Possibilities of crop substitution for the coca bush in Bolivia




Author: Argos A. RODRIGUEZ
Pages: 13 to 23
Creation Date: 1965/01/01

Possibilities of crop substitution for the coca bush in Bolivia

Expert in General Agriculture, Expert of the Food and Agriculture Organization

In 1962, the Government of Peru asked that the Consultative Group on Coca Leaf Problems in Latin America, which had just held its meeting in Lima, should meet again in the future. Accordingly, the Group held a second meeting, also in Lima, in December 1964. The Food and Agriculture Organization was asked to participate in the work of the Group through its regional representative, Mr. Argos A. Rodriguez, whose contribution was, inter alia, a report on the possibilities of crop substitution for the coca bush. Hereafter will be found the substance of that report.


The coca bush ( Erythroxylum coca) is a plant which grows in tropical and sub-tropical regions and which, given very favourable soil and climatic conditions, can attain a height of four metres when fully developed.

In the areas where it is grown, the commonest method used is to plant the seed taken from a bush which is more than three years old.

The seed is placed in a container of any kind and is abundantly watered; after five days, when it begins to swell, the seed can be planted in a mixture of humus, sand and earth in equal proportions, which must be kept in the shade and abundantly watered. The shoots appear after one and a half weeks; after two months in this mixture (preferably in the winter), the seedlings are fit for transplanting.

Transplanting is a delicate operation because the seedlings have to be protected from "sunstroke "by a covering of straw and banana leaves or pseudotrunks.

In the tropical areas of Bolivia the land in which the coca bush is grown is of two kinds: first, mountain slopes or terraced ground, prepared by removing the larger stones to a depth of 70 or 80 centimetres, which are used to build walls of variable length, of a height depending on the gradient of the mountain and of an average breadth of 60 centimetres; second, ordinary agricultural land where the terrain is level.

It is not uncommon to plant the seed directly in the ground; this method is called estacado.

Cultivation involves nothing more than four weeding operations; the coca bush is not liable to any very serious attack by pests or disease.

Plant ready for transplanting

Full size image: 159 kB, Plant ready for transplanting

Under the conditions described above, there must be a minimum of 72,000 plants per hectare for cultivation to be sufficiently profitable and for the plantation to last for over thirty years in good condition with the limited care given to it.

After one year of transplanting, the coca bush yields its first crop of leaves, which is consumed by the family and the workers employed on weeding. As from the second year, the coca plantation begins to yield a return, and weeding takes place at every harvest period.

The leaves are picked by hand and placed to dry in a cool place, generally a stone-paved yard or area.

At least three hours of sunshine daily are necessary for the drying process; the leaves must be turned over for even drying.

The drying process must not last longer than two days; if it lasts longer the leaves will become too dry and lose their commercial value. Occasionally, rain and cloud cause the virtual loss of a crop.

When dry, the leaves are pressed and wrapped in banana leaf stalks or pseudotrunks, in packages of 50 or 30 kg.

This means that the whole operation of planting, cultivation, and harvesting can be carried out by a family, or with ordinary labour, since no great technical skill is required.

In Bolivia, the coca bush is cultivated in the area between 14o and 18o latitude South in the vicinity of the Cordillera Real; the optimum conditions for its growth are: altitude between 300 and 1,800 metres above sea level, a mean annual temperature between 18o and 26oC and an average annual precipitation of 1,100 mm, as shown in Figure 1.

These conditions occur in the large tropical regions called "Yungas de La Paz" and "Yungas de Cochabamba ": in the first of these regions the main coca growing centres are Irupana, Chulumani and Coripata; in the second, Palmar, Villa Tunari, Chipiriri, Alto Chipiriri, Colonia Presidente, Busch, Agrigento and Puerto Aurora.

It is interesting to note that the cultivation of the coca bush is co-extensive with the limits of settlement along the rivers in all these areas. It is also important to observe that, because of the primitive methods of cultivation, the first crops to be grown are the coca bush and the Yucca ( Manihot utilissima), for the coca is a cash crop and the Yucca provides food within the year. This is the main problem arising from spontaneous settlement; since the migrants concerned do not receive any financial assistance, they are obliged to rely on coca growing as a means of obtaining an assured income within 18 months after settling in a new area.

