In a pivotal moment for Myanmar’s burgeoning specialty coffee industry, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and French coffee company Malongo today launched a new line of coffee, Shan Mountain Coffee, in the French Parliament. The product is the result of a partnership agreement between Malongo and UNODC-supported Green Gold Cooperative. The launch of this coffee is a key step in bringing peace and environmental sustainability to Myanmar’s Southern Shan State.
The much-lauded emergence of Myanmar as a coffee producer is supported by UNODC’s Alternative Development Programme, co-financed by two main donors, Finland and Germany, and with the additional support of Switzerland, that is giving resources directly to the Cooperative.
The programme’s objective to develop sustainable livelihood alternatives for opium growing communities has enabled participating farmers to independently cultivate, refine and commercialize high quality coffee that can be exported to one of the most competitive international markets. The establishment of the farmer-run Green Gold Cooperative ensures that these farmers will indeed see the fruits of their labour for many years to come.
“In Shan State, this programme has not only provided livelihoods and increased confidence in governance, but also promoted environmental sustainability, land tenure rights, and contributed to creating an enabling environment for peace,”said Miwa Kato, Director of Operations for UNODC.“The partnership between the Malongo Coffee company and the Green Gold Cooperative in Myanmar demonstrates how both public and private interests can merge to benefit small farmer communities,” she added.
“Malongo is a private company, our involvement in such a project is not about charity or helping coffee producers, it is about business. But we want to set up another kind of business where the added value is shared between the actors of the supply chain, where producers can live with dignity from their work, where consumers are faithful and satisfied with the quality,” said Jean-Pierre Blanc, Director General of Malongo Coffee Company.
Green Gold began the partnership with Malongo to bring to market alternative development coffee in 2017. Under this long-term (five year) partnership agreement, Malongo will buy up to 600 tonnes of coffee per year from more than one thousand beneficiary farmers.
Nang San Hlaing is a beneficiary farmer from Taung Nauk village in Southern Shan State. Reflecting on her area’s transition from conflict to peace, she illustrated the impact of alternative development in creating an environment of peace:“After we joined the UNODC coffee programme in 2015, Myanmar soldiers and ethnic armed groups make fewer visits to our village. We enjoy a more peaceful life now and would like to thank UNODC for working in our village and helping poor farmers to plant coffee for a sustainable income.”
Women play a crucial role in this programme participating as farmers, village level committee members and representatives in the governing bodies of Green Gold. Although there have been important advances, women still face challenges as farmers and community leaders, role models and mothers. Nang Lone, ethnic Shan woman from Taunt Lan village (Loilem township) expresses her feelings related to her participation in the programme: “People may think differently about my role in my family, however I must step up for my children’s future. And for my community.”—Brian Hansford, Chief of Communication, UNODC HQs