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Access Type

Open Access

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Coca, Cocaine, Bolivia, Inflation, Drug Trafficking, Ayllu


Bolivia in the 1980s was wracked by monetary inflation approaching levels of the German Weimar Republic. Immediately following this time of great financial crisis in Bolivia, the U.N. founded a project through the U.N.D.P. to encourage peasant farmers in Bolivia to switch from growing coca (the plant used manufacture cocaine) to growing other cash crops for market. This crop substitution and development program, called the Agroyungas Project, lasted from 1985 to 1991 and is the focus of this study. While many U.N. pundits and journalists considered the program’s initial small successes promising, it has been considered since its conclusion to be a failure. The program was poorly conceived, poorly funded and poorly executed from the start. So one question remains: why was the Agroyungas Project a failure? Additionally, was the project simply a way to steer Bolivians away from the illicit coca/cocaine economy? While on the surface this might appear to be the case, one must probe the complex situations in Bolivia deeply to uncover the true missteps behind this U.N. program. By looking at the evidence, it is apparent that crop substitution programs like the Agroyungas Project failed for a variety of reasons. Besides poor planning and execution of project plans, the project’s developers, planners and workers simply did not understand Bolivian indigenous culture and Bolivian history. However, the project was not doomed to fail. The lack of knowledge and understanding of indigenous Bolivian realities, Bolivian geography and Bolivian history directly led to the failures of the Agroyungas Project.


First Advisor

Jose Angel Hernandez

Second Advisor

Joel W. Wolfe