VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 4/11/14)—For years, the people in the hill tribes of Northern Thailand were gripped in poverty. This started to change after 1990, with the help of American Baptist International Ministries (IM) missionaries Mike and Becky Mann, who founded the Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP).
Since then, thanks to the ITDP, the hill tribes witnessed significant improvements in their lives: better access to health care and education, improved water resources and sanitation and greater economic stability through the production, processing and marketing of cash crops—especially coffee.
The growth of coffee production has been especially important to the villagers. Production from a coffee cooperative grew from 3 tons to 200 tons in its first 10 years, with worldwide coffee giant Starbucks being among the major buyers.
Now, the hill tribes are receiving another big economic boost from Starbucks.
In May 2013, Starbucks opened its first community store outside of the United States—its Langsuan store in affluent central Bangkok—and pledged that 10 percent of sales from the store’s hand-crafted beverages would be directed to the farming communities in Northern Thailand.
“The community store in Langsuan signifies our ongoing commitment to give back to communities and, more specifically, to support and sustain local coffee and farming communities in Northern Thailand,” said Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.
“Our new community store is unique to Thailand and our hope is that this powerful relationship—which allows coffee farming communities to receive contributions from Starbucks through the Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP)—will be an inspiration to our partners and customers,” added Murray Darling, managing director of Starbucks Coffee, Thailand.
The funds generated by Starbucks will first be used to build a learning center in the Mae KheeMukNoi and Kong Kai villages. Later, community store funding will be dedicated to supporting sustainable education, health and irrigation projects, according to Starbucks.
Prior to the opening of the community store, Starbucks supported the farming communities in Thailand by investing 5 percent of the Thai sales of Starbucks Muan Jai blend—which is made from northern Thailand beans—back to the local coffee-farming communities.
“Starbucks’ commitment to these communities has already made an enormous difference, with several thousands of people benefiting through improved water access, local medical clinics and schools,” says ITDP Director Mike Mann.
“Many communities now are starting to thrive,” Mann said, “but there is still a lot of work to do and I am very excited that the new community store at Langsuan coffee will be part of that progress—giving hope and a better future to thousands of hill tribe communities, who in return will continue to grow high-quality coffee.”
The ITDP—a partner of International Ministries supported by the World Mission Offering—oversees a wide range of projects in the areas of education, health, employment, agriculture, environment and watershed protection, with hill tribe villagers taking leadership roles. See itdpinternational.org. Among its programs are:
Water Resource and Sanitation (WRSDP). This project seeks to improve the general health of the hill tribe people by helping to prevent soil and water-borne diseases through the construction of clean drinking water systems and bathrooms/latrines. This effort also helps provide water to increase agricultural yields and set up gardens and fishponds.
Agriculture Extension and Marketing (AEMDP). Hill tribe families are provided funds and are taught practical skills related to livestock, fisheries, cash crops, handicrafts and village store co-ops, helping to improve the quality of life and increase self-reliance.
Thai Tribal Arabica Coffee Production and Marketing Cooperative (TTACPMC). This project provides training, tree seedlings and equipment to resource-poor farmers to help them grow coffee beans that meet the standards necessary to reach international markets. ITDP created the first Fair Trade co-op in Thailand.
Education and Social Development (ESDP). Working with local government, this project helps construct schools, hire teachers and purchase equipment and supplies. This project also helps construct and staff community health clinics and provide training in nutrition and disease prevention.
See itdpinternational.org for additional details. For more information on ITDP’s child sponsorship program, its established schools and/or Lanna Coffee purchases, go to lannacoffee.org.
You can also meet Mike and Becky Mann in person at the International Ministries World Mission Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin, July 21-25, 2014. To register, go to www.internationalministries.org/read/2014-world-mission-conference
American Baptist International Ministries is celebrating 200 years of ministry in 2014. Organized in 1814 as the first Baptist international mission agency in America, it began its pioneer mission work in Burma and today works in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas serving more than 1,800 long-term and short-term missionaries. Its central mission is to help people come to faith in Jesus, grow in their relationship with God, and change their worlds through the power of the Spirit. It works with respected partners in over 70 countries in ministries that meet human need.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.