FIGURE 1 Geographical distribution of the coca plant in Bolivia

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Altitude above sea level at which the plant can be grown
500-1800 m
Mean annual temperature in oC
Annual precipitation in mm.


Altitude above sea level at which the plant can be grown
300-1500 m
Mean annual temperature in oC
Annual precipitation in mm.


Well drained, loose and with abundant organic material

For both Yungas regions it is estimated, on the basis of data gathered on the spot, that spontaneous settlement amounts on the average to 2,000 families per year, who add approximately 1,000 hectares to the coca growing area. This figure cannot be reduced in any way by the regulations governing planned settlement, which involves an estimated 400 families annually, who are under an absolute prohibition to cultivate the coca bush, a prohibition which is enforced by the technical experts concerned. Control exists in the Alto Beni area of the Yungas region of La Paz and has begun to expand with the extension of planned settlement into other coca grow ing areas. At all events, the consequence of spontaneous migration, which is subject to little control so far as the cultivation of the coca bush is concerned, is a steady increase in the coca growing areas, which is alarming not only because of the increased production but also because of the problem that arises when this form of cultivation has taken root and entered the productive phase.

The total coca growing area was estimated around 1963 at 25,000 hectares, of which at least 24,000 are productive; the remaining 1,000 hectares correspond to areas newly brought under cultivation, which will, of course, add to the production of coca leaf, estimated for 1963 at 12 million kg. On the basis of the soil and climatic conditions, it is estimated that there are more than 100,000 hectares of virgin soil which constitute potential coca growing areas; these potentialities are very real, because spontaneous settlers are opening up the jungle at an ever faster pace. These areas will also benefit from the construction of the road bordering on the jungle, and the control problems will become more formidable unless strict measures are taken immediately to check new plantings by spontaneous settlers. Figure 2 gives estimates made on the spot in this respect, for both the old and the new coca growing areas.


This aspect of the problem is worth considering because it is closely connected with the question of the occupational value of manpower, particularly in a form of agriculture where, at low initial cost and through the employment of members of the family, one can obtain quite a handsome return.

The cost is mentioned here because any discussion of crop substitution ought to take into account not only technological questions but also the prospects of steady employment and a steady income for the farmer and his family. It should be remembered that, once the coca bush is planted, it bears crops for over thirty years and that the main pests or diseases which affect it- whether fungoid or insect pests- have only a limited economic importance.


Coca growing areas in central Bolivia

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Estimated cost in Bolivianos
Estimated cost in US$
a) learing, with machetes of one hectare of high forest land (30 man-days)
30. -
(b) Burning over the forest land ("chaqueo") (13.5 man-days)
10. -
(c) Extraction and removal of large stones and roots - terracing on fertile and stony ground
370. -
(d) Placing on the plants in their final sites; protection and care until they finally take root
370. -
(e) Value of seedlings ready for transplanting, at 40,000 Bs. per thousand for a minimum of 72,000 plants
220. -
(f) Protection of plants by weeding and shading for 18 months, i.e. until full production begins:
- 4 weeding operations during the first year (300 man-days)
- 2 weeding operations during the second year (150 man- days at the rate of 3,000 Bs. each)
110. -
1,010. -

The cost will be approximately one-half in the case of direct ( estacado) plantation on level ground.

At harvest time in a coca bush plantation, there is intense demand for manpower; the work involved is delicate because the leaves must be picked without damaging the shoots and stalks, and all leaves bitten by the "ulu" (butterfly of the genus Eloria) caterpillar, the most dangerous enemy of the plant, must be discarded.

The methods used in the harvesting of coca leaf in Bolivia and the terminology are sometimes somewhat difficult to explain, because they are local or reflect ancient Indian traditions.

When a coca plantation is ready for harvesting and when skilled workers are employed, one hectare can be harvested in one week, although it is preferred to postpone the harvesting for a while in order to take advantage of the skilled manpower, which is rather scarce.

In the coca producing areas in the tropical regions, it is estimated that one man can harvest approximately 30 kg of coca leaf in one day for a daily wage of 10,000 Bs, i.e. a little less than one US dollar.

The following particulars convey a better idea of the harvesting expenses:

One man harvests 30 kg per day and receives a daily wage of
5 men harvest 150 kg per day and receive five days' wages i.e.
X men will harvest 2,000 kg - one hectare in 67.5 man - days, for

This means that harvesting one hectare costs US $50; since there are normally four crops a year, the total annual expenditure on labour can be estimated at US $200.

