United Nations, Colombia sign major anti-cocaine pact

Colombia's Labor Minister Rafael Pardo Rueda (L), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Yury Fedotov (R) and Colombia's director of Agency of Renovation of Territory Mariana Escobar (C) sign an agreement to help eradicate coca plantations in Colombia, November 3, 2017, at the UN offices in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by AFP)
Colombia and the United Nations have signed an important agreement aimed at stopping the production of cocaine in the South American country.
The agreement, worth $315 million, plans to urge farmers to grow crops such as coffee and cacao instead of coca used for making cocaine by a voluntary substitution program.
Colombia is hopeful that the UN-backed initiative will eliminate the drug trade in the country by offering its 120,000 coca-growing families incentives to go legal.
Farmers earn around $300 a month per hectare of coca. However, a big chunk of their income is seized by the drug gangs.
The new initiative is now offering them the same amount of money, which they get to keep in full.
The scope and schedule of the project is to get rid of 100,000 hectares of coca harvesting by next year.
The Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said the agreement was one of the most ambitious initiatives to date to free rural communities from the clutches of drug gangs.
"This historical agreement is a unique opportunity to turn the tide against Colombia's coca cultivation and help farmers embrace alternative development," the UNODC head, Yury Fedotov, said in a statement.
Colombia is ranked by the UN as the world's biggest producer of coca leaves used to make cocaine, which is usually in the form of a white powder used by snorting or injection for pleasure or used in some medical cases to prevent pain.
In New York City cocaine is sold at $60 to $80 per gram on the street.