Eradicating poverty with Doi Tung coffee
This is a series of articles highlighting some of the research projects at the University of Tokyo registered under its Future Society Initiative (FSI), a framework that brings together ongoing research projects that contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
FSI Project 001
“Doi Tung” may soon join the ranks of world-renowned coffees.
Doi Tung is a mountainous region in northernmost Thailand, and is where Professor Yukio Ikemoto of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia is conducting fieldwork. Ikemoto’s research theme is poverty. This region near the borders of Myanmar and Laos is known as the Golden Triangle. The ethnic minority mountain clans in the area have lived their lives crossing and re-crossing national borders, and have no nationality to call their own. As a result, they also receive no help from any government and suffer from poverty. That drove them to plant poppy from which opium is made, and slash-and-burn farming then led to the loss of forest cover.
The Mae Fah Luang Foundation, which has Thai royal patronage, has been tackling this problem of poverty and deforestation. The foundation established the Doi Tung Development Project in 1988, pushing for a shift from poppy cultivation to coffee, and working at improving the standard of living and at reforestation. Coffee trees grow in the shade, so growing this cash crop can coexist with reforestation.
Doi Tung coffee had originally been sold within Thailand, but to make it a coffee with worldwide appeal, renowned coffee hunter Yoshiaki Kawashima was appointed as coffee adviser in 2014. Coffee-lover Ikemoto then jointly developed the UTokyo original blend with Kawashima. This is now being sold at the University of Tokyo Communication Center shop and online.
“Selling the product worldwide, if they don’t become economically independent, this will not be a sustainable model. In order to support them as they escape from poverty, we need more people to know about Doi Tung coffee,” said Ikemoto. What we can do right now to support them is to buy their coffee at a fair price. The UTokyo original blend (6 drip packs of 8 grams each) is on sale for 600 yen.