Meet Jao Lao
Jao Lao is the type of person that commands instant respect. He cares deeply for his community and for over 30 years has led it through both good times and bad. His life-long mission is to see his people prosper and thrive; a mission he is determined to achieve in his lifetime.
An issue Jao Lao has been concerned with for some time is opium production and use. Most people in his village made their living from growing poppies (the plants from which opium is made). For many, this was a logical choice, as poppy plants are easy to cultivate and easy to transport in areas where there is little infrastructure.
Cultivating this plant had dire consequences for Jao Lao’s community. A large percentage of the population were also addicted to opium, which trapped them further in a cycle of poverty and misery.
Having seen first-hand the damage that opium cultivation and use has wrought on his community, Jao Lao decided to totally ban the planting of opium in the area he controls.
Doing so wasn’t easy. Jao Lao had to convince people to abandon their current livelihoods and try something new. Having emptied the savings of the entire village, the community decided to plant corn.
The first year, the price for corn was bad, so the community didn’t manage to make any money. More so, they didn’t invest money into fertiliser, so the crop they produced was of poor quality.
Lacking business experience, most of the community’s savings were depleted after two years.
Fearing that many farmers would go back to growing opium, Jao Lao approached Circuit International. Jao Lao heard that growing coffee was a good alternative to opium, but knew that his community didn’t have the knowledge required to care for and harvest coffee beans.
This year, Circuit International is teaming up with Jao Lao’s community. We will be providing them with the training and resources they need to grow coffee beans and then sell them on the international market.
Jao Lao’s wish of seeing his community prosper may now be achieved very soon.
Circuit International is working with Jao Lao's community as part of the Coffee for Opium Replacement Programme.