From Origin

Opium, Coffee And The Politics Of Foreign Aid


IT LOOKS like a fairly standard development project photo op: United States ambassador Mr Scot Marciel, pushing a coffee seedling into the ground. The May 2018 image shows the diplomat, dressed in leather shoes and a white shirt, kneeling on the distinctive pinkish-red soil of Shan State, surrounded by curious-looking farmers, one of whom is capturing the moment with a smartphone camera.

Fifteen “likes” and only one comment: there’s little immediate reaction when the photo is shared on the embassy’s Facebook page. Yet to some it represents an escalation in a dispute between the United Nations and the US over illicit drugs, coffee and the best means of providing smallholders with a long term, bankable alternative to opium cultivation.

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