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Coca and Colonists: Quantifying and Explaining Forest Clearance under Coca and Anti-Narcotics Policy Regimes

Andrew V Bradley, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire, PE28 2LS, UK
Andrew C Millington, Department of Geography, 810 O&M Building, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-3147, USA


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The impacts of coca cultivation and coca eradication on rates of humid tropical forest clearance were examined in the agricultural colonization zone of Chapare, Bolivia. Using satellite image-derived land-use maps, interviews with farmers, and analyses of economic data and policy documents, forest clearance rates were analyzed in three contrasting communities from 1963 to 2003. Deforestation rates were very low from the late 1970s to the early 1990s when coca cultivation was widespread and anti-coca policies were weakly enforced. Before and after this period, deforestation rates were significantly higher. This study provides the first detailed quantitative analysis of deforestation rates under different policy regimes in a coca source region. It provides weak support for the argument that labor constraints lead to a reduction in forest clearance rates during periods of coca cultivation advanced by Kaimowitz (1997); but stronger support for Henkelís (1995) hypothesis that farmers would clear large areas of forest after abandoning coca to maintain household incomes. However, economic arguments based on household data alone are inadequate in explaining forest clearance in this region, and a political ecological approach that analyses economic drivers in a policy framework provides better explains deforestation dynamics.

Key words

anti-narcotics policies; Bolivia; coca; deforestation; forest clearance rates; land-use change

Copyright © 2008 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087