Akha women of Northeastern Thailand enjoying a cup of coffee. An estimated 2.5 million people of Akha descent live in Southwest China’s Yunnan province, Northern Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, and eastern Burma. (Image Credit: Doi Chaang Coffee Co.)

Doi Chaang Coffee Co., an inspiring social enterprise that changed the lives of the Akha people in Thailand and became an engine of inspiration for others.

The Akha village  of Doi Chang is perched high on the mountains of Northeastern Thailand, in the ‘Golden Triangle’ zone.  Doi means mountain and Chang means Elephant.

Before coffee success came along, the stateless and impoverished Akha migrants survived on subsistence farming, opium growing which provided quick cash and some tourism dollars.

Today we have a conversation with John Darch, founder of Doi Chaang Coffee Co. in Canada on the Doi Chaang story.  How the company started and how it changed the lives of the Akhas, an indigenous group in Thailand.

Click the play button below to listen to the audio conversation.

Global EAT - Doi Chaang Coffee: Transforming Lives One Cup at a Time
Left to Right: Late Wicha Promyong (or Wicha); Piko Saedoo , Doi Chang Village Leader and John M. Darch, founder of Doi Chaang Coffee Co. in Canada (Image Credit: Doi Chaang Coffee Co.)

From opium slaves to coffee entrepreneurs, Doi Chang village’s transformation has been recognized by the Thai government as a successful role model for alternative livelihood development and combating opium production.

Villagers are now enrolled as Thai citizens, no longer fearful of isolation and deportation.  They enjoy access to education, healthcare and basic infrastructure.

The company (www.doichaangcoffee.com) won numerous awards for its ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ business model.

“Money is not the key, if you are going to develop something, do it with passion, but do it with a team – one person doesn’t do it all,” says Darch of his business model.

In 2015, Mark Pendergrast author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World wrote a book on the Doi Chaang story entitled: Beyond Fair Trade.

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