The expanded novel theory agricultural practice project in Khao Wong District, Kalasin, THAILAND
1. Kalasin Provincial Agricultural and Cooperative Office

The Problem

Khao Wong administrative district is far from any urban centre. The altitude is relatively high (175-250) and the area droughty. Many of the people are from the Phu Thai tribe with a unique language and culture. Most of the residents are farmers who grow sticky (glutinous) rice for both household consumption and off-farm sales. Yields were poor so incomes were low. As a result, per capita debt was unsustainable so as soon as people could, they immigrated to urban centres (i.e., the provincial capitals and Bangkok). Families were separated and dysfunctional until King Rama the 9th (the reigning monarch) visited the area and introduced an irrigation system and integrated farming; enabling farmers to get both higher yields and greater overall outputs; especially in the quality and quantity of sticky rice. This approach was expanded to the novel theory agricultural practice project. Notwithstanding the obvious benefits, many people did not understand, slowing the spread of the methodology. The members decreased from 477 to 163 members in 2004-2005. Farmers had a negative attitude toward government thinking it was unfaithful and unfair. The government thought farmers were uncooperative and already getting a disproportionate share of economic stimulus subsidies. It seemed impossible for the government and farmers to work together.
Then the Kalasin Provincial Agricultural and Cooperative Office (Kalasin-PACO) conceived a project to address this problem. A wise “monk” (Pra Mahasupad Puttaviriyo) was instrumental in helping our team to identify the underlying causes of problem and possible solutions. We as a government office realized we had been prescriptive and judgmental and needed to learn to know our clients (their situation and real needs) step by step. Most importantly, we had to admit we had been looking for ways to make benefits for ourselves. Rather than using data (of what people really needed or wanted) as a basis for decision-making, we were directed by our assumptions and the status quo (centrally directed policy).
Our team formulated a strategy with our top priority being to give our farmers a better quality of life within a self-sufficiency economy using the novel theory agricultural practice model but adjusting it to “1 rai (the common areal measure in Thailand = 1600 m2) with no poor”. The strategy aimed to help farmers reduce their household expenditures by limiting purchases of food and eating what they could grow themselves. Anything over and above their own needs, they could sell. The target group was called the “hug pang bang bun group” (which means ‘to love and share’). They were 30 people working together and they conferenced every month. They attended a training course on “how to change their life by using the self-sufficiency economy” and how in the long-term to wean themselves from government aid and to build an enduring, strong, self-sufficient agricultural community.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The primary outcome of this work was that we created the “1 Rai, No Poor” concept and project, in which all the villagers could benefit. Farmers learned how to better use their land, water, labor and capital. Prior to the project, most farmers were unable to maximize their potential because they lack capital, had insufficient labor and needed a stable supply of water. It was difficult to change the preference for a rice mono crop to integrated farming; however, after seeing the success of early adopters, more farmers wanted to join in. Unfortunately, the submission deadline for budgetary support had passed.
The “1 Rai, No Poor” project stipulates 100 holes (4x4 m) be dug per rai. Surrounding each hole are 4 kinds of plants grown in 4 successive periods: (1) 3-6 months, farmers can harvest chili peppers, the herb basil and vegetables; (2) after 6 months to 1 year, papaya, banana and bamboo; (3) 1-3 years, mango, guava, lime and jack fruit; and, (4) after 3 years, trees for lumber for building.
In addition to the main 4x4 hole, bottles—a quarter filled with sand then with water—with a small hole were inserted in the earth around the hole for slow drip irrigation thus saving water and labor.
Within 3 months, the farmers’ normal cash outlays for chili and basil were reduced AND they earning some income from fresh produce sales. With this money, they were paying off debts, investing and saving. Many people NOW wanted to join network.
An important outcome of the project was that the migrant laborer could afford to remain in the district with their family. Parents and children were united, solving the problem of broken families, and apparently lowering the incidence of drug use and petty crime.
In addition, the “1 Rai, No Poor” concept has two conditions: (1) it does not advocate or require use of chemical fertilizers and/or pest control—thereby reducing the risk of chemical exposure and pollution; and, (2) it requires that accounts be kept—so that farmers learn how to manage expenditures, make wise investments, and defers unnecessary purchases.
The farmers were proud of their vocation and contribution to the community and Thai society as a whole. They had learned how to achieve economic self-sufficiency by using the “1 Rai, No Poor” concept and they were spared being trapped by unsustainable debt which is characteristic of modern, western-style, capital intensive farming.
Thailand has been hard hit by economic crisis several times, but the rural population survives because they can live off the land. Let us never forget that life is sustained from the earth: we must remember (or re-learn) the skills of agricultural self-sufficiency rather becoming dependent on mechanization and temporary chemical fixes.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
This project comprised six groups of stakeholders:
(1) Government agencies: The Kalasin Provincial Agricultural and Cooperative Office (Kalasin-PACO) recognized the problem and coordinated among farmers;
(2) Representatives: This would be people (or a single person) respected and trusted and who would understand how to deal with the government and had access to farmers. There was a Buddhist monk in Kalasin who had helped to change people’s attitudes so that they would try to follow the lessons on economic self-efficiency (given by King Rama the 9th). The monk taught (a) students to have self-respect and to avoid drug dependency (b) farmers to be self-reliant and innovative and (c) everybody to seek an ethical life not to make holding money their goal and to avoid getting into debt.
(3) Leader farmers (innovators and/or early adopters): This group is patient and diligent and can achieve success on their own. They participated in the advisory team who identified local issues and problems, suggested solutions and developed interventions. Sometimes they helped the government side to reach people by using native language (i.e., like mentors).
(4) Merchants: These sought to buy sticky rice from farmers because this area produces the best quality of sticky rice. “Khao Wong Rice” is tender, aromatic and stores well. The cultivar is registered under the geographical designation GI by ministry of commerce. In addition, Q-shop sells non-toxic chemical products, supports farmers by collecting non-toxic agricultural products and sells them to customers in town and other provinces.
(5) Tourists: These visited the water management, the New Theory Agricultural Practice model, “1 Rai, No Poor”, and are able to share their learnings through work and social networks; and,
(6) Executive: This is the key person + inner liaison group that supported project, followed it up, visited members and made proposals for solving problems; which in turn established and maintained the farmers’ confidence and trust.

