Thailand: ‘We Need to Save Our Seeds, Climate, Seasons to Protect Our Communities!’

Author: Lee Ayu Chuepa | Published: October 5, 2017

This is what we try to do daily at the Akha Ama coffee factory. My name is Ayu and I am a young coffee farmer and a social entrepreneur. I belong to the Akha indigenous community living in the Maejantai, in the Northern Thailand. I grew up in a small village where people used to provide everything for themselves, from building houses and tools to foods by doing subsistence agriculture.

I was lucky because my parents worked hard to give me the chance to study. Later on, whilst working for an NGO, which supports village kids by teaching them how to build social enterprises, I understood that was my mission too!

Making a living as a coffee farmer is not easy. So I went back to my village and started a social business, a coffee factory dealing with the whole value chain, from the seed to the coffee bean, to avoid middlemen and maximise income for the farmers. We apply integrated agriculture and agroforestry to grow coffee and other foods such as cherries, peaches and persimmons. Thus, aside from the coffee we sell, we also have food to eat. These production systems allow us to gain twice: we earn an income to support our livelihoods whilst growing our food and preserving a resilient land which ensures long-term food security and the continuity of our income-generating activities. Moreover, in a healthy forest we can find plenty of useful plants which thrive without any human intervention, from mushrooms to bamboos and the plants used in traditional medicine: if you treat the forest well, the forest will treat you!

This is what I believe in, and what made me join the Slow Food movement, whose mission is to promote this kind of sustainable agriculture and to support and protect the work of small producers.