Your June 3 article, “Colombia Projects Provide Escape from Drugs, Guns,” concisely illustrates how alternative development projects have helped Colombian farmers to decrease reliance on the coca plant and, consequently, avoid the inherent violence of the drug trade. Furthermore, by incorporating an autobiographical account of the transformation that a former coca farmer experienced through the alternative development project of El Carlos eco-lodge, it provides an appealing example of such projects’ potential. However, the article fails to highlight critical aspects of the alternative approach, which are just as vital to the advancement of the local communities in Colombia.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), a partner in the aforementioned alternative development projects, aims to decrease Colombian dependence on the coca crop through agro-forestry programs. The UNODC believes that this is the best path to augment food security, but your article makes no mention of this. The UNODC ultimately strives to empower Colombian smallholders through these alternative strategies, helping them to become more competitive and allowing them to administer models of sustainable markets specifically used by agro-industrial producers. This approach is critical to changing the landscape in Colombia and should not be overlooked.
Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs