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Bolivian Farmers Switching From Coca to Coffee

For decades, farmers in Bolivia’s high-altitude Yungas Valley have survived by producing coca, the plant used in producing cocaine. But there may be a new buzz taking over.

Worldwide coffee demand and a United States anti-drug effort to get coca, poppy and marijuana farmers to switch crops have caused many farmers in the region to begin producing coffee, according to a recent report in Time.

coffee grown in Bolivia“It is important to establish real competitive incomes,” a Bolivia-based official at the U.S. development agency USAID, which worked with the Bolivian government to lead farmers to switch to the crop, told the magazine.

“We had no idea how to grow good coffee,” Ever Choquehuanca, who heads the Federation of Intercultural Communities, representing 30,000 Yungas coffee growers, told Time. But that has been changing since 2004 when USAID and others began teaching farmers how to best cultivate shade-growd beans, while also supplying critical coffee production equipment. The group also helped get Bolivian beans into the hands of reputable distributors and enter them into Cup of Excellence awards.

According to the report, there are now more than 80 coffee cooperatives in Bolivia, and farmers there are now routinely making more than they would be growing coca.

The full story: Time