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Sustainable Crops in Peru: Palm Oil
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Sustainable Crops in Peru: Palm Oil
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Beyond a Dollar a Day

Thousands of farmers in Peru who produced coca illegally for the drug trade are being helped to find a more sustainable—and safer—alternative.

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
Until the mid 1990s, Peru was the number one producer of coca in the world. Today, several thousand former illegal coca farmers -- cocaleros -- have moved on to grow other crops. Hector Ore is one of them. Senor Ore used to grow coca in the infamous Andean region of San Martin.
HECTOR ORE
I was working for a company and would produce weekly probably about 1,500 kilos of cocaine base. Sometimes we would fill up four or five flights headed for Colombia and then Europe.
VOICEOVER
A lucrative, but dangerous lifestyle. Hector feared for the safety of his children, so he and his wife decided to leave everything behind and move here to Pucallpa in the Peruvian Amazon. They came across a palm oil project run by the United Nations Drugs and Crime office, helping former cocaleros to start legal businesses. Jochen Wiese, a UN Technical Adviser for Alternative Development with the Office for Project Services and Office on Drugs and Crime.
JOCHEN WIESE
Here, we implemented the first project with palm, starting with 270 poor families that have migrated from different areas known to have been working with coca.
VOICEOVER
Because palm trees take three to four years before the first harvest, it takes a lot of dedication and perseverance on the part of the farmer. For Hector, it took 16 years. Today, he owns more than 22 hectares of palm trees and is a shareholder in this palm oil processing plant here in Neshuya.
HECTOR ORE
To me, being the owner of this factory is a great honor. This is the future of my whole family, my children, my grandchildren, and my whole generation.
VOICEOVER
Neshuya, an hour's drive from Pucallpa, was once known for its high crime rate. Now it's an area of opportunity and development. Farmers are shareholders in corporations like Olamsa and collect dividends. Running a legal business has enabled Hector to open his first bank account.
HECTOR ORE
To all farmers involved with coca, I say: change to palm. With palm trees you are always clean and proud. You won't be afraid of justice chasing you.
VOICEOVER
An opinion shared by about 15,000 other former cocaleros in Peru who have moved on to alternative crops. These are largely determined by the soil and the altitude of any given area. Long term, palm oil holds the highest promise here. From palm oil processing plants like this one in Shambillo, the crude oil is taken to refineries like Alpamayo in Lima, where it goes through a complex refining process and is finally packaged as vegetable shortening. General Manager of Alpamayo, Bert Engelhard.
BERT ENGELHARD
We receive crude palm oil from Pucallpa, from Peru, and we transform it into final products which are shortenings for different industries and for bakeries.
VOICEOVER
The market for palm oil is clearly there but the ultimate goal is to find alternatives that work and can be sustained in the long term. In partnership with Peru's government, United Nations Drugs and Crime office is working to do just that.
FLAVIO MIRELA
The alternatives that are being provided, they're not provided by chance, they're provided after careful analysis.
VOICEOVER
Flavio Mirela, the Representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Peru.
FLAVIO MIRELA
What we're trying to do, to support the government, is to build communities. The question here is not for them to pick up and go elsewhere.
VOICEOVER
This is a project in which everyone wins, including the environment. Because sustainable crops tie the farmers to their land, they also bring an end to the notorious slash?and?burn approach to planting coca used by migratory coca farmers.
VOICEOVER
This report was prepared by Sasa Gorisek for the United Nations.