Eco-friendly growing techniques save watershed forests
Coffee has long been a morning essential for Western nations, and as the trend takes firm hold in Bangkok—and across Thailand—a staggering number of coffee shops have opened up on every corner across the city over the past few years. In turn, the high demand for coffee beans has led to coffee plantations and related businesses expanding in many provinces throughout Thailand. Unfortunately, however, most of the time these new and/or expanded plantations irresponsibly encroach upon forests and other natural resources. In fact, large-scale deforestation for coffee plantations in southern and northern Thailand has been affecting global environmental conditions for over a decade.
This concern over environmental deterioration led to the founding of Green Net SE Ltd, a social enterprise that grows and distributes true organic Arabica coffee, a crop grown without any negative impact on humans or nature. MiVana is an organic coffee brand distributed by Green Net SE, in cooperation with the respected conservation network Green Net Foundation.
Theerasit Amornsaensuk, managing director of Green Net SE, explains that the campaign’s objective is to provide coffee farmers with an adequate knowledge of environmentally friendly growing techniques, and encourage them not to deforest or use chemical agricultural products. The first project began in 2010, with families living in watershed forests in Mae Lao, Chiang Rai, and has expanded to other communities over the years.
Communities residing in watershed forests in Mae Lao, Mae Saruay, and Mae Korn districts are introduced to the concept of “shade-grown” coffee plantations as an alternative to growing crops such as passion fruit, in which the farmers are obligated to chop down trees to provide the required amount of sunlight. Northern Thailand has a perfect ecosystem to grow Arabica coffee because this kind of plant requires at least 50 percent or more of shaded growing conditions in order to develop quality beans—therefore big trees don’t have to be cut down. Besides this, the volcanic soil in Chiang Rai is fertile enough to grow coffee without adding chemical fertilizer.
Quality seeds are selected by an expert to ensure the most effective result, and are given to famers to grow on their own farms. After harvesting, the coffee beans are extracted within 24 hours—to preserve their freshness—and carefully roasted by roasters with SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association of Europe) training to ensure the highest international standards of quality.
MiVana encourages farming communities to set up their coffee plantations in the shade of existing forests in order to preserve and improve the condition of watershed forests in the north. In addition, fair trade policy ensures that participating families are compensated with a fair price for their products, and also provided with additional funding for community development activities. MiVana is not only contributing to the long-term economic health of farmers and local communities in rural Thailand, but also promoting sustainable use of the region’s precious natural resources.