(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.
There were three distinct steps used in the implementation of the project. First was to instill a mindset in favour of economic self-sufficiency through decreasing household consumption expenditures. Second was to employ five strategies: (i) to change attitudes among farmers from that of business production to household consumption (ii) to use non-chemical means of production both as a cost saving measure and for health promotion (iii) to diversity farm products in order to reduce exposure to market fluctuations (iv) to encourage development of a young generation of farmers by affirming young and old, modern and traditional lifestyles and (v) to empower group bargaining by exemplifying the sharing of experience and knowledge, by declaring farm output and working collectively. Third was to teach the value of combining venture with capital resources. This was done by doing the “1 Rai, No Poor” concept in stages: (1) assigning 1 rai then digging the holes and planting the four plants (a) a main plant like banana (b) an annual like chili or eggplant (c) 1-3 years mature like papaya trees and (d) a long-termer like teak, Siamese sal or rubber. After three months, the progress was evaluated in the “Love and share group”.
The key performance indicator (KPI) was a range of credits. For example, digging 100 holes and planning 4 types of plants received 50 credits. Setting up 100% non-chemical got 20 credits. Recording household accounts every month got 30 credits. Grading: 1-40 credits got a “D”; 41-60, “C”; 61-80, “B” and > 80, “A”.
Mentors were trained before evaluation at a workshop on “How to evaluate, record and send data to the Secretariat (Kalasin PACO)”. The monk, Pra Mahasupap, was the project advisor and created the handbook for follow up and evaluation. The government office provided budgets and guidance.
At the end, we had a ceremony to announce ‘final grades’, give awards to the best performance, to share and learn from successes and failures and to propose innovations to overcome obstacles. The winner was proud but losers were encouraged, and many people felt reconciled about working with the government. For its part, government workers got rid of the discouragement and waste of trying and failing to coordinate in this area. Now they can conveniently and effectively make contact by cell phone, email and text message.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The initiative was inspired during planning meetings, which included brainstorming and cooperative decision-making. We were determined to have an inclusive agreement-making process.
I. Stakeholders described their ideas for a strategic plan for the people in Khao Wong district. The groups included: government officers (at every level, every agency, including the Kalasin provincial governor), private business, NGOs, local religious representatives, the Kalasin Chamber of Commerce and representatives of educational institutions.
II. We created a representative council (and co-chairs) to coordinate the private and public sector involvement-the heart of our “Love and Share Group” concept.
III. The council met to follow up on overall activities monthly. Individual data was kept confidential to avoid biasing our results AND to ensure all participants had an equal stake in the outcomes. We attempted to resolve problems as soon as possible.
IV. We kicked off the project with an announcement outlining how people could enter the process and be heard and involved in the decision-making.
V. We created a new activity,“The 1 Rai, No Poor Project”-the core of the project-to help people understand the novel agricultural practice model. It had an assessment phase and performance was graded (i.e., A, B, C and D). The winner would be acknowledged with a certificate, a token gift, and seed. The “Love and Share Group” coordinated between the government and farmers, mentoring beginners, and recognizing community leaders who could look after their own group and network with other groups as a free will offering. They had a de facto administrative structure including a head, a secretary, an expert on each of rice, crops, livestock, & fishery. They established a center for “tumbol” (sub-district) knowledge management, conferencing, consultations, communications and relaxation. All of the work fostered participation and policy-making development. The government was only responsible for providing advice and support to this working group. A highly respected local monk who was a repository of local knowledge assisted with the learning process, overview of work, knowledge management and exchange and encouraged innovation.
VI. Villagers were welcomed to a workshop including training on (a) adaptation (b) economic self-sufficiency (c) organic farming (d) “One Rai, No Poor” (e) how to make organic fertilizer (f) non-chemical anti-pest and (g) learning by doing. The workshop was 5 days and 4 nights.
VII. Evaluations began after the first three months of the project’s implementation.
VIII. The government held a ceremony to announce the award winners, summarize lessons learned, and offer suggestions on ways to improve.
IX. Many government agencies learned from the evaluation/grading process as it offered opportunity for interdisciplinary, integrative learning and decision-making. The Land Development Department provided the budget for digging the ponds and the Department of Fisheries supplied the fish stocks.
X. Farmers were encouraged to work collaboratively rather than competitively (i.e., by forming groups for collecting produce for sale). Integration made the work successful, effective and less laborious getting more than economic benefits. News of the results enabled the project to spread to 17 other districts in Kalasin province.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The main obstacle was a longstanding misunderstanding between farmers and the government, resulting in an entrenched prejudice one against the other. Notwithstanding the government’s sense of being the main authority and guide (through economic incentives, government agencies, research and development, knowledge, rules and regulations), farmers can offer extensive local and generational knowledge and experience, their own diligence, good agricultural product “Khao Wong rice”, culture and norms.

