Substituting Out of Illegal Drugs Cultivation: Opium vs. Coffee in Myanmar
Illegal drug cultivation is a crime directly associated with organized violence and conflict, especially in fragile contexts. Myanmar is a good example: decades of conflict has meant minimal policing and a porous border, allowing Myanmar to become a significant player in the global drug industry. The researchers wish to study the role of alternative livelihoods programs and social motivations in shifting farmers away from illicit economic activities. They are collaborating with UNODC in Shan state to evaluate an expanding drug substitution program that has established a cooperative for coffee cultivation to pull farmers away from producing opium. By gathering necessary baseline data on farmer and market characteristics, they plan to lay the groundwork for a layered RCT at both the village and farmer level to vary the intensity of access to economic opportunities in a legal sector. This will allow the researchers to analyze the causal and spillover effects of access to stable, legal income on farmer attitudes regarding the drug trade, the role of coercion, and ultimately on farmer production decisions, in and out of treatment areas.