Colombian farmers to swap coca for cacao, fruit under new govt plan

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Colombian farmers to swap coca for cacao, fruit under new govt plan

The Colombian Government and rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have announced a plan to substitute illegal crops like coca leaf for cacao and fruit over the next year. 

The plan is part of a peace deal formally ratified by the government late last year, bringing an end to a half-century conflict.

The program will involve the participation of the FARC guerilla group, which for decades relied on production of coca leaf, the raw ingredient for cocaine, to fund its insurgency.

According to the United Nations, Colombia currently has more than 96,000 hectares (237,000 acres) dedicated to coca leaf production.

Planting of coca was up 39% in 2015 after the government halted aerial fumigation with the chemical glyphosate, which was a key part of its U.S.-backed counternarcotics strategy. Colombia and neighboring Peru are the world's leading producers of cocaine.

The Colombian official responsible for the programme, Rafael Pardo, said the government would invest US$340 million, which would benefit 50,000 families.

"This is much more cost-efficient and furthermore ensures that territories are transformed and people's lives are changed," Pardo said.

The goal is the substitute roughly 50,000 hectares of production across 40 municipalities in the first year, working with farmers who planted before July 2016.

The program is comes as part of the Final Agreement, which will allow communities to participate actively in the construction and development of the productive projects for the substitution. The FARC will participate by accompanying the farmers and directly promoting the arrival of the program to affected areas.

Each family would receive a monthly stipend of around $350 as well as loans, subsidies, and technical assistance.

Cacao and fruit trees are among crops that will be planted instead of coca, depending on soil characteristics.

Colombia's conflict, pitting leftist rebels against right-wing paramilitaries and the military, has lasted almost 53 years and taken more 220,000 lives.



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