, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 41-60
Date: 11 Aug 2011

Coca and conservation: cultivation, eradication, and trafficking in the Amazon borderlands

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Abstract

The cultivation and traffic of coca, Erythrolxylum coca, and coca derivatives remain understudied threats to the conservation of the Amazon rainforest. Currently the crop is transforming land use and livelihoods in the ecologically and culturally rich borderlands of Amazonian Peru. The isolated nature of this region characterized by indigenous populations (both settled and uncontacted), conservation units, resource concessions, and a lack of state presence provides fertile ground for the boom and bust cycle of coca production and facilitates the international transport of the product to neighboring Brazil. This paper explores the social and environmental impacts of coca production, eradication, and transport through an analysis of both spatial and ethnographic data on land use and livelihood strategies along the Ucayali and Purús Rivers. Results map out the regional distribution and recent history of commercial coca fields and transboundary transportation routes and identify threats to the conservation of indigenous landscapes and borderland forests.