Colombia is enjoying a growth spurt, thanks in large part to security gains made in recent years. The amount of coca cultivated in Colombia has decreased from 357,800 acres in 2001 to 140,847 acres in 2010.
An international aid effort is helping the Colombian government. Notes an article in today’s Miami Herald:
The alternative development projects are part of a larger effort designed to bring neglected rural areas under state control and wean populations off illicit crops. Over the last nine years, the government and international organizations have pumped $1.8 billion into such programs.
Encouraging tourism is one strategy:
[The] Meneses and 17 other families run the El Carlos eco-lodge with the support of the government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It’s an economic alternative in an area that had seen its options strangled by the violence and overshadowed by the drug trade.
Other sites host beehives, rubber and cacao farms. Crucially, the economic programs are supplemented by investment in infrastructure, healthcare and educational programs. Said a former guerrilla:
“I would have never joined the paramilitaries if this kind of opportunity existed before…When I was growing up there were no jobs and no opportunities; and when you’re an adolescent you have a desire to make money.”