14 March 2003

Colombian Coca Cultivation Falls by 30 Percent

VIENNA, 17 March (UN Information Service) -- The national survey conducted by the Government of Colombia and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported 102,000 hectares of coca under cultivation as of 31 December 2002. This represents a significant 30 percent reduction compared to 2001, when the surface was 144,807 hectares.

"For the first time in over a decade aggregate coca cultivation in the Andean region, the main producer in the world, declined to 173,000 ha. This is a major achievement in the international fight against illicit drugs and related crime," Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the UN Of fice on Drugs and Crime, said today in a press conference in Brussels. "The world production of coca has been persistently above 200,000 ha: this decline will subtract over 100 tons of cocaine from world markets", Mr. Costa added.

The report issued today indicates several encouraging trends:

"In the future," Mr. Costa said, "two main challenges will have to be met. First, Colombia's crop reduction needs to be matched by alternative development programs to provide farmers with licit incomes. Second, governments worldwide should concentrate on reducing demand and promoting drug-abuse prevention. The United Nations is fully mobilized behind such measures".

The coca survey is produced annually by the Integrated Illicit Crop Monitoring System (SIMCI), a joint venture set up in 1999 by the Colombian Government and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The Office operates similar crop-monitoring systems in Bolivia and Peru (for coca), and in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Lao PDR (for opium poppies).

The Colombia 2002 survey produced maps and data showing the location of crops and tracking the shifts that have occurred on a year-by-year and department-by-department basis. Very significant reduction in coca cultivation was recorded in the departments of Putumayo (-33,000 ha), Meta (-2,000 ha) and Caqueta (-6,000 ha), where government-sponsored eradication took place in 2002. Further crop reductions in Bolivar (-2,000 ha), Cauca (-1,000 ha) and Vichada (-4,000 ha) can be attributed to abandonment of fields, or to voluntary manual eradication.

The geographical information generated by the survey (forest, water, pastures, illicit crops, infrastructures) also contributes to land-use planning, crucial for alternative development projects. While the government's coca eradication program and related law enforcement measures reduce the area under illicit cultivation and drive down the economic incentives to plant new coca fields, sustaining the reduction in coca cultivation requires that farmers have socio-economic alternatives.

According to Mr. Costa, "the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime actively supports alternative development initiatives in 7 departments covering 26,000 hectares and involving several thousands families. I invite the government of Colombia and international development institutions to build upon these demonstration initiatives, expanding and replicating them."

Cultivation of coca bush in hectares, Colombia, 1994-2002
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Vienna, 17 March 2003