A Conversion with MR. SAI Han Myo Aung-Executive Directive – The Green Gold Coorperative
Q.The first milestone was the signing of a partnership agreement with the French company Malongo for 05 years
A. As per the agreement, Malongo, is committed to buy all the coffee that Green Gold Cooperative offers under Fairtrade conditions until 2022. Additionally, it will also provide direct support to the Cooperative and its members on various social issues and market development. Green Gold is committed to obtaining the Fairtrade certification and is strengthening the organization in order to achieve this goal.
Q.The second milestone achieved, was the direct transfer of $86,000 USD from the Swiss Embassy in Myanmar to Green Gold in 2018.
A. The second milestone achieved, was the direct transfer of $86,000 USD from the Swiss Embassy in Myanmar to Green Gold in 2018. For Green Gold, the Fairtrade Certification will guarantee a good income to its members. This is particularly relevant when taking into account that they are located in areas with a permanent presence of poppy crop; a decrease in real income can be an incentive for farmers to re establish illicit crops. Crops like coffee, with a stable marketing channel and with fair prices, can contribute decisively to create a new economy with a legal basis, which replaces the poppy’s illegal economy in those territories.
Q.The Green Gold Cooperative switched from growing opium to coffee, how did they know coffee would thrive and from where did they source good quality Arabica?
A. UNODC has extensive experience in alternative development programs and specifically in the use of coffee crops as an alternative crop. As a result of UNODC efforts to implement the AD programme in South Shan State, the farmers that opted to switch from poppy cultivation to coffee crops, decided in 2015 to create a cooperative as a strategy to face the markets and explore additional opportunities in the future as a producers organization.
The coffee seeds come from plantations in very good conditions located mostly in Shan State, and selected after technical reviewing carried out by coffee experts. Green Gold members plant only arabica varieties to maintain high quality and allow farmers access to specialty coffee markets
Q.How has coffee cultivation contributed to peace and stability in the region? How has it benefitted the farmers?
A. To date, the areas that have established coffee plantations have reduced the possibility of replanting poppy, as the land is now in an agroforestry system. The lack of poppy has created an atmosphere of legality in the villages, avoiding conflicts and the presence of actors involved in drug trafficking. In fact, other farmers in the villages are growing coffee themselves and are working to become members of Green Gold and thus leave poppy cultivation for licit crops.
Additionally, the social engagement and work on coffee activities through the cooperative, is allowing communities to develop a stronger social fabric at the village level. This will allow communities to make more cohesive decisions on what activities they can do to improve livelihoods for a legal and sustainable future.
Q.When and why did The Gold Cooperative get Fairtrade certified? Which countries do you currently export to and what has been the benefits received?
A. Green Gold has not yet received the certification. However, they have already received the initial audit and permission to trade and soon await the final report. The General Assembly of the Cooperative discussed the possibility of obtaining Fairtrade certification in 2017 and from there began the process of certification. Now they have a buyer in Malongo, who signed a 5-year agreement for the commercialisation of its harvests under fair trade conditions, for purchasing and marketing their coffee and to help strengthen the cooperative, through technical and financial support.
In 2018, Green Gold exported its first container to France as a conventional coffee, but under Fairtrade prices. The 2019 harvest is ongoing, but Green Gold expects to export at least three containers of green grain coffee under Fairtrade conditions this year.
Q.Tell us something about the newly launched brand ‘Shan Mountain Coffee’
A. In March 2019, Malongo launched “Shan Mountain coffee” in Vienna at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND2019) and in the French parliament in Paris. Three representatives from Green Gold attended the events, thanks to the support of Malongo. ‘Shan Mountain coffee’ is now available in Europe, mainly in France, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, and England.
A. This was a significant step for former poppy producers towards a successful legal high-value crop and was an important milestone of the partnership agreement between Green Gold and Malongo
Q.Does it make market sense for coffee producers to develop their own brand or is it safer to tie up with larger brands?
A. At this stage of the process Green Gold saw a partnership with Malongo as a strategic and sustainable option, but in the future Green Gold is considering developing their own brand and looking for additional markets.
Q.What advice would you give to producer groups who would like to emulate the steps taken by the Green Gold Cooperative for switching to coffee cultivation?
A. Believe that another world is possible. Don’t focus on the problems that will inevitably rise in their path, but see the future with a long-term vision. For small scale farmers, they only can face the global markets jointly and work together toward the same dream.
Q.How can UN ensure sustainability of the Cooperation?
A. UNODC will continue working to strengthen the cooperative, supporting it so that its members can build their capacity to face the markets in the future. Green Gold and UNODC will work together to ensure strong management continues in order to improve the lives of the farmers and their families