Peru And Thailand To Cooperate In The Replacement Of Drug Crops
By Dialogo January 28, 2009Peru and Thailand have agreed to cooperate with each other to share ideas and projects related to the replacement of drug crops with alternative ones, an official source said today. “We want to pool our efforts and experience in the replacement of drug crops for alternative crops, and help each other in the social and economic development of peasants,” the Executive President of the Peruvian National Commission for the Development and Life Free of Drugs (DEVIDA), Romulo Pizarro, told EFE. A Peruvian delegation from DEVIDA has been in Thailand since January 20th, and it is aimed at studying the projects that have almost completely eradicated opium crops in the Asian country. In June, an official Thai delegation will visit Peru to study the initiatives to combat illegal coca crops and to promote commerce among indigenous communities. “The Peruvian government is working toward prevention, eradication, and alternative development to help the peasants abandon coca crops,” said Pizarro. In his opinion, underdevelopment is one of the main factors that turn peasants into drug trafficking victims. The Peruvian delegation, which also includes the Alternative Development manager of DEVIDA, Fernando Rey, has visited the sustainable development projects belonging to foundation Mae Fah Luang in the province of Chiang Rai, located in northern Thailand. Rey y Pizarro, who also met with Thai Minister of Justice Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, will return to Peru this week. Since the late 80s, the Thai foundation has helped thousand of peasants replace poppy crops, from which opium and heroin is extracted. “We think the creation of the coffee shop chain ‘Doi Tung,’ which is managed directly by peasants and contributes to the development of wealth, is very interesting,” Pizarro said. DEVIDA’s president stated that Thai peasants not only monitor the whole process from production to final sale, but also promote other local products, such as pottery and textiles. “It is the best way to ensure that these communities won’t turn to drug cropping, which in reality plunges them into poverty, as we have already seen,” said the Peruvian delegate. The creation of good infrastructure and communication has facilitated the inclusion of former poppy growers into the legal economy. “Because of Peru’s geographical complexity, communications with rural areas are still insufficient,” stated Rey, who also pointed out the ecological damage that illegal coca crops provoke. “To get one hectare of coca crop, drug traffickers devastate three hectares of virgin forest. Cocaine consumption contributes directly to the deforestation of the jungle,” said DEVIDA’s manager. Since 2006, sustainable development projects carried out by the Peruvian organization have replaced approximately 80,000 hectares of coca crops with palm heart, cocoa, palm, and organic coffee, products of which the Andean country is the world’s biggest producer. However, 2.5 million hectares of tropical forest (an area the size of Israel), have disappeared due to drug trafficking. The illegal coca cropping, estimates at 92% of the total, covers 53,000 hectares in Peru, where production increased 4% last year. This Andean country, the second largest cocaine producer in the world, also has experienced an alarming increase in consumption, with more than 25,000 students taking their first dose of cocaine every year.