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Marginalizing a Vulnerable Cultural and Environmental Landscape: Opium Poppy Production in Highland Guatemala

Michael Steinberg and Matthew Taylor
Mountain Research and Development
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Nov., 2007), pp. 318-321
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25164151
Page Count: 4
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Abstract

Poppy production in Guatemala has been embraced by a growing number of people since the end of the civil war in 1996 as one avenue out of poverty. Most cultivation occurs in the department of San Marcos, one of the least developed regions with one of the highest rates of malnutrition and other health issues associated with poverty. While poppy production has led to increased profits for some farmers, there are many direct and indirect negative impacts on the health of local people as well as increased pollution associated with eradication efforts. Defoliant spray to eradicate poppies contaminates soil and water and destroys intercropped licit crops. Illicit production causes deforestation and indirectly leads to a change in people's diet. Additionally, poppy production is accompanied by escalating violence. All these factors are increasing the vulnerability of the local people and jeopardizing their health and well-being. Increased poppy production has to be understood as a symptom of development failures. Only re-establishing faith in the long-term viability of licit development initiatives will encourage local farmers to abandon illicit poppy production and increase the overall security and well-being of the local population.

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