Promoting Quality of Life of Rural Thai through By District Royal Initiative Self Learning Center
Department of Provincial Administration

The Problem

Promoting Quality of Life of Rural Thai through
By District Royal Initiative Self Learning Center (DRISLC)

Most Thai people in rural areas mainly rely on agriculture for their income. However, poverty, lacks of vocational training and inadequate income have brought them into a vicious circle. Moreover, globalization has brought about values and behavior that rely heavily on materialism and consumerism. A lack of living balance makes them go deeper in debt. This is evident after the economic crisis in 1997. More than 1.1 million unemployed laborers arose from the urban industrial sector had to turn back to the agricultural sector. Data from the National Statistic Office reveals that in 2008, 23 million people or 5.79 million households or 37.6 percent of the total population was engaged in the agricultural sector. These people held debt of around $12,000 per household. The number of farmers who had debt burden was 76 percent. For this reason, poverty and debt could lead to various kinds of problem, for instance, family problems, crime, conflict, drugs and fighting for natural resources.

Since 1997, the National Economic and Social Development Plan of the country aimed to promote a “people center approach”. The country conducted capability assessments and sought an appropriate approach for development. In the beginning, the country’s development put more stress on improving the quality of life of people and their community to sufficiently rely on themselves. This is in line with “The sufficiency economy”. This includes the extension of “the Royal Initiative Project” of His Majesty the King. This project has been studied and conducted for more than 60 years. More than 30 government agencies have proved that the project provides tangible results.

Most problems of the project arise from a lack of an agency to be center to mobilize resources and knowledge gained to respond to the demands and needs of local people. Therefore, the number of people benefiting from the project is limited. Most people can not improve their quality of life as the project intend to. This leads to slow progress in upgrading the quality of life of Thai people since 1997. During this period, problems became more serious than before. The problem as such conflict, fighting for local resources and the gap between the urban and the rural. It can be said that these problems are one of the main causes of Thai political crisis during 2006-2009.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The establishment of 878 DRISLCs throughout the country in 2009 relied on the concept of “Sufficiency Economy”. This results in improvement of quality of life in rural area. The benefits of the learning center are shown by the following works:

At a micro level, the household has better quality of life. At the same time, they can earn more income, reduce their expenses, and compound prolonged debt. The people also have proper discipline and a correct way of life. This is necessary for sustainable development in their near future life. More than 74,500 household are now successful. The number is still increasing.

The examples of outstanding DRISLCs are:
Pran Kratay District Self Learning Center: This center was used as a pilot project of New Agriculture Theory. From 2009-2011, 667 villagers with 163 households of Ban Na Daeng Village have a better quality of life. The villagers have trained to make organic fertilizer, pesticide, handicrafts, household account. These practices lead to reducing food expenditure and consumer goods of more than 80 percent. It also increases 20 percent of household income, eradicate household debt, which is an average of $ 4,000 and increase the village revolving fund to be $168,000 as well as reduce drug use, gambling drinking of alcohol as well as conflict reduction.

Kanchanadit District Self Learning Center: This center is used by Nongyang Village as a training center to raise pigs, unpolished and coarse rice farming and sapling breeding. This increased monthly income of 240 villagers by 20 percent. The village was praised as a prototype for a development village.

Song Khwae District Self Learning Center: This center is used by Song Khwae villagers as a pilot center for constructing check dams and to conserve soil and forest, rice terraces, fund for animal feed, fund for breeding seeds, fund for fertilizer. This results in 30 percent increase in monthly income of 1,200 households. The dams are still used as sources of watershed in the northern area.

Noen Maprang District Self Learning Center: This center is used by Pha Rang Mee villagers as a center for setting up a rice bank, cloth weaving group, garbage bank and fund for animals. This has resulted in the increase of 30 percent in the monthly income of 115 households or 450 villagers. The village also has a village revolving fund of 202,400 $ Moreover, the village has continually conducted local activities and annual traditional festivals which lead to the unity of the village.

Overall, the success of the 878 learning centers is to bring about the unity of villagers to participate and perform local activities and promote the sufficiency development. For instance, the Pilot Sufficiency Economy Village, the Pilot Household for New Agriculture Theory, reforestation and check dams. The Project also leads to a development approach that base on local capacity, conservation of natural resources and the environment and the building up of unity in local areas. More than 5,600,000 people participated in the project from 2009-2011.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Project Initiation: His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej has studied and experimented with the concept of The Sufficiency Economy and the New Agriculture Theory for more than 60 years. He also established the 6 Royal Project Development Study Centers. The objective of the centers is to be a center for education and learning as well as vocational training which is based on local problems, local needs and capacity for sustainable development.

Project Extension: The Department of Provincial Administration and 33 related central government agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to integrate works of all agencies in central and rural areas to establish 878 District Royal Initiative Learning Center. The center will be utilized as a “local center” to mobilize resources and knowledge and respond to local needs and potential. Therefore, it will be a self-learning center for local people.

