UNODC coffee cooperative 'green gold' successfully established and is preparing for upcoming farming season
Taunggyi (Myanmar), 10 September 2015 - Opium poppy farming is a serious problem in Myanmar, with the 2015 Southeast Asia Opium Survey showing that approximately 55,000 ha of opium poppies were cultivated last year. Opium farming occurs for a number of complex, interrelated reasons, such as poverty and the presence of conflict. Dynamic, sustained efforts are therefore needed to reduce, and eventually eliminate, poppy cultivation.
As a step towards accomplishing this, in 2014, UNODC started a project that involved planting 200 hectares of coffee in an agro-forestry system. This coffee is replacing the former opium fields in the Hopong and loilen Townships of Southern Shan State of Myanmar. Presently, an additional 400 hectares of coffee are being cultivated by over 700 ex-opium farming households living in the remote and mountainous area.
In April 2015, UNODC visited the Ministry of Cooperatives in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss their plan for establishing a coffee cooperative in collaboration with the Ministry. An agreement was made outlining UNODC's strategy to use coffee as a cash crop alternative to opium. It also outlined their plan to export coffee to the global premium coffee market through the development of a coffee cooperative.
Under a South-South cooperation programme, UNODC recruited a cooperative specialist with over 25 years experience and who was working for a leading coffee producing and exporting cooperative in Peru. The specialist facilitated the formation of the first coffee cooperative named "Green Gold" and the Cooperative Constitution Ceremony was held on July 20th, with over 530 coffee farmers from 40 project villages attending the event.
A board of directors with seven members was selected in collaboration with the Cooperatives Department. There are also ten zonal committees with 42 committee members, formed on the basis of geographic location. 14% of the committee participation is made up of women.
UNODC further facilitated capacity building through collecting member shares and opening a bank account for the Cooperative at the Cooperative Bank of Taunggyi, Shan State. As of the end of August 2015, 702 coffee farming families with 810 members subscribed to 3990 shares out of the planned 9793 shares. The value of one share is equivalent to 5000 Kyat.
Though the regular monthly meetings, the board of directors developed an action plan for the upcoming farming season. As requested by the board of directors, the Cooperatives Department reserved enough credit to purchase 13 pit-digging machines. The machines have now been purchased and provided to their respective cooperate members.