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República de Colombia


This document contains the proposal and engagement of the Putumayo Governor's Office for A PUTUMAYO WITHOUT COCA, WITH SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND WITHOUT FUMIGATION" Herein we make known our interest in directing, from a social viewpoint and through global co-responsibility, the policies of eradicating coca cultivation in the Putumayo.


The Department of the Putumayo covers an area of 25,500 km2. It is located in the southwest region of the Republic of Colombia between the piedmont of the Amazon forest and the lowlands of the Amazon region. It is divided into thirteen (13) administrative municipalities and part of the Amazon region, which is an area of interest to the international community for its biodiversity and the multicultural richness of its peoples. The Amazon region —as one of the world's remaining forested areas— plays an important role in the planet's climatic system's balance. Because of this, its endangerment implies an environmental impact beyond that of simple bucolic contemplation and protectionism at all costs: the Amazon Region's significant CO2 absorption capabilities make it an important regulator of the greenhouse effect.
  Urban Rural Total Men Women Children (0-14 years) Indigenous 
(11 ethnic groups)
Population 110,582 230,931 341,513 181,449 160,064 140,569 30,000
% 32.38 67.62 100 53.13 46.87 41.16 8.78
Table 1: Population of the Putumayo

The Putumayo territory includes a natural park called La Paya with 1,013.68 acres of wetlands and tropical forest and various other areas such as the high plain of Quilinsayaco, the mountains of Churumbelos, and the sources of the Caquetá and Putumayo Rivers, in the Pastos knotch of the Colombian Macizo (massif).
Andean Forest (AF) 726,0 
180 556 
Amazon basin forest (ABF) 15 625,0 
3 885 936 
Fragmented Andean Agro Ecosystem (AAF) 4 018,0 
999 276 
Andean Agro-ecosystem 232,0 
57 698 
Amazon Basin Agro-Ecosystem (ABA) 4 949,0 
1 230 816 
TOTAL 25 550,0 
6 354 282 
Table 2: Vegetation1

The region's economic system has been characterized throughout its history by an extractive exploitation of selected natural resources at low cost —with minimum, or practically no added value placed on the territory of the Putumayo— that which has for the most part benefited outside actors. First came rubber, then oil, and now coca.

The presence of the Colombian state in the region has corresponded more to the economic and social circumstances described above than to a true planning process that would allow the territory of the department to be developed in accordance with criterion of competitiveness and social integration. Thus, the region's settlers have tended to spontaneously develop their own productive processes in an overall unregulated manner. It is only after the fact that the state has responded, without planning ahead for the future. Proof of this is that, in the second part of the last century, the Putumayo was thought of as a base to establish and maintain the state's military presence and colonization endeavors directed at populating and safeguarding national sovereignty on the borders with Ecuador and Peru. Later it was considered unoccupied territory, initially susceptible to being treated as a forested area reserved for limited use, afterwards its territory was reserved for oil exploration and exploitation. Finally, it was seen as a new frontier for the population that had been pushed out from the interior of the country, in order to relieve the pressure on the large urban centers. This series of events has built up, and today they are played out in a scenario of social conflict between various actors with one sole motive: the cultivation of the coca leaf.

1.1. COCA

Although coca has been traditionally linked to the life of the indigenous communities of the Putumayo Department, by the 1970s, extensive coca production became geared for the narcotics trade, as part of the dominant exploitative scheme that has prevailed throughout the region's history. Like former exploitative economic schemes, the coca model does not bring added value to the region, proof of this is the marked disparity between the international market value of the coca extracted in the Putumayo and the share of that value which stays in the region. The Putumayo has approximately 200,000 acres dedicated to cultivating coca which produce between 300 and 400 tons per year of pure cocaine paste. To quote an example, 300 tons of coca on the international market cost 75,000 million dollars; the budget of the Putumayo Department and its townships barely amount to 32.8 million dollars, and the average monthly income of the urban inhabitant of the Putumayo is around 96.24 dollars.

