Peace Through Coca?: Decolonial Peacebuilding Ecologies and Rural Development in the Territory of Conviviality and Peace of Lerma, Colombia

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While illicit crops like the coca leaf can be vehicles of conflict and income for armed groups across the Global South, this article reveals that coca has alternative uses based on its nutritional and cultural value. Drawing on the experience of the Territory of Conviviality and Peace of Lerma in Colombia, the country’s first community to receive state authorisation to experiment with coca for non-alkaloid purposes, we ponder whether coca can be a catalyst for peace. Lerma has been a large coca producer for decades, which enveloped it in relations of subordination and exploitation tied to illicit economies and armed conflict. Based on qualitative research over a six-year period, we analyse Lerma’s project to overcome capitalist logics driving peasant dispossession through Colombian history and intra-community violence by diverging from production for the drug economy in favour of agroecological coca. In conjunction with other community-based programmes, Lerma’s production of organic coca as part of its food sovereignty project suggests a process of decolonial peace at work, whereby the community breaks from oppressions tied to the rule of armed groups and capitalist markets. This reveals the ecological dimensions of peace, which requires community organising and sustainable relations between humans and land.