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The DoiTung Development Project was initiated by Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the late Princess Mother of Thailand, drawing inspiration from her son, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had first started efforts to end opium cultivation since1968. The Princess Mother witnessed the struggle of the people of Doi Tung, who depending mainly on growing and dealing in narcotic drugs, human trafficking and illicit logging to survive. These led to never ending social and environmental problems, which the Princess Mother recognized as but symptoms of people's poverty and lack of opportunities for legitimate livelihoods.

With her determination and guided by the principles she developed, a holistic and integrated development model was initiated. This people-centric approach to address social, economic, and environmental problems has become known as Sustainable Alternative Livelihood Development (SALD). Its main objective is to transform poor and vulnerable communities from dependency and basic subsistence living, towards full socio-economic sufficiency and independence. The Doi Tung Development Project was initiated in 1988 on 93,515 rai (150 square kilometers), covering large portions of Mae Fah Luang and Mae Sai Districts in Chiang Rai province. Its nearly 11,000 people of six ethnic minorities live in 29 villages. Most villages in the hills of Doi Tung are Akha and Lahu, with some Tai Lue and Lawa residents, while two large communities at the foot of the hills are ethnic Shan and Chinese descendents of the KMT 3rd Army.