Press Releases

• August 17, 2010 - Novelle Consulting Launches New Website
• August 16, 2010 - Erich Hinrichs and John Musser Join Novelle Consulting
• August 1, 2006 - Novelle Principal Awarded Presidential Volunteer Service Award
• December 20, 2005- Sonora State, Mexico Completes Phase I of Development Plan
• April 26, 2005 - PMA Addresses Consumption, Industry Trends with Retailers, Growers in Mexico
• April 18, 2005 - Novelle Assists State of Sonora in Five Year Plan
• June 3, 2004 - BC Hot House Chairman Al Vangelos Elected Russian Farm Project's Chairman of the Board

Novelle in the media

• April 22, 2009, The Packer - Vangelos named Produce Man for All Seasons
• April 10, 2006, The Produce News - Novelle Takes on Winogrond and Obregon as Two Senior Principals
• April 6, 2006, FreshPlaza - Novelle Adds Two New Senior Principals; Obregon and Winogrond
• July, 2005, Productores de Hortalizas - Agronegocios en Sonora
• May 1, 2005, The Produce News - Symposium Shines Spotlight on Sonora Agriculture

on the move

Novelle and Food Safety in Southeast Asia
Novelle and the Gates Foundation
Novelle and the World Bank in Malaysia
Novelle in Southern Sudan
Novelle in Georgia
Novelle in Indonesia
Novelle in Egypt
Novelle in Guatemala
Novelle in Central America
Novelle Consulting in Zambia
Novelle Consulting in the Balkans
Novelle's Indonesian Assignment
Novelle in Southern Africa
Novelle in former Soviet Union
Novelle and Work in Colombia
Bananas in Bangladesh
Vegetables in Moldova
Packing Plant in Moldova
Quality Control in Moldova

white papers

Novelle Consulting and EUREPGAP
Moscow Supermarket Industry
The 5-Year Agricultural Business Development Plan for Sonora, Mexico
Marketing of Horticultural Produce in Asia-From Sonora Symposium


Novelle and Drug Substitution Work in Colombia

Due to the very large production, transportation and marketing of illicit drugs from the South American country of Colombia, the U.S. government has made Colombia a recipient of increasingly large amounts of direct aid to assist the Colombian government with this problem. The shipment of drugs to the U.S. represents a major problem on its own. But the companion problem that has accompanied the drugs has been the destabilization of the Colombian government and society, due to the huge flows of money that have gone to the narcotics organizations. Colombia is the second oldest democracy in the Western Hemisphere, a staunch ally of the U.S., and the deterioration of this society has reached the point of Colombia being the third largest recipient of U.S. aid (both military and non-military) in the world, after Israel and Egypt.

As part of this effort, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has actively developed programs in many of the drug producing countries, Colombia included, that will induce the farmers producing the drugs to convert their production to legal products. USAID contracted Chemonics, International, a large consulting agency based in Washington, DC, to develop a drug substitution program in Putumayo, a southern province bordering Ecuador near the Amazon jungle. Putumayo alone grows an estimated 55,000 hectares of coca, the source of cocaine. As originally conceived, this project had a value of $85,000,000, one of the largest single USAID contracts in the world.

When the project began to show signs of initial success, Chemonics, International in turn sub-contracted Novelle principal Henry Winogrond to do a survey of the adjoining provinces in order to assess the opportunities for similar programs. The provinces of Cauca and Narino lie in the southwestern corner of Colombia, with the Pacific Ocean to the west and Putumayo to the east. Though the government official estimates at that time cited these provinces to have illicit drug production (including both coca and poppies for heroin) of 10,000 – 20,000 hectares, Mr. Winogrond quickly found that the true figures were more in the order of 35,000 – 50,000 hectares each, and the problem was very serious.

One of the inherent problems of doing drug substitution work is the inherent violence associated with the culture. Mr. Winogrond did all of his work out of the provincial capitals, Popayan and Pasto, as the prospects for a kidnapping were very high if the work were to be done in the countryside. Local officials, such as the mayors of the targets towns, or leaders of local NGOs were then brought into the capitals for interviews. To develop successful drug substitution programs, three parameters must be established:

1. Where do we want to work?
2. With whom do we want to work?
3.What do we want to do with them?
The first part is very critical, as these provinces are large, and it became obvious that the targets would have to be chosen carefully. Therefore, an economic and demographic analysis of each province was developed, dividing the provinces into 7-8 coherent geographic zones, and subjecting them to an analysis that would permit conclusions to be drawn in terms of the probabilities of success in the zone. Some zones had so little illicit production that they were not worth the effort. Others were so isolated that there was little probability of making successful economic investments that would allow farmers to make a reasonable return on the new projects. And some areas were so dangerous (particularly in the zones bordering the Pacific Ocean, where the Colombian government had basically ceded control of to the narcotics organizations) that it would be foolish to even consider working there.

But that left in both cases very likely places to work, normally in the centers of the provinces, along the Pan American Highway, where the prospects for the marketing of high value products were quite reasonable. And there was a high enough level of production of illicit drugs in these areas to make them worthwhile targets.

The second part was perhaps the most critical of all, and that was to choose the potential partners. Again, the level of danger was so high that there would be no foreigners coming here to do field work. Mr. Winogrond interviewed nearly every functioning NGO in the provinces, in order to determine if they had the ability and the interest to participate in projects such as these. These NGOs included organizations such as the coffee growers trade association (perhaps the most powerful organization in the country, after the military), the local universities (which almost all had community development projects), a local NGO that had developed a community based silk production operation, and local community associations. In addition, the province of Cauca has 72 “resguardas”, or Indian reservations, and many of these had solid functioning community organizations.

The last step after determining the local partners was to develop economically sustainable projects that would allow the farmers to switch from coca and poppies to legal products, and to maintain their standard of living. Though this may seem difficult at first glance, the reality is that with the drug production, just as in normal farming, the farmer gets a very small percentage of the final value of the crop. And it was relatively easy to develop projects in zones along the Pan American highway (which made the marketing feasible) of high value fruit and vegetable products, as well as dairy production. The key to it all was the installation of irrigation, which the farmers never could have afforded on their own. But with the USAID funds, these types of investments became possible.

After presenting the broad analysis to the USAID officials in the Embassy in Bogota, Mr. Winogrond returned a few months later to design a specific program for the valley of Patia in Cauca. This is home to a large population of Afro-Colombians, who had a vibrant community association, and who were determined to drive the drugs out of their society. The project was approved, 3-4 million dollars were committed and invested, and at least several hundred hectares of coca have since been eradicated and fruits and vegetables have been planted in their place.