A sign in front of the local school reads ‘Welcome to Gallo’. This community, whose inhabitants rely on coca production for their survival, was chosen as one of the ‘normalisation zones’ where FARC militants would demobilise and disarm as part of the peace deal signed with the Colombia government in late 2016.
A ‘cocalero’ shows the blisters on his hands at a local coca makeshift laboratory. Dario (not his real name), now 25, has been working processing the coca leaves into coca paste since he was 14.
A young girl and her friend , shovel the coca leaves into containers at the local ‘caleta’. “To us this is the legal stuff, with this we can educate our children, buy them food and clothes, give them health, and there’s even a little bit left for us,” says her father.
Gasoline is added to the coca leaves – already mixed with ammonia and cement – at a makeshift laboratory.
Young girls play over the coca leaves kicking them to mix it with cement and ammonia in the first step of processing coca paste at a makeshift laboratory in north-west Colombia. “She doesn’t work here, but the kids like to come and hang out. They keep us company”, explains her father.
Women and children watch a soap opera at their home in Gallo.
A man gambles at the local casino in Frasquillo, Córdoba, a region where coca plantations increased by 146% in 2016. In many of Colombia’s most remote areas, the coca business fuels almost the entire local economy.
Community leaders and cocaleros discuss following steps after a government’s meeting about the crop-substitution programme in Tierralta, Colombia.
A sceptre from the Guardia Campesina gifted by the Catatumbo community – another area where coca is widely grown – to the local governor.
Young workers from a coca farm pick up the necessary supplies to process the coca paste from a boat.
Pedro – not his real name, 41, harvests coca leaves from his 14 year-old son’s plantation in Tierralta, Córdoba. “We have a thousand [coca] plants here. We get about $400,000 pesos (US$135) every two months, but we’re gonna have to take them out if the peace process goes through and the police arrives”, the cocalero says.
A community leader holds a copy of Colombia’s constitution during a meeting held by government officials about the crop-substitution programme to cocaleros from Tierralta’s region. “They think we’re stupid, but we know the law. We have to come prepared to defend ourselves,” he said.
A young girl helps her father sweep the coca leaves at the local ‘caleta’. “She doesn’t work here, but the kids like to come and hang out,” says her father, Mario. “To us this is the legal stuff, with this we can educate our children, buy them food and clothes, give them health, and there’s even a little bit left for us,” he says.