On December 30, the Colombian government published a draft decree that outlined the steps it would take to renew aerial fumigation of illicit-use crops with glyphosate. In opposition, 15 Colombian and international civil society organizations, including WOLA, addressed a letter to President Iván Duque recounting why aerial fumigation is a “harmful and ineffective” policy. The letter quotes numerous studies concluding that such a policy “exacerbates deforestation by displacing illicit crops deeper into the forest; impacts health and the environment, and in general affects the surroundings of local communities; and, violates the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples and other forest dependent communities, having an impact on their cultural and physical survival.”
The displacement of coca crops due to aerial fumigation not only spreads deforestation but there is “objective evidence showing that the arrival of illicit crops brings with it armed actors, legal and illegal, and an increasing the number of conflicts and human rights violations linked to disputes over territorial control.” Although the draft decree does not allow fumigation in natural parks and collectively owned ethnic territories that require previous consultation, it produces a perverse incentive for armed actors to relocate coca crops to these territories, further infringing on their territorial autonomy, inciting forced displacement, and increasing the likelihood of human rights abuses. The case of El Charco, Nariño, is an emblematic example. In 2007, aerial fumigation along with military operations caused an increase in coca hectares and four forced displacements.
The letter led by the Forest People Programme asks the Duque government to suspend all proposals to reactivate aerial spraying and consider more sustainable and cost-effective methods such as strengthening the territorial self-government of ethnic communities and their self-eradication initiatives.
Pictured: Coca farmer Wilmar Ospina and his family look over their once fumigated coca field that’s growing back in La Hormiga, Putumayo, (AP Photo/Scott Dalton)