Sustainable Continuation: The administration of the learning center is performed by a working group. The working group has representatives from concerned agencies in the local area. It emphasizes a people centered approach by engaging local philosophers, representatives from agriculture groups and occupational groups, local leaders, local administrative organizations. Administration is done by a central committee. Their missions include defining problems, potential analysis, extracting local wisdom and needs of local people to define and form appropriate activities.

- Main stakeholders: are farmers groups who perform or engage in agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing as well as local leaders, local philosophers, occupational groups, local administrative organizations including those who are not engage in agriculture but are interest in using concepts of the learning center with their daily life.
- Other stakeholders: are the public sectors, private sectors, merchants, students and interested people.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
1.Organization and Knowledge Development
- Clear organizational structure: The 878 District Royal Initiative Learning Center was formally established to work in 878 districts through out the country. Two levels of committee are established and responsible for the works of learning center. These are (1) the Center Working Group which are representatives of local people and occupational groups. They are the main stakeholders. (2) The Supporting Working Group which are mostly from public agencies. They assist the Learning center by supporting administrative resources, budget and new knowledge.
-Development and Capacity Building: Capacity development is done through workshops of the center working groups to build up knowledge in planning, potential analyzing. Capacity building also includes workshops or training on activities that will be applied and used in the learning center.

2. Cooperation and Participation
- Cooperation of Public Sector: This is conducted by signing an MOU among 33 concern government agencies. This is to promote formal cooperation, promote perception on the existence of learning centers as well as to divide works among agencies.
- Best Practice Selection: Eighty four learning center will be select as the best practice of the District Royal Initiative Learning Center. The objective of best practice selection is to continue and develop obvious activities of the best practice centers.
- People’s Participation: People’s participation of the learning center is performed through the central working groups. The main mechanism of the center is to define problems, needs, analysis of potential, define procedures, plan and process, resources as well as monitoring.

3. Sustainable Strategies
- Continuation of Knowledge Development: Knowledge development is performed through the exchange of knowledge between experienced farmers and local philosophers. Knowledge exchange between farmers and public officials also happened as well as study visits at best practice learning centers. Knowledge exchange also includes systematic evaluation of performance.
- Ownership Building: Works of the center focused on role of the Center Working Group. The working group is responsible for all activities of the center. They perform an evaluation of the center, define the symbolism of the center and are responsible for membership. This promotes participation in problem solving
- Administrative Development: Data base of the learning center is useful for the public. They can link learning center databases to share and exchange knowledge. The data base can also be used in administration and training. It allows local people to receive information for systematic planning, implementation, monitoring and adjusting plan to respond to local context and needs.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The important development and implementation steps are as follows.

1. Define efficient organization. These are setting up a clear office area for training, demonstrated agricultural plots and personnel management to mobilize works of the learning center. Administrative roles of the member of the center working group who are representatives of local people and local administrative organizations are emphasized. While the supporting working groups act as facilitators of resources.

2. Develop and encourage local wisdom. These are setting up workshops, study visits to the 6 centers of royal development projects, discussions to exchange ideas among academics, practitioners, local philosophers and local people. Knowledge encouragement put more stress on the development of local wisdom to apply it in real life of local people.

3. Promote participation among related agencies.
Participation at central level This level focus on the systematic work integration on knowledge, techniques, tools and budget. This is performed by a signing of memorandum of understanding (MOU) of 33 government units.

Participation at local level This level put more stress on local philosophers, community leaders, occupational groups, farmers, and local administrative organizations. They are the center working committees and participate in administrative management. They also develop local network cooperation among communities, districts, provinces and study groups.

4. Formulate appropriate activities which are consistent with local potential This stress role of the center working committees to be responsible for administering the learning center. The administration is defining problems, process and procedures of works, evaluation and defining lesson learnt. This is to develop a genuine participation by using a principle of “community problems, deal by community and for community.”

5. Develop administrative tool. Electronic system is used as an administrative tool to produce data bank, websites (to continually develop the website of the Department of Provincial Administration “”) for the purpose of widely knowledge exchange by providing information to reach wider users. This is to promote real participation.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
1 Obstacle: Lacking individual knowledge. This is caused by the misunderstanding on the concept of Sufficiency Economy and the New Theory. Most people understand that they are not development concepts but a primitive agricultural conduct.
How to deal with the obstacle: By developing and promoting knowledge on the two concepts as well as by continually developing local knowledge existent in local area. It can be deal with by exchanging knowledge and practical experience of local people, local philosophers, exchange knowledge between public officials and local people, study visits, assessment, achievement, and study from lessons learnt. These practices need to be conducted continually in order to achieve change in attitudes.

2. Obstacle: Lack of tangible Integration.There are 33 government responsible units. Also, there is lack of tangible integration among these 33 units. While in the local level, local participation is limited among certain groups. These lead to in an initial state, the benefit falls only on the certain groups.
How to deal with the obstacle: Measures are setting up to dealing with this difficulty are integrated works and planning among related agencies, setting up evaluation system in local areas, defining clear work procedures, encouraging the center working group to take active role in implementing plans of learning centers and conducting a competition among regional and provincial learning centers. This is to encourage the development of learning centers

3. Obstacle: Lack of sustainable management. Establishment of certain projects is late than others. Moreover, communities, local administrative organizations and the local public sectors do not act as good supporters to local people. This leads to inconcrete benefits of the projects as well as the continuation for further development.
How to deal with the obstacle: In the beginning, development is encouraged through a competition of learning centers at regional and provincial level. Later, evaluation to specify three groups of learning centers is conducted. In each group, the center working group and local administrative organization will conduct a meeting to write a development plan, with different target among different group. However, development and encouragement of knowledge of local people are continually performed for sustainable development.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Budget In 2009, the Department of Provincial Administration (DOPA) allocated $2,500,000 to establish learning centers. Moreover, the budget of $3,300,000 from central and local administrative organizations is provided to districts for the development and encouragement of local knowledge, study visits, exchange knowledge and training.

Other administrative resources These are tools, machines, statistic data and information such as trucks, agricultural machinery, breeding plants, breeding seeds, experimental tools, forecasting data etc. Utilization of resources is focus on existing resources of the public partners that mutually sign the MOU as well as resources of local administrative organizations. This can promote local participation as well as possession of local people.

Knowledge and information Resources These are local knowledge or local wisdom, media to disseminate information about the project and other resources that support administration of learning centers such as manuals, learning media, demonstrative instruments, experimental tool and building of the project’ experts and etc. The total amount of the resource fall in this category is around $13,800,000.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
After the learning centers had been continually formed during 2008-2009, DOPA held a competition for the best practice learning centers, both provincial- and regional-levels in 2010-2011. Later, the learning centers were evaluated and categorized by focusing on the role of public sectors and supporting working groups in the area. Subsequently, categorized centers are assigned to create their development plans depending on their prominent features. The main role to development the plans are from the working group of the centre, the people sectors, and local administrations. The learning centers can be categorized into three groups:

1) Outstanding group or the ‘Best Practice’ group. There are 84 centers fall into this category. These centers have improved the quality of life of the people concretely and extensively. The people act as a partnership for development. Their development plans focus more on public participation and increase more channels for public engagement. Furthermore, the centers could be developed to become a learning centre for other districts and provinces.

2) Medium strength group. There are 624 centers fall into this category. These centers have improved the quality of life of the people at limited and less concrete level. People could averagely participate in local developments. Their development plans only highlight the participation progress, particularly the process of problem identification, the formulation of operation method, the exchange of knowledge and the continuation of learning support.

3) Weak group. There are 165 centers fall into this category. These centers could not concretely improve the quality of life of local people. The level of people’s participation is low. Their development plans focus more on knowledge building, promotion of the role of working group, and the lessons learned from other successful learning centers.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The impacts of the initiative
At a macro level, the initiative not only creates the trend of development base on local capacity, natural resource conservation, people’s participation but also creates local unity through various activities. From 2009 to 2011, more than 8.6 million people have engaged in the initiative.

At a micro level, local people have better quality of life; they earn more income, reduce expenses, free from debt and have appropriate way of life. More than 74,500 households are successfully following this scheme. The number of household tends to increase.

The indirect impact of the initiative to communities are integration of works of related agencies, participation of local people in directing development plans according to the citizen needs. Other impacts are forming learning processes and self learning which could lead to a learning community.

Lessons learned
1.Raising of the quality of life of rural Thai depends on two important aspects:
(a)The well study and systematically analyze of knowledge. It is important to balance between the international development approaches and local wisdom based on local capacity.
(b)The promoting of people’s participation that reflect the citizen needs and be performed in a systematic manner. People’s participation should be encouraged throughout any project at the beginning. This includes participation in knowledge sharing, ideas, decision making, implementation, taking benefits and evaluation. Participation in all aspect of the project’s administration leads to appropriate problem solving that responds to people’ needs and sustainability of the project.

2.The problems of poverty in Thailand mostly do not concern with the four essential factors. It is not due to the lack of food, house, medicine or clothing, but it is due to being in debt. This is because lack of knowledge, follow inappropriate way of life, structure of the state power and the unbalance development of public sectors.

3.To have better role in leading the project, public sector should formulate a plan, a clear development direction and define appropriate responsible agencies. This can be done in a form of roadmap. Most importantly, is integration among the public sectors, the private sectors, civil societies to create cooperation at local areas. It is interesting to point out that the role of the public sectors is to be “the center” for integration and to facilitate and encourage the capability of people sector and local organizations or “explosion from inside” which will later lead to the sustainable development.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Department of Provincial Administration
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Nopparat Sriprom
Title:   Mr.  
Telephone/ Fax:   + (66)8 5780 6709
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   Building of Department of Provincial Administration , Ministry of Interior , Assadang Road , Phra Nakorn
Postal Code:   10200
State/Province:   Bangkok
Country:   Thailand

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