|Coca Cultivation and Organic Coffee Certification: Heterogeneous Household - Level Determinants and Effects in an Indigenous Community in Peru
Coca (Erythroxylum coca) is a native bush from the Amazon rainforest in South America. The leaves of this bush have been used traditionally for thousands of years in Peru and Bolivia, especially by indigenous populations. Traditional uses include chewing coca leaves as a stimulant to overcome fatigue, hunger and thirst; drinking coca tea to combat altitude sickness; and coca–leaf offerings during religious ceremonies. Moreover, indigenous people exchange coca leaves socially to show caring and respect among them. Coca is therefore a social cohesion facilitator; and an important and irreplaceable part of Andean indigenous cultural heritage.
On the other hand, since the 1970s coca has increasingly been grown in South America as raw material for cocaine extraction. Cocaine is an addictive natural alkaloid produced mainly in the leaves of this bush, the possession and distribution of which is illegal in most countries. Of the total extension of land under cultivation of this crop worldwide, Colombia’s coca production areas represent 43%, Peru’s 38%, and Bolivia’s 19%. Growing coca to supply narco-trafficking businesses is a profitable activity, and has shown a steady increase during recent years in Peru. If this trend continues, Peru could soon overtake Colombia as the world's largest coca producer, an infamous status that the country has not occupied since the mid-1990s.
In Peru, coca growing is dispersed in twelve coca growing regions. Inside each of the twelve coca growing regions, only some farmers decide to cultivate coca while others do not, even where all farmers seem to face the same economic and social incentives. The specific reasons for this divergence are still not clearly identified. There is a lack of research on individual farmers’ motivations due to the absence of household-level data. Most of the research efforts to date have used aggregated data and focused on the causes of coca cultivation at macro level (community, regional, or national). It is expected that a greater understanding of the specific functions that coca plays at the individual level would assist in designing more effective anti-drug policies that could help to reduce coca cultivation areas in Andean supply countries. Therefore, the main question of this research is: facing the same socio and economic incentives, why do some farmers decide to cultivate coca and others do not? A second related question is: what factors influence the number of coca bushes that farmers cultivate?
Both coca and coffee may be cultivated in the same type of ecosystem: the Amazon rainforest. Thus, participation of producers in organic coffee certification has been promoted by international cooperation as an anti-drug policy in Peru. Organic certification is supposed to increase the price of coffee at the producer level, and the additional income is believed to be sufficient enough to provide economic incentives for farmers to reduce or abandon coca cultivation in favor of coffee. The effectiveness of organic coffee certification in this regard is still subject to controversy. Therefore, the third question that is specifically addressed in this research is: does organic coffee certification influence the number of coca bushes cultivated by farmers and to what extent?
For answering those research questions, a household–level questionnaire was designed and conducted in an indigenous community located in Alto Tambopata valley, a mountainous rainforest region in the Peruvian Amazon located on the border with Bolivia. This region has shown an increase in coca cultivation significantly above the national average during the last years. The valley constitutes a strategic coca production region for both Peruvian and Bolivian narcotraffickers due to their proximity to an external exit route. The data collected was analyzed under homogenous and heterogeneous assumptions. The methods used in this research consist of Cragg models, including standard, latent class and random parameters model specifications; and different parametric and non-parametric treatment evaluation models for selection on observables and unobservables to test the robustness of the results.
The results suggest heterogeneity among farmers’ motivations for cultivating coca. It seems that one group of farmers cultivate coca mainly for traditional purposes (35% of the coca growers), while the other cultivate coca mostly for commercial considerations (65% of the coca growers). For the traditional growers group, smaller total agricultural plot areas, less availability of family labor, lower perceived quality of land, steeper slopes, and greater distance to roads statistically significantly increase the number of coca bushes. On the contrary, for commercially motivated coca growers, larger total agricultural plot areas, better soil quality and lower distance to the road were all associated with an increase in the number of coca bushes. Thus, coca growing for the traditional group seems to be a part of a poverty reduction strategy related to the productive use of marginal areas, while the commercial group follows a deliberate allocation of better lands to the comercial production of coca. The results also suggest heterogeneity in the impact of organic certification on coca growing. The effect is negative and significant among the commercially motivated growers, who also cultivate the largest number of coca bushes. Overall, participation in organically certified coffee production seems to be a promising anti-drug policy in Peru.
Keywords: coca, cocaine, coffee, organic certification, Puno, Peru
Bonn, September 2010