Reorienting the War on Drugs in Colombia and Afghanistan

By Ariel Gandolfo & Miguel Eusse

The United States’ multi-billion dollar War on Drugs in Afghanistan and Colombia has failed. Afghanistan supplies 80 percent of the world’s opium, which is derived from poppies and used to make heroin, while Colombia is home to around 43 percent of the global coca supply. Despite continued efforts to crack down on the production of heroin and cocaine in these countries, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose 36 percent between 2012 and 2013, to record levels. In Colombia, approximately 2.6 million acres of coca were sprayed with toxins between 2000 and 2007, yet cocaine production rose during the same period, and more recently increased by 44 percent between 2013 and 2014.

Coca field fumigation. Source: Policía Nacional Colombiana

Coca field fumigation. Source: Policía Nacional Colombiana

In Colombia and Afghanistan, farmers grow coca and poppies because they are profitable, but also because there are no viable alternatives to earn a living. Governments are now realizing that criminalization and eradication programs are not enough, and they are changing strategies to foster alternative opportunities to drug cultivation. These new approaches are supported by multilateral and bilateral organizations such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and USAID. Continue reading