What Sets Coca and Poppy Apart from Other Lootable Resources?
Coca and poppy display two characteristics that set them apart from other resources: their inherent versatility and abundance. Versatility is the opportunity of the individual grower to decide where the resource will be cultivated, with some limitations. As with other plants, there are conditions that inhibit growers from cultivating coca or poppy, like terrain and climate. You cannot decide where you will find diamonds and oil, but you can strategically grow coca or poppy in remote geographic locations such as mountains, valleys, and jungles, that are out of reach of the authorities (Collier, Hoeffel, and Rohmer 2009). These terrains also are conducive to the growth of rebel armies (United Nations 2010). Further, drugs are a renewable resource but still hold high value in proportion to their weight (Mason and Campany 1994). There is a limited quantity of diamonds in the world just as there is only so much oil. Further, both oil and diamonds are in a fixed location; you cannot move an oil field or a diamond mine. This could be significant in Ross’ findings that oil is “more strongly associated with separatist conflicts than other types of conflicts” because the conflict becomes a conflict over territory that has oil (Ross 2004a, 352). Quite the opposite is seen with coca and poppy: if the government forces capture a rebel controlled coca/poppy field, it would be in the best interest of the rational rebel to abandon the field because another field could be planted in an area outside of the government’s control. This is referred to as the “balloon effect” (Peceny and Durnan 2006, 99). As government forces put pressure on farmers in one area, drug cultivation stops in that area and the farmers begin to cultivate their drugs in another area. It would be more profitable for the rebels to move locations if the government captures one of their coca/poppy fields instead of staying there and fighting over the territory. The versatility and abundance of coca/poppy make them a profitable resource to garner funds, and their presence in a country might have a distinct affect on the duration of peace.