The history of Coca in Peru
You might have heard of coca – This culturally important plant is also known for being a key ingredient in the production of cocaine.
Peru is one of the largest producers of coca in the world – The use of coca in Peru dates back almost 8000 years, used in religious ceremonies for its properties as a powerful stimulant. The cultivation of coca was originally restricted to noble families due to its supposed divine origin, and it was only after the decline of the Inca empire that the plant became more widely available to the indigenous communities of Peru. Its use was initially restricted with the arrival of the Spanish, and then eventually exported to the world from the 19th century onwards. After cocaine was made illegal in Peru in 1948, the illegal drug trade flourished and over the years, has moved further into the remote areas of Peru to avoid detection by local authorities.
The impact of illegal coca plantations
Coca leaf is still widely used in Peru due to its traditional importance, however the majority of coca grown today is destined for illegal use in cocaine production, and these crops are controlled by various drug lords and local gangs throughout the country. The crops are planted illegally in remote areas in the jungle after the existing forest is burnt or cut down. These remote areas usually correspond to land owned by indigenous communities, who are bribed or intimidated by drug gangs to give up their land for these crops. Indigenous leaders are routinely threatened, and many have been killed in the battle to defend their land.
Interestingly, the environmental impact of cocaine is almost completely overlooked in Europe and the U.S.A, where it is increasingly common to adjust diet or purchasing habits for environmental considerations – The direct harm to the environment by recreational drugs is largely ignored.
Why this matters
The Amazon Rainforest makes up almost 1/4 of the carbon dioxide absorbed through the environment globally. This is a vital resource in our fight against climate change, however it can only help us if we protect it properly.
Through the Amazon Canoe Challenge, we support local communities to protect their land, and work to build awareness on the threats that face the Peruvian Amazon.
To find out more about what we do: https://amazoncanoechallenge.com/about/
To sign up for the June ’23 edition: https://amazoncanoechallenge.com/expeditions/canoechallenge/