BEYOND THE COCA LEAF (RAISING COCA AND HOPES IN BOLIVIA.) Coca leaf has been grown since time immemorial in the forest-covered mountains of the Andean region. In Bolivia, the largest concentrated area of coca cultivation is Los Yungas. Its main vocation has always been the agriculture, but in recent years a “cash crop green fever“ has turned all the surrounding area into coca leaf plantations. Peasants and their families abandoned traditional crops and became into “cocaleros” (coca growers). Even migrants from other regions are relocating to Los Yungas to cultivate coca for the opportunity of quick cash.
The number of cocaleros increased considerably since 2006 when Evo Morales —an indigenous coca growers´ leader— became president, adding his personal support defending coca tradition continuously from U.S. prescribed anti-drug policies. Nowadays, coca cultivation is legal —though controlled— in Bolivia.
*Coca leaf (also the raw material to produce cocaine) is considered sacred for the Andean culture and is used in many rituals as important part of an ancestral heritage. But despite its production provides better incomes, coca plantations in excess cause serious deforestation, soil erosion and chemical pollution.