Akha Ama Coffee
LOCATION: Mae Chan, Chiang Rai
A COFFEE ENTERPRISE GROUNDED IN ITS ROOTS
Akha Ama Coffee was founded by an entrepreneurial young man from the Akha hill tribe. Inspired by the royal projects and non-profit initiatives that care for the needy, the business plan he put into action of creating a high-quality, eco-savvy coffee brand to support his people is a commercial success that has garnered international acclaim.
An ethnic group that migrated from Yunnan province in China to settle in different Southeast Asian countries, the Akha are the poorest of the six hill-tribes in Thailand and have often been treated as second-class citizens. Scratching a living from the land has traditionally proven difficult for them. Previously, the Akha had turned to growing illicit crops like opium, and the women were lured to work in the sex trade. Even after opium was largely eradicated in the highlands, the Akha did not enjoy security. Until a recently enacted law allowed them to manage their own ‘community forests,’ they could be charged with trespassing on their own land and evicted; today, they must deal with the flow of heroin and methamphetamine coming from Myanmar. Up here, drug addiction remains a scourge.
Decades of attempts to assist the marginalized hill tribes have helped to alleviate social ills that resulted from the area’s drug trade and created new income streams. But challenges remain. After years of selling their products to middle-men for a pittance, the villagers of Maejantai decided to take matters into their own hands and process and market a high-quality coffee themselves. In 2010, Akha Ama Coffee began to brew. The locals introduced a more sustainable and organic system of farming they refer to as a ‘mixed multi-cropping system,’ which is much less dependent on harmful chemicals like herbicides and pesticides. In this system, the coffee
plants are grown between many different vegetables and larger fruit trees. The benefits are threefold: enriching the soil, protecting against erosion and retaining more moisture to allow the plants to weather the dry season.
For Western farmers this looks like a new system. For the Akha it’s an age-old tradition that’s in sync with nature. Most importantly, the Akha Ama brand has become synonymous with two other attributes: community and quality.
HAILAND’S BCG TRANSFORMATION : 40 Case Studies on the Bio-Circular-Green Strategy and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy In Action” page 88 -93