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  • A man spreads coca leaves on the ground to be sun dried outside a church in President Evo Morales

    A man spreads coca leaves on the ground to be sun dried outside a church in President Evo Morales' hometown of Villa 14 de Septiembre in the Chapare region in Cochabamba October 11, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

Under Morales, Bolivia has developed schemes allowing farmers to plant up to certain legal levels while encouraging sustainable alternatives.

Bolivia remains the country recording the lowest surface of illegal coca crops in the region, according to the nation's Minister of Government Carlos Romero.

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Speaking at a presentation of a United Nations report, Romero said despite an increase of crops from 20,000 to 23,100 hectares between 2015 and 2016, the surface total represents no more than 11 percent of the whole across South America.

Moreover, the increases are in line with a constant drop in the surface coca crops over the five past years, as a result of a new drug policy implemented during the government of President Evo Morales, a former coca farmer and union leader.

Romero called on social organizations and rural communities to support the government's efforts to decrease the surface of illegal coca crops in the country.

Under Morales, Bolivia has developed schemes with coca-growing communities where farmers can grow plants up to certain legal levels while also encouraging other sustainable alternatives.

After decades of prohibitionist international drug policy spearheaded by the United States, Bolivia further advanced its progressive approach in March by increasing its legal cultivation of coca leaves from 12,000 hectares to 22,000.

The move aims to cut down on the illicit trade as well as ensure the Andean nation’s traditional and cultural connection to the plant.

Bolivia has used the leaf since the times of the Incas; coca is commonly used in Indigenous medicine and to combat altitude sickness.

In 2013, the Bolivian government successfully requested an exemption from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics to allow the chewing and consumption of unprocessed leaves for “cultural and medicinal purposes.”

According to official estimates, around 3.3 out of 11 million Bolivians currently use coca leaves for traditional purposes.  


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