The Doi Tung Development Project transforms poor and vulnerable communities in Thailand by promoting healthcare, education, training and jobs.
Focus: Education, Enterprise Development, Environment, Health, Rural Development
Geographic Area of Impact: Thailand, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Myanmar
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 2,500 (2010)
Annual Budget: US$ 15.23 million (2010)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 93% (2010)
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Asia Region, 2009
For decades, traditional slash and burn agriculture, exacerbated by commercial opium cultivation, were common practices in the Doi Tung area on the border between Thailand and Myanmar. Although trade in narcotics is extremely lucrative, farmers who grow the crop in Doi Tung received meagre shares. Compounding the situation, armed groups controlled drug trafficking routes, making it difficult for the government to support local communities. People relied on rain fed crops, which failed to meet annual food requirements. The economic situation was so dire that many become dependent on opium cultivation for survival and young girls were often driven into prostitution.
Innovation and Activities
The Mae Fah Luang Foundation (MFLF), under royal patronage, created the Doi Tung Development Project in 1988 to eradicate the illicit economy by providing alternative methods of livelihood through agriculture, handicrafts, tourism and foods. The project reinvests profits into the community’s social development. MFLF has implemented similar projects in Myanmar, Afghanistan and Indonesia, and focuses on three pillars of health, livelihood development and education. Progressing through the 30-year plan at Doi Tung, impoverished communities have initially been provided with health services, followed by the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly economic opportunities. As a result, the community’s quality of life can be progressively improved as capacities develop.
The Sustainable Alternative Livelihood Development (SALD) approach ensures access to appropriate education and training for new job opportunities, while allowing for full economic and social integration. It considers community ownership as an integral part, and ultimately hands businesses back to communities when they demonstrate economic viability and the local population can manage them on their own.
MR Disnadda Diskul, known as Khunchai, graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Business Administration, and received honorary PhDs in Agricultural Science from Mahidol University and Social Science from Mae Fah Luang University, both in Thailand. He served as the private secretary to the mother of His Majesty the King of Thailand for over 28 years, and continues her humanitarian legacy as the Secretary-General of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation Under Royal Patronage. Doi Tung is the flagship project of the Foundation. Dispannada (Duke) Diskul, Khunchai’s son, is the Chief Development Officer of Doi Tung, continues to uphold and scale the work of the project within the country and internationally.
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