Heterogeneous motivations for coca growing: the case of an indigenous Aymara community in Peru

Int J Drug Policy. 2014 Nov;25(6):1113-23. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.05.011. Epub 2014 May 29.


Coca is a native bush from the Amazon rainforest from which cocaine is extracted. Growing coca is a profitable activity; however, not all farmers located in the coca-supply areas do so. Little is known about farmers' motivations for the decision to grow coca and if so, how much to grow. This article evaluates the influence of monetary and non-monetary factors on these decisions. The study is based on a survey of 496 households in an indigenous Aymara community in Peru. The results suggest, for example, that farmers are more likely to cultivate coca when their plots are characterized by flatter agricultural slopes and when in debt. In relation to the scale of coca cultivation, farmers can be classified into two groups. The larger group (73 percent) grows a high number of coca bushes when facing economic hardship; farmers in the second group (27 percent) seem to be more motivated by the potential profits from coca production relative to coffee, the alternative crop in the area. Therefore, the results support the common notion that farmers cultivate coca in accordance with economic need. Nonetheless, non-economic factors also influence the number of coca bushes cultivated and offer an additional opportunity to reduce coca cultivation if explicitly considered in drug-control policies. This research also discusses potential farmers' responses to different coca-growing reduction strategies. Common drug-control policies such as organic coffee certification, road construction, and education have mixed effects on coca cultivation, depending on the type of coca grower. As such, farmers' motivations are heterogeneous and the design of effective drug-control policies needs to reflect this.

Keywords: Aymara; Coca; Cocaine; Cragg model; Latent class; Peru; South America.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Coca / growth & development*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control
  • Humans
  • Models, Econometric
  • Motivation*
  • Peru
  • Population Groups* / psychology
  • Population Groups* / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors*