21 February 2014 - The cultivation of illicit drug crops goes hand in hand with poverty and food insecurity. Weaning poor farmers off illicit crop cultivation requires sustainable alternative livelihoods, without which they will fall back on lucrative cash crops - coca leaf, opium poppy or cannabis - to survive. UNODC alternative development programmes therefore focus on providing economic and employment opportunities to communities subsisting on illicit crops.
The 2009 'Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation Towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem', being reviewed in Vienna this year, highlighted the need to address the supply side of the drug trade. UNODC helps States to implement poverty reduction and rural development strategies, carrying out projects in Afghanistan, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Colombia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Peru.
Besides encouraging farmers to switch to legal farming, such projects help them develop the skills needed once communities relinquish illicit crops. The Office works to create income-generating activities; provide vocational training; and improve social development. Activities range from initiatives to promote small farmer cooperatives to increase food security in Myanmar to supporting sustainable tourism in Colombia. Other areas include promoting agro-forestry, fisheries and bee-keeping.
Over the past decade, alternative development programmes have produced sustainable reductions in some places where illicit crop cultivation, particularly of coca bushes, takes place. Programmes have focused on improving or building necessary infrastructure; increasing the quality and yield of food crops and introducing productive cash crops to generate income.
Despite progress, much still needs to be done. Key to the success of such programmes is the expansion of market access for farmer-led small business enterprises. Long-term commitment and financial investments are required to ensure lasting benefits. The scope and reach of alternative development activities also need to be broadened to farming communities that lack development assistance and continue to cultivate illicit crops.
At the upcoming High Level Review of the 2009 Plan of Action, taking place in Vienna from 13 to14 March 2014 prior to the 57th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (which runs from 17 to 21 March), Member States will have the opportunity to take stock of the impact of alternative development activities and commit to a number of measures to step up alternative livelihood programmes.
UNODC and alternative development
High-level Review of the Implementation by Member States of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem