Colombia to adopt Thailand’s rural anti-narco crops programme

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Coca field in Colombia

Colombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine and largest growing area for coca, the drug’s base product, will look into Thailand’s opium eradication programme which successfully dissuaded farmers in Thailand’s northern highlands from growing the crop over the past decades.

Faced with record levels of cocaine production and a complete failure to reduce, let alone eliminate, coca farming through other short-term measures such as uprooting the plants or aerial spraying  with plant toxins, Colombia now decided to apply alternative crop developments for its coca farmers and to look into how Thailand did it, particularly with the Doi Tung project near Chiang Rai.

The Doi Tung project is a role model for drug eradication which incentivised large numbers of opium farmers from Thailand’s hill tribes to cultivate other agricultural products, namely coffee, nuts, fruits, flowers and other high-yielding produce in order to disrupt the narco-economy farmers were entangled in and. at the same time, empower their communities through alternative options.

Established the mid-1980, the project has completely transformed the lives of thousands of former poppy farmers by steering them away from the narcotics trade formerly rampant in the region by supporting their effort to develop alternative sources of income and the substitution of illicit crops.

The project has been recognised internationally. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime praised it for its transformative success in helping Thais and ethnic minorities achieve a better quality of life, better education and better employment opportunities. The project has also been adopted as a development model by Myanmar, Indonesia and Afghanistan. 

However, Colombia has the most urgent need to convince tens of thousands of farmers to exchange the coca they are growing on at least 150,000 hectares for other crops.

According to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, Colombia decided to utilise Thailand’s approach on tackling narco farming as per the Doi Tung model after several high-level executives from Colombia, including Eduardo Daz Uribe, director of Colombia’s Agency for the Substitution of Illicit Crops, as well as agency adviser Claudia Paola Salcedo Vasquez, paid a visit to the Doi Tung Development Project and a reforestation project under the Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD) in Chiang Rai province recently. The visit was part of a GPDPD project organised by Thailand’s Mae Fah Luang Foundation – a non‐profit organization under Royal patronage that manages numerous development projects within Thailand as well as other countries in Asia – and the German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit.

Applying the Doi Tung model in Colombia certainly has its challenges. Coca farmers in Colombia — for many of whom growing coca is not a criminal enterprise but a livelihood similar as it was for Thai opium farmers — have so far resisted eradication with great intensity, blocking access to their fields, relocating production into hard-to-reach areas and resorting to improvised explosive devices to keep eradication teams at bay. They are also helped against government interference by well-organised and heavily-armed rebel groups, and there is also a trend that coca growing is expanding rapidly to neighbouring Bolivia and Peru.

In Colombia, alternative development programs have also been hindered by lack of infrastructure with few means of transporting fresh agricultural produce over long distances and also the absence of trading facilities, warehouses and related logistics.

 

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[caption id="attachment_30376" align="alignleft" width="300"] Coca field in Colombia[/caption] Colombia, the world's largest producer of cocaine and largest growing area for coca, the drug's base product, will look into Thailand's opium eradication programme which successfully dissuaded farmers in Thailand’s northern highlands from growing the crop over the past decades. Faced with record levels of cocaine production and a complete failure to reduce, let alone eliminate, coca farming through other short-term measures such as uprooting the plants or aerial spraying  with plant toxins, Colombia now decided to apply alternative crop developments for its coca farmers and to look into how Thailand did...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Coca field in Colombia

Colombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine and largest growing area for coca, the drug’s base product, will look into Thailand’s opium eradication programme which successfully dissuaded farmers in Thailand’s northern highlands from growing the crop over the past decades.

Faced with record levels of cocaine production and a complete failure to reduce, let alone eliminate, coca farming through other short-term measures such as uprooting the plants or aerial spraying  with plant toxins, Colombia now decided to apply alternative crop developments for its coca farmers and to look into how Thailand did it, particularly with the Doi Tung project near Chiang Rai.

The Doi Tung project is a role model for drug eradication which incentivised large numbers of opium farmers from Thailand’s hill tribes to cultivate other agricultural products, namely coffee, nuts, fruits, flowers and other high-yielding produce in order to disrupt the narco-economy farmers were entangled in and. at the same time, empower their communities through alternative options.

Established the mid-1980, the project has completely transformed the lives of thousands of former poppy farmers by steering them away from the narcotics trade formerly rampant in the region by supporting their effort to develop alternative sources of income and the substitution of illicit crops.

The project has been recognised internationally. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime praised it for its transformative success in helping Thais and ethnic minorities achieve a better quality of life, better education and better employment opportunities. The project has also been adopted as a development model by Myanmar, Indonesia and Afghanistan. 

However, Colombia has the most urgent need to convince tens of thousands of farmers to exchange the coca they are growing on at least 150,000 hectares for other crops.

According to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, Colombia decided to utilise Thailand’s approach on tackling narco farming as per the Doi Tung model after several high-level executives from Colombia, including Eduardo Daz Uribe, director of Colombia’s Agency for the Substitution of Illicit Crops, as well as agency adviser Claudia Paola Salcedo Vasquez, paid a visit to the Doi Tung Development Project and a reforestation project under the Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD) in Chiang Rai province recently. The visit was part of a GPDPD project organised by Thailand’s Mae Fah Luang Foundation – a non‐profit organization under Royal patronage that manages numerous development projects within Thailand as well as other countries in Asia – and the German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit.

Applying the Doi Tung model in Colombia certainly has its challenges. Coca farmers in Colombia — for many of whom growing coca is not a criminal enterprise but a livelihood similar as it was for Thai opium farmers — have so far resisted eradication with great intensity, blocking access to their fields, relocating production into hard-to-reach areas and resorting to improvised explosive devices to keep eradication teams at bay. They are also helped against government interference by well-organised and heavily-armed rebel groups, and there is also a trend that coca growing is expanding rapidly to neighbouring Bolivia and Peru.

In Colombia, alternative development programs have also been hindered by lack of infrastructure with few means of transporting fresh agricultural produce over long distances and also the absence of trading facilities, warehouses and related logistics.

 

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