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328. Colombia’s OTHER eradication campaign

Over the past decade, the U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help Colombia eradicate coca production.  The campaign has eliminated millions of acres of coca and been the source of considerable debate.  Opponents charge that aerial spraying — a controversial approach to eradication employed only in Colombia — has displaced farmers, damaged crops, degraded the environment and caused outbreaks of disease.  They also question whether eradication is even working: the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports that the area devoted to coca production in Colombia increased in 2011 despite ongoing aerial spraying and an increase in manual eradication.

Beyond the din of the ongoing debate around its coca eradication efforts, Colombia has quietly mounted another eradication campaign — one that has attracted less attention but has real implications for Colombian coffee.  In response to an epidemic of coffee leaf rust disease, Colombia’s coffee authorities have adopted policies that are gradually eradicating its traditional high-quality coffee cultivars.

Over the next two weeks, the CRS Coffeelands Blog profiles six aspects of Colombia’s “other eradication campaign:”

  1. The coffee leaf rust outbreak it is designed to address,
  2. The origins of the controversial Castillo cultivar that represents a key part of the campaign,
  3. Farmer perspectives on Castillo,
  4. The little-understood Colombian coffee renovation loan that is creating financial incentives for farmers to abandon traditional cultivars,
  5. One modest effort to save Colombia’s traditional coffee cultivars from extinction, and
  6. What we can learn from it all.

Next: Colombia and coffee leaf rust. >>


  • Julie says:

    Another great series to look forward to reading. You continue to do some *seriously* excellent and important posting here, Michael. Bravo!

    • Michael Sheridan says:


      Thanks for the kind words. I think the real contributions of the series come next week.

      We asked hundreds of smallholder farmers which coffee varieties they prefer and why. The results were interesting and we will share them on Monday. I haven’t seen survey data like these anywhere else.

      On Tuesday, we address an issue that I don’t think is widely understood — the fact that Colombia’s very attractive renovation loan is creating financial incentives to eradicate traditional cultivars.

      Wednesday we profile our effort to provide credit to smallholders who are determined to stick with Caturra and heirloom varieties. It is a decidedly modest effort in terms of the level of investment, but it is designed to fill a gap in the local market and may provide an example that could be replicated.

      Finally, on Thursday we will explain how we are working with a research institute to understand what difference a cultivar can make.

      Hope the series can contribute to the discussion around coffee quality and smallholder livelihoods.


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