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Legalizing Coca Leaf Production
A recent study on the benefits of coca leaf legalization has spurred lobbying efforts in Colombia, with advocates encouraging the country to legalize its production rather than attempting to eradicate the crop. Using coca leaves has been a traditional practice among indigenous South Americans for thousands of years. Before the leaf was harvested and manufactured into cocaine, it was chewed or made into a tea. It provides medicinal and health benefits like treating nausea and can be used for an energy boost.

Before industrialization, when working long days of hard labor, workers—especially some of the underprivileged farmers—would chew coca leaves for the effect of the stimulant but also to satiate hunger pangs while working on an empty stomach. Coca leaves also provide essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins like A, B1, B6, C and E. Chewing and brewing coca leaves is a natural way of taking dietary supplements.

Peru and Bolivia See Benefits from Legalizing Coca Leaf Production

The government of Peru formed the National Coca Company of Peru (ENACO) in 1949, pushing for legalizing coca leaf production in order to make items and medicines derived from coca leaves. Farmers growing leaves for chewing to be sold to ENACO got their land certified for legal growth in 1978. ENACO does not only cultivate legal coca leaves for local traditional uses, but also sells its products around the world. One of the most common uses is as a natural anesthetic for eye surgery; ENACO is one of two companies that produce coca leaves for this medicinal purpose.

Coca production in Bolivia, however, is more recent. Bolivia has the third world’s largest crop of coca leaves (after Columbia and Peru) with about 67,000 acres used for farming. In 2011, the Bolivian Community Coca Company was founded by the government for the legal cultivation and purchase of coca leaves to be made into flour, ointments, and other products. In 2013, the Bolivian government sought to market coca-based toothpaste to the public with the intention of battling the illicit use of the drug. By using the drug for products like toothpaste or flour, there will be more use of coca leaves for legal industrialization and less for illegal drug trafficking.

How the Legal Coca Leaf Could Help Colombia

Legalizing coca leaf production in the long term could benefit Colombia economically, politically and socially. Allowing coca leaf farms could offset expensive anti-drug efforts like crop substitution, where the government buys out farmers of their current crop and looks to replace it with a different, legal product. However, crop substitution is costly and non-sustainable, especially if the demand for cocaine does not change. If the uses for coca leaves remain the same while their cultivation is restricted by the government, it will merely increase the price of the drug and make crime worse.

Bolivia and Peru are examples of the benefits of legalizing coca leaf production. These countries show that the medicinal benefits can be harnessed to create a market that effectively limits the illicit use of the leaves by taking away from the crops that would be used to make cocaine. Opening a legal market for coca leaves to be made into useful items like flour, ointments, toothpaste and other products would help lower the amount of drug trafficking and create new opportunities for coca leaf farmers to sell this indigenous plant.

– David Daniels
Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in peruIn July 2017, George Mallett from The Market Mogul put it simply: “Peru is at a juncture.” The development of infrastructure in Peru has had a mixed record. The country was devastated by floods in early 2017, leaving many in poor living conditions. However, the country has invested billions in its transport infrastructure that only affects some of the population and is financed by debt. It is important that Peru spend and build in ways that benefit the whole population.

In 2016, prior to the floods, the government of Peru pledged $33 billion toward infrastructure projects. The money was pledged to construct highways, airports and a port. Local governments would also be involved in the projects, which was seen as a great way to involve communities. The President intended to extend potable and sewerage water services to 100 percent of the population over next five years.

Since the floods, the country’s government has been working on projects to rebuild, as well as improve, the infrastructure to prepare for future disasters. Water supply is an important issue that the government wants to make sure is accessible to its entire population. There are plans to build reservoirs in the mountains.

Its first priority is rebuilding towns and communities, then working on the infrastructure in Peru for future disasters. The government also wants to control where people settle so that people are living in areas that are reachable and have adequate living conditions and resources.

Since Peru wants to continue growing its economy and improve its reputation in Latin America and the world, it must improve its infrastructure for the entire population. As such, it is important to make sure that many people in Peru will benefit from these projects.

The mining and commodity industry in Peru is growing very quickly, so organizations, like The Nature Conservancy, are focused on minimizing the impact of these industries on the environment and the surrounding communities.

The Nature Conservancy recognizes this “boom” as a great opportunity for the country, but wants to make sure that the environment is not affected. It is pushing for zero environmental impacts as well as the development of hydropower plants. It also focuses on informing Indigenous communities about the social and ecological effects the mining industry can have. Infrastructure in Peru must reflect and react to these implications.

At the moment, Peru is at a crossroads: it must rebuild its poorer infrastructure while allowing for economic growth through its mining and commodity industries. The U.N. has pushed for the country to implement multi-hazard warning systems and educate citizens about the environmental risks of these endeavors.

In short, Peru must continue to improve its infrastructure and garner international support for its initiatives. The steady improvements to infrastructure in Peru will have lasting, positive effects on its population.

– Emilia Beuger

Photo: Flickr

Sierra Irrigation Project for Peru: Good News for FarmersPeru has been one of the fastest growing economies over the last decade but poverty in the Peruvian Sierra remains high. Poverty rates are far above the national averages and especially peak in rural areas.

In 2010, the largest share of household income in the Sierra came from agriculture. There exists strong evidence that agriculture growth is more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. The Sierra Irrigation Project for Peru was implemented in order to bolster agricultural production and productivity in targeted areas of the Sierra with the ultimate goal of improving the financial capacity of impoverished farmers. The project is multifaceted, focusing on:

  • Modernization and rehabilitation of collective irrigation
  • Irrigation technology improvement
  • Capacity building and support to production and marketing
  • Formalization of water rights and the national water rights administrative registry
  • Project implementation support

Since being established in 2010, the Sierra Irrigation Project for Peru has made significant contributions to the growing agricultural sector. The project successfully increased irrigation water flow and frequency and irrigation efficiency. Irrigation efficiency in the Peruvian Sierra in 2010 averaged about 22 percent, however, by 2016 that number was increased to 72 percent thanks largely to the Sierra Irrigation Project for Peru.

Modernization and rehabilitation efforts for collective irrigation systems expanded the reach of 87 water user organizations who improved their irrigation service delivery to 18,758 farmers. Those 18,758 farmers then irrigated 14,770 hectares of land. These numbers turn into a significant increase in water tariffs collections, improving financial capacity in the Peruvian Sierra; 80 percent of farmers paid water tariffs in 2016, compared to just 50 percent in 2011. Improved irrigation also allows farmers to increase the value and quality of their productions. A significant number of farmers who increased their irrigation capacity also began to farm high-value crops.

The Sierra Irrigation Project for Peru was successful with each of its goals and targeted beneficiaries. The priority was to most significantly benefit farmers by improving their access to markets and their capacity to produce high-value crops. The project was also able to benefit water user organizations at regional and local levels. The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation intends to develop a follow-up operation to scale up the results of the Sierra Irrigation Project for Peru.

– Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

Help People in PeruWhile the poverty rate in Peru has dropped over the last year, there are still people living without access to basic human necessities. There are several programs and organizations that help people in Peru by putting them in a position to live a better life.

In Peru, over 3 million people are living in poverty and over 5 million have no water resources, according to HELP International, a globally responsive organization. Over 40,000 more people have left poverty compared to last year, but the government is expecting a decrease of 3 percent this year because of floods resulting from El Niño earlier this year and a graft scandal that has halted public works.

The flooding caused by El Niño killed about a hundred people and damaged thousands of homes. Organizations in Peru like Save the Children and ADRA Peru have been working and accepting donations since then to help those affected.

Global Giving is another nonprofit organization resource that lists the specific needs of people in certain regions living in less than desirable conditions. On the Global Giving website, you can find a list of projects accepting donations for relief for the thousands that were forced to abandon their homes.

By giving help to people in Peru, you would be helping the one-third of Peru’s population that lives in poverty. This help goes a long way towards continuing the progress that Peru has made in its fight to reduce poverty.

Jalil Perry

Photo: Flickr

Project CASITAProject CASITA, created by Partners in Health in Peru, identifies infants and toddlers with developmental delays and trains parents and caregivers to stimulate children and encourage age-appropriate behavior. The program is designed to help children aged six to 24 months who exhibit signs of potential developmental delay, such as lack of communication and mobility. The program began in November 2013 and in 2016 had enrolled 180 children and families. Researchers found that 85 percent of children exhibiting early developmental delays showed improvement after time in the program. The program is located in Carabayllo, a province north of Lima.

Community health workers aid the mothers and teach them activities to do with their children to encourage mobility and language development. The community health workers help parents design toys to exercise their infants’ tongues and play games to promote language development. Toddlers also work on picking up small objects to develop their fine motor skills. Some health workers meet parents weekly in their home and other parents attend education sessions at a central location. Health workers and caregivers typically work together for three months.

Grand Challenges Canada helps to support Project CASITA. Initially, Grand Challenges Canada provided a grant of $199,000. In May 2016, they provided a second grant to help Partners in Health expand the program to reach 3,000 children. In order to successfully expand, 30 additional community health workers were trained.

Partners in Health also cooperates with the Peruvian Ministry of Health to ensure programs are integrated and sustainable on the community and municipal levels.

Project CASITA supports families in other ways as well. They provide food baskets and mental health services. Families also receive help in applying for national identification cards which grant them access to a variety of public services.

Sarah Denning
Photo: Flickr

Latin American FarmersIn recent years, the nutrient-rich superfood – quinoa – has emerged as a strong competitor for space on grocery shelves. Though the nutty grain certainly has its place in high-end grocery stores such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, few consumers know that quinoa’s popularity boom has been critical in alleviating poverty for farmers in Latin America.

Quinoa is native to the Andean region of South America, and is known there as the “mother of all grains.” The hardy plant thrives there despite extreme altitude and high-risk climate conditions. It has been shown that quinoa can also thrive in a variety of Asian, North American and European climates – though none of these have seen the benefits as much as Latin America.

Countries such as Ecuador and Peru are some of the top exporters of quinoa, which is grown primarily by small-scale farmers in mountainous regions. As the grain has gained popularity and reputation as a superfood, farmers in these lower-income regions have seen a higher demand for their production. In such a reliable market, growing quinoa helps previously vulnerable Latin American farmers achieve a more steady income. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has declared quinoa a key component in global food security, for both present and future generations.

In Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador – the three major Latin American exporters of quinoa – the area of land set aside for quinoa cultivation has more than doubled within the last 30 years. Imports to the U.S. from Latin America hover around an astounding £70 million annually. Not only have Latin American nations started selling more quinoa to high-income nations, but they have started selling it at a far steeper price. In between the years 2006 and 2013, the price of quinoa around the globe tripled. Such a lucrative market is clearly beneficial for farmers in these areas of the world.

Historically, demand for raw goods like quinoa has led to the exploitation of low-income countries and only corporate interests have seen real benefits. However, studies have proven that this is not currently the case. The rural region of Puno, where 80 percent of Peru’s quinoa comes from, has seen enormous economic growth and improved welfare as a result of the superfood craze. Not only that, but despite the dramatic price increases, studies have found that people living in communities where quinoa is part of the traditional diet can still afford to eat the grain at similar or even higher rates.

In Puno, households cut back on less nutritious, high-fat foods in order to accommodate the price increases on quinoa; as a result, their health improved. The health benefits of quinoa serve to empower rural poor in Latin America, as well as other impoverished regions around the world. Bolivia declared 2013 the “Year of Quinoa” because the sustainably-grown grain is incredibly nutritious. Quinoa is the only plant food containing all essential amino acids, vitamins, trace elements and no gluten, making it the perfect base for an affordable, nutritious diet. It is also high in fiber and lysine.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has declared quinoa a key component in global food security, both currently and in the future. As Latin America maintains a strong monopoly on quinoa, it is increasingly helping its farmers live healthily and sustainably – and will surely continue for years to come.

Kailey Dubinsky

Sex Trafficking in PeruAccording to the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report, Peru is a source, destination and transit country for men, women and children exposed to forced labor and sex trafficking. Women, children and indigenous populations are particularly vulnerable.

According to the Walk Free Foundation – an organization that fights against human trafficking, otherwise known as modern slavery – Peru has the third-highest rate of cases of forced labor in Latin America, after Mexico and Colombia. It is estimated that 0.6 percent of Peru’s population, or 200,000 people, suffer from some form of forced labor in their lifetimes. 80 percent of these people are subjected to trafficking involving prostitution.

Forced labor in Peru occurs in many service areas such as gold mining, logging, unregistered factories, organized street begging and domestic service. Mafia and terrorist organizations such as Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, recruit children as young as age 11 through social media with the intent to sexually exploit them. Recruiting often manifests through fake employment offers.

Once in the custody of traffickers, victims often are unable to leave due to being held in remote places such as mining camps, the high cost of transportation, the demand for commercial sex and the need to make money. Attempting to escape often results in murder and public body mutilation to act as a warning to other victims.

Online and offline child “sex tourism” is another way victims are trafficked. Americans will pay thousands of dollars to engage in online sex acts with underage girls. In a 2015 arrest of an online child pornography perpetrator, authorities rescued 36 victims, 11 of which were underage and as young as 4. The American police and the Peruvian National Police worked together on this specific arrest. The Protect Act allows U.S. authorities to charge American perpetrators whether the acts occur in the U.S. or abroad.

Human trafficking for the point of sexual exploitation carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison in Peru, but corruption often undermines the judicial system. While the government is not doing nearly enough to reduce the prevalence of human trafficking for sexual exploitation, they are making some efforts and many NGOs are picking up the slack.

The Peruvian government has worked to establish specialized, anti-trafficking regional prosecutor offices in Callao, Cusco, Lima, Loreto, Puno, Tacna and Tumbes. It has also increased anti-trafficking operations and arrests, increased efforts to identify and assist victims and has been investigating and convicting sex tourists. Anti-trafficking commercials and posters in airports are another way the government is working to raise awareness.

NGOs have been the true heros thus far in the fight against sex trafficking in Peru. Along with safe homes for women, organizations such as PROMSEX are making great efforts to aid survivors of sex trafficking. PROMSEX is a sexual and reproductive rights nonprofit that has launched an awareness and mobilizing campaign against trafficking. They work to provide legal, psychological and material services for survivors; this includes treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and mental health counselling. As part of PROMSEX’s campaign, they are also working on improving the legal rights of victims, such as not treating victims of prostitution as criminals. They also educate the public on ways to avoid sex trafficking.

While there is still much progress to be made, NGOs like PROMSEX are pillars of hope for the sex trafficking victims of Peru.

Phoebe Cohen

Photo: Pixabay

Human Rights in PeruPeru is a country with a tumultuous past. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, insurgent guerilla organizations battled the government – a conflict that resulted in the death of nearly 70,000 people. By 2000, the conflict slowed down and since then the government has focused on integrating human rights in Peru into national law.

The Constitution of Peru protects human rights, claiming that humans have the right to respect, dignity, life and equality. Even so, there is still conflict over human rights in Peru.

According to Human Rights Watch, security forces in Peru have occasionally responded to protests over large development projects with gunfire, which has killed or injured protestors. There are also significant threats to freedom of expression and violence against women.

Journalists who publish pieces critical of the government can face intimidation, assault and even murder at the hands of individuals supporting or hired by the government.

Unfortunately, even a well-intentioned policy can fail to ensure the universal human rights. For example, the Peruvian Constitution promises free education to children ages six through 16. In reality, parents are faced with administrative and educational material fees that prevent less wealthy children from receiving a quality education. Students in rural areas receive lower quality education than those in urban areas. Gender and ethnicity can also factor into the quality of education that children receive.

However, there are some positive outcomes in terms of human rights in Peru. Health services are provided for free by the Peruvian government and workers are free to unionize. The Peruvian Constitution also promises a healthy environment for its citizens. Successive administrations have focused on eliminating violence against women, and political parties are now required to include a minimum of 30 percent of female candidates.

While human rights in Peru can be messy and complicated, the government is eager to put the violent history of the country firmly in the past and continue expanding human rights and ensuring those rights are upheld.

Brock Hall

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in PeruHome to 11 ecological regions, Peru, the third largest country in South America, has made a major effort to control and prevent diseases. The efforts are critical for Peru’s vulnerable population of 32 million.

One of the most common diseases in Peru is dengue fever. A viral infection transmitted through mosquito bites, dengue fever initially has no symptoms. However, within a week of being bitten by an infected mosquito, individuals will display flu-like symptoms for which there are no antiviral treatments available. While dengue can prove deadly, Peru has actively been fighting the disease. In response to a May 2017 outbreak induced by flooding, the nation mobilized soldiers to distribute aid and health supplies, and set up mobile clinics to treat individuals. In this sense, they did much to support their citizens in preventing and eliminating the disease.

Another common disease in Peru is Zika virus. Although Peru declared a 90-day health emergency throughout 11 states in response to Zika in 2016, their allocation of nearly $6 million has helped reduce the epidemic. Unlike many nations throughout South America, Peru was reduced from a “high risk” area to a “minimal risk” area. The efforts to eliminate Zika have thereby proven at least partially successful.

Finally, typhoid fever—a bacterial disease spread via contact with food or water contaminated by feces or sewage—persists throughout Peru. With mortality rates reaching as high as 20 percent when left untreated, typhoid fever remains a disease which must be combated. While the mortality rate of typhoid fever rose between 1990 and 2013, the nation continues to dedicate resources intended to eliminate the disease.

Though these are not the only common diseases in Peru (others include bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, malaria, and Bartonellosis), their persistence throughout Peruvian society demands global attention. By helping fund efforts to terminate these illnesses, the United States can ultimately help ensure that the citizens of Peru continue to thrive and succeed.

Emily Chazen

Photo: Flickr

Education in PeruA republic which first gained its independence in 1821, Peru prides itself on its continual promotion of education. Education in Peru has seriously benefited from 1996 government reforms which ensured free and compulsory education for all students between ages 5 and 16. In fact, continual reform led to the establishment of the National Superintendency of University Higher Education (SUNEDU) in 2015; this organization seeks to improve quality standards for higher education.

As a direct result of the emphasis on education, Peru’s adult literacy rate has risen from approximately 40 percent in 1940 to beyond 90 percent in 2005. In fact, in 2014, the primary school completion rate stood at 95.9 percent, a significant increase from 63.8 percent in 1970.

In particular, Peru continues to prioritize the education of women and vulnerable peoples. Since 2000, there has been minimal difference in the enrollment ratios between boys and girls: in fact, while 76.2 percent of school-aged boys were enrolled in school, 77.5 percent of school-aged girls were enrolled. Similarly, the Peruvian branch of CARE, an organization operating in 94 countries to implement sustainable change, empowers Peru’s most vulnerable groups, including women, indigenous people and rural populations.

Beginning with grade one, education in Peru grants students the opportunity to obtain primary, secondary, vocational and tertiary education. Higher education requires three years. The oldest university is the Universidad Nacional Major de San Marcos. Founded in 1551, the university prides itself on prioritizing social responsibility, creating professional leaders and emphasizing sustainability and environmental protection. In fact, the university offers courses in health sciences, medicine, veterinary studies, pharmaceutical studies, engineering, natural sciences, the humanities and more.

Clearly, education in Peru has continued to thrive over the course of the past few decades. However, significant funding efforts and economic growth play a crucial role in securing educational opportunities for students throughout the nation. Therefore, it is incumbent upon world leaders to provide support for Peruvian education in order to ensure that both the nation and its students succeed.

Emily Chazen