Presenting author: Tim Rhodes
Presenting author biography:
Tim Rhodes uses qualitative methods to study how environments affect health in relation to drug use. His research has focused on Russia and Eastern Europe, Kenya, Colombia and Myanmar.
Coca, chemicals, livelihoods: An ecological approach to harm reduction
Tim Rhodes, Linda Ordóñez, Magdalena Harris, Camilo Acero, Adam Holland, Francisco Guterrez-Sannin
In this paper, we outline an ‘ecological’ approach to harm reduction. We draw on ethnographic work with coca farmers in Putumayo in the south of Colombia as our case study. We look at how human as well as nonhuman livelihoods linked to coca cultivation are shaped by chemical harms – harms which themselves link to the political economy of drug wars and structural inequalities. First, we trace the livelihood and environmental harms of glyphosate, a chemical used to fumigate the coca plant in eradication initiatives. Second, we trace the human harms of chemicals used by farmers in the cultivation of coca. Third, we consider how harm reduction can relate to the care of plants and environments, including as a means to protect fragile human livelihoods. Our work highlights how chemical harms link to the long and slow violence of drug wars and structural inequalities. An ecological approach to harm reduction not only focuses on people but also politics and environment.