Beyond Fair Trade: How One Small Coffee Company Helped Transform a Hillside Village in Thailand
The Akha hill tribe of Thailand has a long, tumultuous history. Politics, economics, violence, prejudice, and deforestation consistently worked against the Akha's desire to move away from their dependency on opium production and create a stable future for their children. That all changed in 2006 when prominent businessman John Darch met entrepreneur Wicha Promyong. Their meeting resulted in the establishment of an equal partnership business venture that goes beyond Fair Trade: the Doi Chaang Coffee Company. Beyond Fair Trade tells the story of the growth of this unique partnership, its successes and challenges, and the people behind it.
heroin was the drug of choice for many miserable, frightened, disillusioned American soldiers. The swelling number of US addicts led to President Nixon’s announcement of a “war on drugs” in June 1971, the beginning of a hopeless, counterproductive effort that only made drugs more unsafe and expensive, lining the pockets of criminals, dealers, warlords, and authorities who looked the other way. In 1974, a rival appeared to contest General Li and his KMT opium squad. He was Khun Sa, an old
and declared that it was quite good, despite containing some over-fermented, bug-eaten, and broken beans. Wicha had his new project. He set out to find out how to grow, process, and brew the best coffee. He went to Chiang Mai University, which was noted for its strong agricultural program. When he walked into offices unannounced and explained that he wanted to talk to a coffee expert about how to help the Akha, the secretaries politely told him to take a seat. Then they disappeared and came
to see what kind of transition of power (if any) occurs at that point. It is clear, though, that coffee has helped make a difference in the lives of people on this mountain, as it had in Doi Chang and Huey Hawm. Before going back to Doi Chang, we drove along a narrow ridge to another Akha village called Pha Hee, sitting right on the Burmese border. It was set in a steep valley, so that no one could enter except from the top or bottom. Charly Mehl said that the village used to be a well-known
forgot to be anxious. “I miss Khun Wicha too much,” she said, lighting another cigarette. Three weeks before, as I sat next to the wall by the fire, I had said, “This was Wicha’s place,” and Miga had blurted out, “Everywhere around here is Wicha’s place.” Now she told me that every night she and Wicha would talk seriously for an hour or so. He didn’t joke with her, as he did with others. He reviewed the day, telling her what she did right or wrong. He taught her that she must learn to control
his unfair attack on Paul Lewis’s family planning activities). John McKinnon and Duangta Sriwuthiwong were generous in sharing their unpublished primary source documents about the village of Doi Chang in the 1980s. Ronald Renard wrote a great book about opium reduction in Thailand and provided me with invaluable contacts and suggestions. Anthropologists Deborah Tooker, Otome Hutheesing, and Cornelia Kammerer wrote extremely helpful books and articles as well as sharing further insights, and