The employment generated by the coca economy is not formal. That is to say, there are no true work ties, much less any type of social security. Local commerce only participates in the productive process as a supplier of electrical appliances, food and clothing. In short, most of the earnings from the business do not go to the inhabitants of the Putumayo, for whom it has merely been a mirage of rapid wealth and a reality of poverty and violence.
Average acres of coca per family 5.7
Number of harvests per acre/year 14.8
Amount of coca paste produced per acre 0.9 kilos
Average cost to the producer per kg. of paste US$ 600
Gross annual income from coca per family US$ 18,216
Cost of production for 5,681 acres US$ 12,805
Annual net income per family US$ 5,411
Average monthly income per family US$ 451
Table 3: Coca-crop income on family-run farms
Total employee shifts/year in the department 10,736,344
Number shifts in industrial cultivations/year 8,589,105
Number shifts in family cultivations/year 2,147,229
Number of jobs/year in the department generated by coca cultivation 44,735
Family jobs generated per year 8,947
Table 4: Workers employed in the cultivation and primary processing of coca

The coca economy has engendered two very dramatic phenomena. The first of these is a repercussion intricately tied the management of this type of business, namely, the settlement of scores paid by one's life. This has increased homicide rates well above the national average: in 1996, 51% of the deaths in the Putumayo were due to homicides, and in 1997, the figures rose to 62%. The second phenomenon has to do with the direct involvement of illegal armed actors in the business, leading to armed confrontation between them for territorial control. This has mainly affected the civilian population, who is forced to abide by the commercial and military demands of whichever group is in control of the territory they inhabit.

Along with the economic and social drama already described, it is important to highlight the environmental damage caused by the coca economy. The indiscriminate clearing of the forest, alteration of biophysical processes and the loss of areas of high biodiversity in the Amazon to make way for coca cultivation, has displaced the invaluable natural frontier to unreachable spaces. Estimates are that, for every acre of coca planted and for every 2.5 acres of poppy planted, nearly 4.01 acres of virgin forest are destroyed. [(GEMSI Ltd. in the magazine UNAL, 2000.] The negative environmental impact of coca cultivation is amplified by the insecticides, pesticides, and fertilizers used to maximize production and process the coca leaf. It is calculated that for every hectare of coca, over two metric tons of chemical substances, including cement, lime, gasoline, sulfuric acid, caustic soda, fungicides, herbicides and fertilizers, are emptied into the environment.


According to the Municipal Units for Agricultural Attention (UMATA) of Orito, San Miguel and the Guamuez Valley, 700 students and 923 families —which represent 4,154 people— have been displaced as of the effects of fumigation. The number of displacements steadily increases as crops and pastureland for livestock suffer the destructive effects of fumigation. Of the 74,171.4 acres that have been fumigated, 37,718.6 acres correspond to legal crops (staple products such as manioc, plantain and corn, among others). Fumigation of pastureland has, up to now, affected 20,186 animals, bovine, equine and other species. Not to mention the unknown: recent aerial photographs of the fumigated regions need to be taken in order to gauge and analyze the scope of the damage caused to the fragile balance of the region's ecosystem and rain forests.

Fumigation in the Department of the Putumayo was carried out without taking the community into account and it has caused severe food shortages in the fumigated zones, as well as destruction of habitat and increasing social conflict in the region. Fumigation was furthermore carried out without taking into account the procedures —for fumigating with glyphosate— stipulated by Resolution Number 005, August 11, 2000 of the , National Narcotics Council (Consejo Nacional de Estupefacientes).

The above situation is aggravated when peasant coca-growers are doomed to expand the agricultural frontier to continue cultivating coca, in view of the lack of sound alternative projects with which to survive.

Coca eradication through aggressive means —such as fumigation— and without acting in concert with the community has dismally failed on a nationwide basis. No sooner are crops fumigated in one place, than farmers move elsewhere to replant, as indicated by the following table:
Year Coca-growing areas (hectares) Eradicated areas (hectares) % Eradication of cultivated area 
944 2.3
846 1.7
1,420 3.0
25,420 47.7
23,402 33.3
41,797 52.8
49,527 48.7
Table 5: Areas of coca cultivation vs. eradicated areas 1992-1999
Source: Anti-narcotic Police and the US Department of State. Cited by Ricardo Vargas. "Plan Colombia: Construction of Peace or Overdose of War?" in Desde Abajo, Special Issue No. 2, March 2000, p. 23.


