La Paz, Oct 22 (EFE).- Dozens of Bolivian coca growers gathered here Friday for a event to promote the chewing of coca leaves and other legal uses of the plant.
Members of Adepcoca, the group representing growers in La Paz province, arrived dancing to the sounds of indigenous and Afro-Bolivian music.
Bolivia, like neighboring Peru, permits the cultivation of coca – the raw material of cocaine – in limited quantities for traditional use in folk medicine and Andean religious rites.
In its unadulterated form, coca is a mild stimulant that is valued in the Andes for its ability to counteract the effects of altitude sickness and ward off fatigue.
Former President Evo Morales, who began his political career as the leader of a coca-growers union, prevailed on the United Nations in 2013 to accept the reincorporation of Bolivia into the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, amended to remove a ban on chewing coca leaf.
The administration also supported efforts to find new uses for coca and Friday’s fair in La Paz included displays of legal coca-based products such as infusions and ice cream.
Some passers-by helped themselves to the coca leaves on offer.
Chewing coca leaf “helps people work harder and longer,” young grower Noemi Ponce told Efe.
“Without the chew, one can pass out because the work is hard,” she said, while another grower, Wilson Castellon, likewise stressed the efficacy of coca leaf against fatigue.
Present for the occasion was the provincial governor, Santos Quispe, who praised the growers for their efforts.
Under a 2017 law, Bolivian authorities allow 22,000 hectares (54,320 acres) to be planted with coca. EFE