The softer version of crop eradication is alternative development, which uses financial incentives and training to help marginalized farmers switch to other crops such as coffee, instead of coca or opium poppies. Given its focus on poor rural populations, it is a politically attractive option for governments and development organizations. While the U.S. and the UNODC actively promote such programs, the latter’s Independent Evaluation Unit found that alternative development alone seldom results in reduced cultivation of illicit crops.
Convincing peasant farmers that the government will sustain its support, the inability for financial incentives to cover the costs of switching crops, and the lucrative nature of selling a crop like coca for cocaine production are all obstacles to success. Other variables seem to determine the effectiveness of such programs, including economic growth in the region and increased policing efforts.