According to an article (fr) in the French newspaper Libération, rural Colombians could substitute growing a (pretty) white flower, Caliphruria subedentata for the (relatively) lucrative but devastating coca. The plant produces an alkaloid that is sought-after for making anti-Alzheimer drugs and grows under about the same conditions on the slopes of the Andes. At the moment, the price of this substance is so high that even relatively modestly sized crops could sustain a family. The details of how to grow the plant are being worked out by Fabio Cabezas, a chemist with the University of Cauca and the discoverer of the virtues of Caliphruria.
If this works out, it would be more satisfying than the relatively helpless gesture of buying Colombian fair-trade coffee (the taste of which, however, I like). Now someone still has to find a viable option for Afghan farmers.
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