FARC and forests

With talks underway in Havana between the Colombian government and the FARC insurgents to end the fifty year long conflict, one of the key items on the agenda is how to resolve drug trafficking in Colombia.

The FARC has sustained itself by cocaine trafficking, kidnapping, ransom and “war taxes” charged within the territories it controls, even though FARC leaders deny involvement in the drug trade Colombia which accounted for 75 percent of the world’s coca crop in 2000.

The drug trafficking has caused enormous environmental destruction, the most prominent being deforestation: the pace of deforestation in Colombia has accelerated over the past 20 years, even as population growth has slowed and the economy has shifted from agriculture to other revenue sources.

Since rainforests contain about 10 percent of the world’s plant and animal species — some of which become the basis of new medicines — the drug-deforestation connection represents a serious threat to global biodiversity.

Thanks to a report ‘Forests and Drugs: Coca-Driven Deforestation in Tropical Biodiversity Hotspots’ a much clearer picture of the coca-deforestation link emerges.

Data from 2002-2007 on the effects of coca cultivation on deforestation of rainforests in Colombia identified several factors that boosted the likelihood that rainforests would be destroyed. In southern Colombia, a forest close to newly developed coca farms, for instance, was likely to be cut as were forests in areas where much of the farmland was devoted to coca.

A key way to roll back the destruction would be to designate larger protected areas, regions that are set-aside for special protection for environmental reasons, which would reduce forest destruction in coca-growing areas and could further help control deforestation and preserve biodiversity, says the report. Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan CentreLink to the report: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102373d

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