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Former opium farmers in Myanmar prepare to sell coffee in international markets

Yangon (Myanmar), 21 July 2017
- Former opium farmers from Shan State in Myanmar have begun the process to commercialise coffee, a licit cash crop introduced by UNODC's alternative development project to break dependence on opium.

In 2014, UNODC worked with over 1,000 small scale farmers to begin producing high quality coffee in place of the illicit opium poppy. These coffee farmers are now expecting their first harvest in November 2017. In preparation, producers have created the Green Gold Cooperative to manage product commercialisation on a communal level.

As a part of a strategy to place its coffee on international markets and with the support of UNODC, Green Gold contacted various stakeholders to raise awareness of the important changes that are ongoing in Shan State in relation to towards the alternative development programmes being implemented there.

One of the interested stakeholders was MALONGO, a French roaster company that negotiates with farmers in different countries under fair trade guidelines. UNODC efforts helped conduct the first joint field visit to Shan State between 9 and 11 July, where MALONGO confirmed the social and technical conditions of these coffee producing communities, and explored the possibility of establishing a long-term agreement to contribute to the communities' development.

In addition to the field visit, three administrative members of Green Gold experienced first hand the plantations, postharvest infrastructure and headquarters of Bolaven Plateau Coffee Producers Cooperative C.P.C in Pakse, Lao PDR. After a 10-year process to successfully reach international markets with their high quality coffee, C.P.C. held expertise as a similar specialised business and had invited Green Gold to share in the knowledge. The visit was supported by UNODC and MALONGO, and took place between 13 and 15 of July.

While the C.P.C. experience was not the first to be developed by the alternative development programme of UNODC under the framework of South - South Cooperation, it was the first time Myanmar farmers traveled overseas to learn from similar organizations. Given their common interests and the importance of shared knowledge, C.P.C. and Green Gold are designing a system to facili-tate farmer-to-farmer training activities. This programme will begin in October and November, after the harvest season in Myanmar.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on sustainable alternative development.