Years ago, after reading confused student papers, I started taking a moment in classes related to Latin America to remind everyone that violence in the Andean region is related to coca, not to cocoa. They aren't fighting over hot chocolate (I also have to remind students that those doing the fighting are guerrillas, not gorillas). So this story in Time caught my eye immediately. A small agricultural cooperative in Peru has produced high quality cacao beans that are much sought after and profitable.
[C]acao exports were up over 400% in the past decade, and production this year will be around 35,000 metric tons, putting Peru close to the top 10 biggest producers. The U.S. program invested more than $110 million in alternative development plans in Peru in the past decade. The program involves nearly half of the 150,000 acres (60,703 hectares) of cacao planted in the country. The goal is to expand not only in San Martin but throughout the country's tropics.
Crop substitution has had only sporadic success, so it is nice to see an example of it working. The real trick is getting into high-yield niche markets, which is no easy thing--such programs also receive far fewer funds than military solutions. Without such a specialized market, the programs only work when food (or cotton, or whatever) prices happen to be high. What the story also does mention is the very common strategy of growing legal crops, then also growing coca illicitly as protection against potential problems.
That said, at the very least it's a good thing to have major media outlets emphasize non-military approaches to the so-called "drug war."