RealNews

Peru's latest tool in the war on drugs: land ownership

Despite torrential rains, Alfredo Flores has no qualms about dashing into his fields to show off his palm-oil trees. A few years ago, Mr. Flores and many of the other 400 farmers in Shambillo, in the deep jungle some 300 miles northeast of Lima, Peru’s capital, had no interest in letting anyone see their crops. That’s because they were growing coca, the raw material from which cocaine is extracted. Not only that, Flores didn’t even own the land. He had cleared 34 acres of once-lush Amazon jungle and farmed it for nearly 15 years. But in September 2002, Flores was one of the first farmers to opt for a plan financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to get coca growers to pull up their illicit crops in favor of palm-oil trees and pineapples. Farmers received approximately $60 for each acre of coca eradicated, as well as assistance to plant alternative crops. More than 80 percent of Shambillo’s farmers have eradicated their coca. Now he is ready to take the final step in his transition from clandestine coca grower to legitimate farmer. He will be given official ownership of the land in February. It’s all part of a new stage in Peru’s drug-eradication effort, started last month. Thousands of farmers like Flores will be given title to their land as a way to formalize the economy in the country’s vast drug-growing regions. Full Story

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