The coca leaf crop is dried in stone yards and in the course of the drying process loses somewhat more than 75 per cent of its weight. Sometimes this drying process is postponed and the leaf, as a result of being stored undried, develops a dark green tint that is not liked by the consumer, who prefers the yellowish green leaf.

It is important to note that in Bolivia the average yield per hectare is 2,000 kg of green leaf which, upon drying, weighs between 460 and 480 kg, depending on the moisture content; this must not exceed 23 per cent for the dry leaf which is chewed.

This is an important point because some statistics give figures for the green leaf while others give those for the dry leaf; this results in misinterpretation when the economic potential of cultivation is estimated on the basis of production.

After drying, the coca leaf is pressed and packed in containers made of banana leaf stalks or pseudo trunks; these containers, notwithstanding the similarity of their names, have a content by weight which varies from one region to another as follows : -

Type of container
Content by weight at La Paz
Content by weight at Cochabamba
Tambor (Drum)
25 kg 30 kg
Cesto (Basket)
15 kg 12 kg
Carga (Corn measure)
50 kg 60 kg


The average value of 1 kg of dry coca leaf can be estimated at approximately one dollar.

This value, however, varies a great deal and, in times of scarcity, the price of the product rises; sometimes, because of purchases for purposes of industrial processing, the coca leaf practically disappears from the small consumer market.

In Bolivia, according to particulars obtained from the Coca Revenue and Customs Offices, coca cultivation is the most important source of tax receipts, the proceeds from the coca tax amounting to about 4 per cent of the total value of the processed crop. Recently, some Bolivian universities have secured a share of the proceeds of this tax, thereby obtaining a badly needed addition to their meagre financial resources.

When one considers the economic value of a crop, in particular with the thought of substituting other crops for it, two basic factors must be taken into account: first, what the crop represents in the peasant family's total earnings and, second, the value of the crop as a whole, which can be estimated on the basis of the proceeds of the tax on that crop.

In the specific case of a peasant family, coca is a highly remunerative crop. One hectare can yield a net income, after payment of the labour employed, of US $1,600 annually; this figure applies where four crops a year are harvested, not always easy for peasants like the coca growers who are not at all technically minded. More commonly, two crops are harvested annually, the rest being lost, largely because of slackness, insect or fungoid pests or unfavourable climatic conditions which hamper the drying process.

Nevertheless, in large areas of the Bolivian Yungas regions, the coca crop sets the pace for business activities; so much so, that in some areas such as the Chapare area of Cochabamba, it is said that when there is no coca the whole of commercial activity is paralysed.

In the producing areas, the coca not only pays for the cost of the initial plantation lasting for eighteen months, but provides work for the large number of labourers who are needed to harvest, dry and carry the crop, moreover, the coca bush has a productive life of over thirty years.

For all these reasons, in any discussion of crop substitution it is essential to study a crop or crops which can replace these benefits with advantage, or which, with the protection of the authorities, can offer a similar return.

The tax charged on coca represents the main item of revenue derived from the tropical production of the country, as shown in table I. In this table, for greater clarity, comparative percentages are given which show that coca accounts for 66.5 per cent by value of the total output of tropical products. The same picture is conveyed by figure 3.

TABLE I Proceeds of taxation on tropical products in both Yungas regions in 1963

Yungas region of La Paz
Receipts from taxes on coca
Receipts from taxes on coffee and fruit
Receipts from taxes on timber
Receipts from taxes on Peruvian bark (cin-chona), charcoal, incense, copal, cereals, etc.
Total receipts
Yungas region of Cochabamba
Receipts from taxes on coca
Receipts from taxes on fruit
Receipts from taxes on timber
Total receipts
Total receipts
Taxes on coca
Taxes on fruit and coffee
Taxes on timber
Taxes on other crops
Total receipts from taxes on produce in both Yungas regions

Another interesting question, illustrated by table II, is that of the estimate of the crop on the basis of the taxes collected; although the figures give some idea of the total value of the production, which is nearly US $4 million, they do not reflect the actual production of 12 million kg. The reason may be the use of methods of tax collection based on baskets with a very variable content by weight, tax evasion and the lack of adequate census statistics of cultivation in the region in question. Moreover, an attempt to calculate total production on the basis of the area under cultivation in hectares could also lead to gross errors of estimation.

