Illicit crops in the frontier margins: Amazonian indigenous livelihoods and the expansion of coca in Peru

Maritza Paredes and Alvaro Pastor.

Journal of Peasant Studies.

Abstract: This paper explores illegal coca crop expansion in indigenous Amazonian communities in Peru. The ethnographic study sheds light on the historical development of these areas as frontier spaces, where the growth of illicit crops intertwines with socio-ecological transformations and gives rise to conflicts over new forms of land control, opportunities for capital accumulation, and political power dynamics. The paper argues that this expansion is shaped by dual processes: from ‘below,’ involving small-scale migrant farmers from the Andes, and from ‘above,’ primarily driven by state-led agrarian interventions. Consequently, communities experience significant tensions, as they adapt to the forces of market expansion to secure their livelihoods, while simultaneously facing risks of violence and insecurity.