among others. Additionally, UNODC cooperates with other relevant agencies and regional organizations with the objective of establishing new partnerships and collaboration as our fight against illicit drug crop cultivation expands to new geographical areas.