TABLE II Production calculated on the basis of declarations made for tax purposes concerning the value of baskets of dried leaf

La Paz
1956 894,186 kg 2,520,816 kg 4,415,002 kg
1957 1,756,920 kg 2,677,332 kg 4,434,252 kg
1958 1,495,164 kg 2,570,296 kg 4,065,460 kg
1959 1,441,704 kg 2,074,938 kg 3,516,460 kg
1960 1,549,944 kg 1,881,027 kg 3,430,971 kg
1961 1,680,000 kg 1,657,845 kg 3,337,845 kg
1962 1,818,384 kg 2,377,215 kg 4,195,599 kg
1963 2,272,980 kg 1,730,545 kg 4,003,525 kg


Proceeds of taxation on the produce of the Yungas regions of La Paz and Cochabamba: comparison in percentages

Total receipts from tax on coca during 1963: Bolivianos 3,136,395,982

Full size image: 38 kB, FIGURE 3
  1. - Fruit = 38%

  2. - Timber = 0.2%

  3. - Other products = 8.8%

  1. - Fruit = 14%

  2. - Timber = 3%

  3. - Other products = 3%

  1. - Fruit = 26%

  2. - Timber = 1.6%

  3. - Other products = 5.9%

Nevertheless, what is the most surprising in this study is that, if the total production is estimated on the basis of the tax paid, it is found that the cultivation of the coca bush is increasing in the Yungas region of Cochabamba and that it is stationary, or slowly decreasing, in the Yungas region of La Paz. Accordingly, total production has been maintained; it is estimated that it has not varied considerably since 1945, as can be seen from figure 4.

The real or apparent decline reflected in the foregoing figures may be due to the new controls affecting planned settlement, to the more intensive cultivation of coffee, to insect pests such as caterpillars or to fungoid attacks upon the coca leaf. However, all these factors may be offset, or more than offset, when the new plantations enter into full production.

Having thus studied the economic value of the coca leaf crop, we shall now consider the possible substitute crops in actual or potential producing areas.


In support of the recommendations made, it was thought desirable to describe in concrete terms the prob- lems affecting the principal crops to be substituted for coca. A full catalogue of such crops will not be necessary; they will be considered merely in the light of the bibliography consulted and of direct experience on the spot with regard to existing limitations.

Accordingly, the passages which follow mention the substitute crops in order of priority, taking into account soil and climatic conditions, without discussing the question of marketing, for commercial prospects can only be assessed reliably after careful surveys of markets and of means of communication. This means that, as mentioned earlier, crop substitution will only be a practical proposition if it forms an integral part of broad development plans which not only cover technical questions but which also allow for the socio-economic implications.

The following enumeration of crops should be read subject to these considerations.

Tropical fruits


This substitute crop offers good possibilities, not only because its habitat coincides with large coca growing areas, but also because there are good potential marketing prospects in the neighbouring countries. However, there is a great need for more technical knowledge about the cultivation of banana groves, for a greater knowledge and more study of the pests affecting the plant and, more especially, for the testing of banana varieties and their selection. As it is, Bolivia has a surplus production estimated at 25,000 tons which is virtually wasted because of the lack of markets and particularly of adequate outlet routes for this product.


Coca: Comparison of total production of Yungas region of La Paz and Chapare region of Cochabamba Production estimated on the basis of taxation receipts

Full size image: 46 kB, FIGURE 4

Citrus fruit and other tropical fruit

The cultivation of these substitute crops, particularly oranges (among the citrus fruits) and papaws (among the tropical fruits) can be expanded in those areas which are now or potentially, coca producing areas. There are a number of technical problems involved in the raising of citrus crops, such as the choice of suitable plants, grafting, pest control and the testing of varieties that are productive but late, these problems could be solved without difficulty if the present research work were intensified and larger areas were brought under cultivation. There are at present distribution problems, due to the fact that the supplies of fruit are abundant at one period of the year and small or non-existent at other periods because of the lack of refrigeration and conservation facilities and the absence of late varieties. The present surplus production of 12,000 tons of oranges is accordingly being wasted, destroyed, or sold at unremunerative prices.

In the case of the papaw, it would be necessary to install canning or processing plants, since this fruit cannot stand prolonged transport or storage.


Bolivia's annual production of pineapples is 8,000 tons, and is consumed locally. Planting is not a costly operation, but there are no agricultural research plans to determine what varieties are more in demand in the international markets and whether it is advisable to introduce into those markets the fresh or the canned product. Research work on these points has not as yet begun, and production is irregular and poor in quality.


This substitute crop has some prospects since, out of a production of 4,500 tons in the Yungas region of La Paz, the surplus estimated at 1,500 tons was sold in the international market; however, in the opinion of agricultural engineers working on this problem, it is necessary to improve cultivation techniques and to make experiments with high-grade varieties. The expansion of coffee cultivation is being approached with caution, for it is thought that there would not be a remunerative market (in terms of prices) for a large output unless the quality of the coffee is exceptional; the production of high-grade coffee is technically possible.


Tea would be an ideal substitute crop for large areas at present and potentially producing coca. Tea adjusts readily to local conditions but there is little experience here of the operations of cultivation, harvesting and processing. In this case, too, a careful market survey is necessary, for there might be an immediate glut of this product, leading to a fall in prices to unremunerative levels.


This substitute crop can be easily grown under the soil and climatic conditions of some parts of the Yungas regions of La Paz and Cochabamba. At the moment, the bulk of the cocoa crop comes from trees growing wild; this means that it is not known which varieties could give a better yield, nor what would be the best conditions for cultivation, nor what kind of processing would be suitable to upgrade the quality of the product. A market would have to be found for Bolivian cocoa, which would be a difficult undertaking in the face of international competition.

Vegetable fibres

These crops have very great possibilities in Bolivia; however, the study and expansion programmes now under way are confined to jute, kenaf ( Hibiscus cannabinus) and ramie in the Santa Cruz area, i.e. the tropical plain. For the purpose of their substitution for the crops grown previously, experiments would have to be conducted to test the acclimatization of the new crops to actual and potential growing areas to determine, in keeping with national plans, which areas would be more suitable, subject of course to due regard for the coca problem.


Although rubber grows wild in the northern part of the country, it may be possible to grow it in some areas of both Yungas regions. While, in this case also, it is necessary to carry out research into problems of acclimatization and selection, this is not the main problem, which is the lack of plants for washing the rubber and making it into sheets and the lack of factories to process the raw material industrially.


The chestnut tree ( Berthoelethis excelsa) offers scope for trade and expansion and could be grown successfully in some of the potential coca growing areas of the Yungas region of La Paz. However, the studies carried out on the subject are very recent and relate only to the northern areas of the country; moreover, there is the technical problem that chestnut trees would not become productive for a very long time. The research work in this case is extremely complex because not only the cultivation of the chestnut tree but also the methods of processing and marketing have to be studied.

Coca bush associated with papaw

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Harvesting of coca leaf

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Vegetable oils

In addition to the oils yielded by various crops, there is in the tropical areas of many countries the so-called oil-bearing palm; this palm has not yet been introduced into Bolivia and studies have not yet been carried out regarding its acclimatization, selection and processing, but it appears to have ample possibilities in the Yungas regions, where there is a high annual precipitation.


The tobacco plant is a possible substitute crop both in actual and in potential coca growing areas, but for this purpose experimental work will have to be done to test varieties and methods of cultivation and processing. The experts consider that the main problems would be processing and finding of markets on a quality basis.


Although timber is not regarded in any sense as a substitute crop, it is considered that the introduction of improved techniques for the processing, treatment and drying of timber would provide employment for many workers who at present derive their livelihood from work in coca plantations. It is for this reason that forestry is mentioned in the present study.


After the foregoing descriptions of the various factors which explain the continuance and spread of the cultivation of the coca bush, it is appropriate to state some conclusions regarding the more salient aspects of this cultivation:

  1. The characteristics of the coca bush make its cultivation eminently suitable for local conditions, in that planting and care involve simple processes and the bush remains productive for a long time.

  2. The pests - both insect and fungoid - which attack the plant are not very destructive.

  3. Coca growing is very remunerative and provides work for a large labour force.

  4. The profits derived from coca could be greatly increased through improved techniques of cultivation.

  5. The coca crop provides a safe, steady income for peasant families, whether they are spontaneous settlers or not.

  6. The growing, processing and marketing of coca give rise to an intense activity in the coca growing areas, and play a significant role in the life and economic growth of these areas.

  7. On this activity the State charges direct taxes the proceeds of which are sometimes used for the benefit of educational and technological institutions.

  8. In the tropical regions, coca growing is the most important agricultural activity not only in terms of earnings, but also in terms of the percentage of revenue accounted for by the coca tax.

  9. The coca growing area might increase if spontaneous settlement is not controlled and does not receive technical and financial assistance.

  10. The total value of the coca output is a very important item in the Bolivian economy.

  11. The study of crop substitution discloses common problems of research and processing which in general hamper the marketing of substitute crops at present.

  12. The problem has a dual character; first, the coca chewing habit of the miner or peasant is due to his chronic malnutrition; second, because producers do not know of a remunerative substitute crop they persist in growing coca which provides them with earnings not equalled by those from any other known crop.

"Drums" of coca weighing about 60 kg

Full size image: 93 kB,

In the light of the above conclusions, the FAO representative at the seminar wishes to put forward the recommendations grouped under the following headings:

Suggested recommendations in respect of agriculture and processing

  1. It is necessary to promote agricultural research into substitute crops in order to determine the possibilities of acclimatization of these crops and, on the basis of that research and of data concerning productivity, to select high-yielding varieties of good quality.

  2. This research work should be supplemented by the improvement of means of communication in order that the produce can be brought to market on economic terms.

  3. For purposes of marketing, not only must the substitute crops be of good quality but it is also essential that facilities should exist for the conservation and transformation of the produce obtained by means of correct agricultural methods.

  4. In order that the recommendations set forth in the previous paragraph may be translated into action, storage facilities should be built to permit marketing and processing to be spread over a long period.

  5. An undertaking of the kind described above cannot be organized or put into practice by isolated persons, but should result from the efforts of a co-ordinated technical team.

Suggested recommendations in the matter of trade

  1. A full knowledge of market requirements is necessary in respect of the substitute crops.

  2. The markets should provide a continued and expanding outlet for the substitute crops introduced.

  3. The reward for the farmer should be similar to that obtained from coca growing, either by the use of adequate techniques or by means of subsidies granted by the authorities.

  4. International understanding of the human problems involved in the coca chewing habit might help to open up dependable markets for substitute crops.

Suggested recommendations of an organizational character

  1. Coca growing by spontaneous settlers must be brought under control by means of technical and financial assistance for migrant families.

  2. A sustained effort will have to be made to educate the inhabitants of the coca growing and consuming areas and to impress on them the need for a wholesome diet and good habits.

  3. Adequate statistical studies must be carried out to estimate the extent of consumption, the areas under cultivation and the effective reduction in the coca chewing habit.

Coca sold on the market place

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Coca is chewed with "lluctta" (lime) in order to extract more alkaloids

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  1. Loans to cultivators should be given by priority to those who do not produce coca leaf on their farms.

  2. The development plans of countries where coca chewing is a problem should be given the utmost consideration in the granting of loans by international credit institutions.

Suggested recommendations with regard to control

  1. Any coca producer whose name is not entered in the national register should be liable to the destruction of his crop.

  2. The manufacture of and the illicit traffic in cocaine should be punished severely, as specified in the international conventions.

  1. The control of products derived from coca should be such that only cultivation for lawful purposes will be permitted.

  2. The unrestricted trade in coca leaf in the Indian markets should be abolished altogether.

Suggested recommendations of a medical character

  1. Studies of the coca chewing habit in Indian groups or communities should concentrate on fundamental statistical aspects, with a view to initiating medical programmes in the groups or communities most seriously affected.

  2. These studies should be supplemented by toxicological studies, to determine how deficiencies in the persons affected by the habit can be remedied.

Summary of suggested recommendations

Because the coca problem is so vast, because so many interests are involved in the production of coca, because the coca chewing habit affects such large numbers of underprivileged human beings, because of the medical implications of the question and in view of the problems of control, it is desirable that, in each of the countries principally affected, special institutes should be set up, projects initiated, or standing commissions (with a life of over 20 years) appointed to study the agricultural, economic, commercial and medical aspects of the problem and to promote actively and effectively measures for counteracting and eradicating the coca chewing vice. Such bodies, with or without international assistance, would provide a means of control and would constitute the strongest weapon in the struggle against a problem on which isolated efforts, however commendable, have never had, and never will have, a significant impact.