There is considerable debate on whether Alternative Development is successful from the point of view of experts and politicians, but what do Colombian farmers targeted by these programmes think and what are the implications for their daily lives?
Alternative Development as practised by USAID and the Colombia government was always guided more by security rather than development considerations. This report examines the key aspects of USAID's alternative development policy and its implementation in Colombia during the last decade. A critical analysis by Ricardo Vargas.
Alternative Development programmes have been widely discussed from the point of view of experts, technocrats, politicians and academics, with advocates and detractors debating whether such programmes contribute to decreasing the cultivation of illegal crops. However, little is known about the opinions of the people targeted by these programmes and the implications that they have for their daily lives.
Alternative Development (AD) must not be part of a militarised security strategy, which is the predominant approach in Colombia. Instead of simply attempting to reduce the area planted with illicit crops, Alternative Development programmes should operate within the framework of a rural and regional development plan.
Colombia's Supreme Court ruled against harsh punishments for small-time drug offenders, in a move towards easing up Colombia's zero-tolerance drug laws, which have achieved little in the fight against organized crime.
Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian president, has called for the global legalisation of marijuana to help combat the trafficking of harder drugs and related violence. "The world needs to discuss new approaches ... we are basically still thinking within the same framework as we have done for the last 40 years," he said. Asked if making marijuana legal could offer a way forward, Mr Santos said it could and that he would support it "provided everyone does it at the same time".