An extractive economic model —aggravated by illegal activities— persists in the Putumayo, model which does not doesn't generate collective added value. On the contrary, it induces violence and poverty, hindering social cohesion and blurring the sense of that which corresponds to the public sphere.

Moreover, expansion of coca cultivation has destroyed biodiversity and protected areas, such as natural parks and wilderness areas, causing physical-biological changes and imbalances in the ecosystem.

Finally, continued insistence on laying the emphasis on repressive policies to eradicate coca, gives the impression that the idea of global co-responsibility in combating drug trafficking will keep on being a mere theoretical declaration as long as producers continue paying the high price.


Aware of the need for global co-responsibility in the struggle against drug trafficking, we are prepared to develop a policy geared at converting the PUTUMAYO INTO A TERRITORY WITHOUT COCA, but under the understanding that said process should be addressed from a social perspective that will allow us to implement sustainable development and strengthen state legitimacy.

This is the framework for our proposal "A PUTUMAYO WITHOUT COCA WITH SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND WITHOUT FUMIGATION". It operates on the fundamental premise, that is:

The need for an agreement to be reached between the Colombian state, the civil society of the Putumayo, its territorial organizations and the community of nations towards delineating a consistent, long term policy for the development of the Amazon Region; agreement, which would, in all instances, allow the region to surmount the extractive economic model that has subjugated the peoples of the Putumayo and Amazon Region.

We propose this agreement in two vast scenarios:

  1. Firstly, the Social Pacts for Alternative Development, based on the search for a more humane solution to the problem of illegal crops and aimed at building an economically, socially and politically just society. This requires bringing together local inhabitants and state representatives on a path in which the community is invited to participate, with the aim of building trust between the participants through the fulfillment of agreements set down in a formal document. This agreement would consist of the acceptance by coca growers to manually eradicate their crops and a pledge, on the part of the Colombian Government, to guarantee economic and technical assistance to assure a means of livelihood for the farmers, through aid for the planting of legal crops and the development of agricultural projects, infrastructure, and public services of regional interest, such as roads, educational and health facilities.



    This arrangement would likewise contribute to the building of a new sense of citizenship in the Putumayans, based on an awareness of their social and political rights and duties. Thus, Putumayo's citizens —through civil organizations and public participation— would contribute to the development of policies of coexistence which would minimize the department's rates of violence by promoting respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. To this end, we pledge ourselves to work towards collectively building the Putumayo we yearn for, by organizing and improving dialogue; seeking concerted solutions to the social problem of coca cultivation; contributing to promoting recognition of the unpostponable need to build an open, just and equal society; sponsoring the construction of humane values; promoting citizen participation as a decision-making mechanism to link the community and the Departmental Government; defending the dignity of the Putumayan people involved in the region's social development. In short, to seek concerted solutions to the root causes of the region's social problems and thus to achieve peaceful coexistence.

  3. The second scenario is projected on mid and long term bases, and focuses on two areas. The first is aimed at consolidating territorial planning processes to determine land usage and thus define productive activities which allow for marketing at a national and, eventually, international level. The second is develop —together with the international community— a sustainable development model for protecting the region's biodiversity.

  4. To this end, it would be convenient to underline the fact that our development potential lies preferably in the region's rich biodiversity and natural resources, more than in agricultural and fisheries projects. Nevertheless, natural-resource conservation projects are extremely vast and thus require the participation of the community of nations within a framework of global co-responsibility —in this case, not to combat narcotics— but to preserve and economically empower local communities in the maintenance of the Planet's environmental balance through a system that would allow natural resources to be measured in terms of market value so that they might generate the funds —for example in the form of Green Bonds or Amazon Forest Incentives— required for their protection.

Accordingly, with this proposal, annexed you will find a list of mid-term and long term development projects, environmental sustainability projects and complimentary projects of social and regional impact.

Gentlemen, we consider the support to these projects by the European countries and by their Non Governmental Organizations vital to the Putumayo Region and to global environmental balance and security.


Governor of the Department of the Putumayo

    [Productive projects]

1Subdirectory of Environmental Management of the Corporation for Development. Supported by the South of the Amazonia-Corpoamazonia, elaborated based on methodology described by the IDEAM in the document "Vegetative Covering, territorial use and occupation in Colombia."

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