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Upper Amazon Conservancy Leading Research on Peru’s Coca Frontier

July 2011

The large-scale cultivation of coca – seen above – is becoming increasingly common in remote areas of the Purús region.

Upper Amazon Conservancy director Chris Fagan and Professor David Salisbury of the University of Richmond, a member of UAC’s advisory board, recently co-authored a study, published this month in GeoJournal, on the advancing coca frontier in Peru’s Amazon region and its mounting socio-economic and conservation impacts. Peru is now believed to be the world’s largest exporter of coca, the plant used in the production of cocaine. Large-scale coca cultivation is penetrating once remote and isolated areas of the Purús, followed by traffickers who access the backcountry by the same river trails and forest roads used by illegal loggers. The roads and access pave the way for further environmental destruction, settlement and illegal activity, and threaten the sanctity of tribal reserves inhabited by some of the last voluntarily-isolated indigenous tribes on the planet. While coca has for centuries been used by local indigenous peoples for medicinal and theraputic purposes, international pressure from drug traffickers, who have recently entered the area, is mounting and plantations are becoming larger and more widespread, particularly along the region’s waterways. The study incorporated GIS work, aerial monitoring and field research, leading Fagan and Salisbury to the conclusion that despite the region’s relative remoteness, coca production is already having serious socio-economic and conservation impacts.

Small agricultural clearings like this one, deep in the Alto Purús National Park, have become increasingly common – and many have grown substantially in recent years.

To read the author’s version of the recently published study, click here. To read the final published version in the GeoJournal, click here. For more information, contact  researcher and Upper Amazon Conservancy Director Chris Fagan at email hidden; JavaScript is required. ———- To read more about the Upper Amazon Conservancy and its work in Peru, see our FACT SHEET (PDF 412K) or visit our website at www.upperamazon.org.