Henry Salgado Ruz




In order to arrive at global sustainable and participative solutions, we need to clearly grasp the political and sociological circumstances which forced peasants, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendants to become involved in the growing of crops used for illicit purposes. Firstly, we need to understand the problems encountered in the regions where these crops are grown. Ensuing from Colombia's agrarian development model, land concentration, and expulsion of peasants to large cities or frontier zones, these zones are scarcely articulated to trade markets and exhibit severe structural limitations which make it difficult for the country's peasants to build stable economies. Secondly, as of social, economic and political marginalization, Colombian peasants have become the working hands which sustain the production level for the illegal drug market.


The state has basically opted for a violent way out. Among others, for forced eradication and other measures which do not attack the underlying political, social and economic causes of growing of crops used for illicit purposes. These measures have made crop-growing an itinerant activity and the state's aerial fumigation measures have inflicted great damages on the health, biodiversity, and food security of the inhabitants of these regions.


Our fundamental proposal is geared at withdrawing peasant labor from the hands of the narcotics trafficking. This can be achieved through rural development seen as a cultural, political and social economic process which seeks acceptable levels of production and productivity from peasant agriculture. It encompasses democracy, equality among the sexes, political inclusion and participation, creating solid and diversified local markets, improving infrastructure and transportation, population distribution, conserving natural resources, appropriate management of ecosystems and respect for cultural diversity.


This would require designing new development models in accordance with the country's ecosystems and aimed at expanding opportunities for the poorer sectors. An agrarian reform to make landowning in Colombia a democratic process, a policy to recompose peasant economy and strengthen the country's food sovereignty, stabilize colonization processes, reverse migration waves and contribute to overcoming forced displacement.


It would be necessary to simulate environmental territorial management processes which clearly demarcate occupied and protected areas, including colonization lands located on fragile ecosystems or which have no perspective whatsoever of being reconverted to sustainable productive agricultural processes. To apply the forfeiture of narcotics traffickers' rural properties and of those lands which are not being properly exploited and develop Peasant Reserve Zones (Zonas de Reserva Campesina) in areas which are meant for agriculture and not only in colonization zones.


It would furthermore be necessary to halt fumigation and incrimination of small growers of coca and poppy; modify the Antinarcotics Statute (Law 30 of 1986); carry out ambitious global and sustainable alternative development programs. To end incrimination of the growing of coca and marihuana, or that of any other plant used in traditional medicine and rituals or as a means of socializing for indigenous communities, who use these plants as part of their cultural heritage and ancestral knowledge. What should be substituted is not the plant, but its use. These plants can be used for food, medicine and for industrial purposes. Crop substitution should be concerted and implemented through gradual, manual, clean methods with economic compensation for peasant crops and eradication without compensation and through non-polluting manual or mechanic means for large commercial plantations. We must defend our biological and cultural diversity and establish norms to protect the knowledge, innovations and traditional practices of indigenous peoples, peasant communities, and Afro-American communities.



Translated from Spanish MM Moreno

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