“The rise of palm crops has caught the attention of the new Colombian government and, most recently, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
For the better part of the past decade, both entities have been pressing to encourage farmers to grow something other than coca.
Coffee, plantains, cocoa (chocolate) have all been tried with some success but with plenty other setbacks when commodity price crashes pushed farms back into coca’s embrace.
Supporting illicit crop substitutes through a biofuels program, however, seems to hold promise. The nation’s minister of defense, for one, says palm ranks high on the list of tools the government plans to deploy against the FARC and other armed groups over the next four years.
“The army is here and guaranteeing protection, security, because with security you can have development and the best example of this is the palm oil industry,” said one soldier here, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used. “It lets people have development, jobs, security and live a better life.”
No one knows for sure why biofuels crops appear to be a solid substitute for illicit crops, but there are some theories.” Read on….