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Colombia: legal crops affected by aerial spraying of coca

18-04-2012 Feature

Farmers in parts of Colombia affected by the armed conflict have voiced their concerns to the ICRC. These complaints come from people already living in precarious conditions who are seeing their legal crops destroyed. Extract from Colombia report 2011

"The spraying sometimes kills off all our crops – bananas, sugarcane and cassava. We have to replant and go hungry while we wait for new growth." With these words, a resident of Nariño department sums up the damage he believes is caused by the aerial spraying of illegal crops using glyphosate. He admits that there are coca plantations in the vicinity, but not on his land.

Farmers in parts of Colombia affected by the armed conflict have voiced their concerns to the ICRC. These complaints come from people already living in precarious conditions who are seeing their legal crops destroyed. The ICRC has been trying to document this problem and its consequences throughout the country, especially in the departments of Nariño, Caquetá, Antioquia and Guaviare, in order to ascertain the real impact of aerial spraying on these communities.

It is not for the ICRC to comment on the government's policy on tackling illegal crops; the organization’s sole concern is the humanitarian impact of aerial spraying on legal crops grown by communities in remote areas.

In the course of its many visits to the places concerned, the ICRC identified the main problem as being the lack of precision of the spraying that is damaging legal crops. Inaccurate spraying has also had consequences for alternative development projects run by several international organizations, including a cocoa project set up by the ICRC to help communities in Guaviare affected by the armed conflict.
In addition to the impact of aerial spraying on legal crops, the ICRC is concerned about the difficulties experienced by farmers who try to claim their rightful compensation for the damage done. The red tape of the complaint-and-compensation system deters many farmers from exercising their rights. Many who embark on the process see their applications refused because it is so difficult to meet all the requirements.

The ICRC brought these concerns to the attention of the authorities in a report in 2011.

 


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© ICRC / B. Heger