As Thailand cleared forests for opium fields, a man decided instead to start an organic coffee farm

Goodbye poppy, hello coffee.
Goodbye poppy, hello coffee.
Image: Reuters/Damir Sagolj
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This post originally appeared at Ensia.

Somsak Sriphumthong is on a caffeine-fueled mission.

After years living and working abroad, the organic farmer and community leader returned to his native Thailand several years ago at a time when forests were being cleared for opium fields and rice plantations.

Seeking a sustainable alternative, he started growing and selling organic coffee beans on reclaimed land. Why coffee? Sriphumthong says he “didn’t want to take advantage of society … or harm people” while earning a living.

As he explains in the video, coffee plants can coexist with the forest, reducing local pressure to contribute to global deforestation, and provide a steady stream of income for poor communities. To grow the coffee organically, Sriphumthong employs an intricate system of natural pest control. The plant cover the coffee plants and remaining forest provide also helps reduce downstream flooding during the rainy season.

He’s now working with other communities in Chiang Mai province to expand organic coffee growing and raise awareness of the importance of protecting the forest.

Hong Kong-based filmmaker, editor, and video journalist Ivan Abreu filmed and produced this original video for Ensia magazine. View his other work on Vimeo and Instagram.