Coca plants grow just two months a year amid the lush greenery of the Colombian countryside. But the cocaine those plants produce powers a multibillion dollar industry that has spread around the world.
Despite the reputation for decadence and sophistication that has been built up around cocaine, the production process is simple.
Local farmers, sometimes families aided by neighbors, pick leaves by hand and then put them through a complex and noxious process to eventually turn those leaves turned into coca paste.
That paste can then be sold to traffickers, either Colombia's left-wing rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or one of the many gangs that have proliferated in the 20 years since the fearsome and powerful Medellin cartel of Pablo Escobar disintegrated in the wake of Escobar's ignominious death in 1993.
Despite intense and often violent efforts by Colombia (with strong backing by the US) to reduce coca cultivation, the trade has seen a resurgence in recent years.
The photos below, taken by the Associated Press' Rodrigo Abd, document the coca-paste-production process, revealing the humble beginningsof one of the world's most lucrative illegal drugs.