The way to bring the two sides together we realized was a project suggested by King Rama the 9th. His Majesty suggested that local (in situ) irrigation could result in more intensive management of resources, greater yields and economic self-sufficiency. By working together to implement the plan, we would have an opportunity to observe one another, to open our minds, to learn and reconciled. In so doing, we learned the nature of the difference between the government and the people. Government agencies are more powerful because of laws, regulations and policy but also inflexible because of the same; while the villagers/farmers were adaptive and resilient but lacked a voice regarding decisions that directly affected them at the ground level.

Through this re-conceptualization and subsequent project, the way to manage resources and provide guidance was changed. Areas of weakness were strengthened; for example, (1) it is important to maintain momentum once it is established rather than to postpone for another fiscal year. (2) Share data with others so that can understand the basis of decision-making OR appeal to more accurate information. In this regard, the project developed an electronic information system, using Microsoft Excel, so that data could be kept up-to-date. This database also became a source of relevant data used by Department of Finance policy makers when planning their budgets. Importantly, privacy/confidentiality was a key issue so that personal information was not appended to data files. (3) Contact and networking information was kept in a separate system. (4) Volunteerism was the heart of this project. People volunteering (NOT paid) filled all roles such as president, vice president, treasurer, public relations, secretary, 6 sub district agents and village agent. (5) We were able to reach people through networking faster than we ever were before. Whenever problems arose, the village agent reported to the sub district agent and then to the committee. (6) At monthly meetings, overall progress (operations and problems) were reviewed. If an issue were serious, it would be reported to the government for consideration/action. (7) There were frequent conferences between at which all stakeholders were present; thereby engendering understanding and goodwill.

(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
Human resources (HR) were the core strength of this initiative because cooperative HR are more powerful and positively affect the efficacy of monetary budgets, policy tools and other materials; but, HR is a difficult to manage with compassion and understanding. Crucially, a volunteer management team, who understood each local situation, was needed-a person with much local trust and wisdom (a local Buddhist monk), a respected government agent and an NGO representative. The team created wording on the “One Rai, No Poor” strategy which could be presented to every sector to acieve broad agreement and participation.

The target area comprised 6 sub-districts and 61 villages. Each village needed to have at least three members. In the end, there were 183 members in this initial group. They attended training on “economic self-sufficiency” (4 nights 5 days). After that they started the “1 Rai, No Poor” without any subsidy from the government. For 3 months, these mentors trained others on the method evaluation. Mentors conducted the evaluation with government officer witnessing and recording results. The advisor rechecked the information: follow up was done every 3 months. Winners were announced once a year and these presented their experience locally so that other farmers could learn from their success. In addition, the executive encouraged members by visiting them and participating in activities. The result was a growing confidence in working cooperatively and with the government workers.

The objective of the “1 Rai, No Poor” project” is to decrease household consumption expenditures by growing everything we need to eat. In addition, the project increased cash in hand by selling excess produce off-farm.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Changing people’s attitude toward economic self-sufficiency by the “1 Rai, No Poor Project” was challenging. The big problem in this area was the household debt of farmers. The project began in Kuchinarai district, the pilot study was done with Mrs. KV, a farmer who plants sugar cane. She lives near the Pa Na Kam temple where a the monk does local research. He monitored household income and expenditures and realized that purchasing food that could be produced locally constituted a large part of expenditures. At 30 baht/meal, three meals/day/year for a family of five would be 164,250 baht. He tried to reduce food expenditures by teaching her to grow everything she and her family needed to eat through the “1 Rai, No Poor Concept”. The pilot was a success: her household debt significantly decreased and she was even able to afford equipment to increase land dedicated to the project. News of her success spread quickly. As others copied the project, they learned new things and were able to share how they overcame obstacles. Mrs. KV‘s experience became the model. The project grew from 1 to 30 (before 4th December 2009) then 696 (by 23rd September 2010).

A sharing group was formed and named the “Love and Share group”. It began with a few people who learned to work with the government agencies and to divide responsibilities by interests and skills. As the group grew so did the amount of agricultural output. Participants then naturally networked at the weekly fresh market. The project created a social dynamic, reducing household debt, increasing capital, and resulting in a cleaner environment through use of non-chemical means of production. The lessons learned were transferable to 17 districts in Kalasin province. The government agencies participated by integrating their workplans to be responsive to the locally identified needs. This initiative was adopted step by step and has become an example of integrative outreach for rural development. The government has adopted the project for application outside our province throughout the nation.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The lesson learned is that every person, step and item must be considered if the process is to be inclusive and so that the project has both direct and indirect value-added impacts for the participants and the villages where they live and work.
In the past, the stakeholders worked separately; for example, the government officer wanted to get his/her work finished without regard to the outcome for the farmers whom they assumed were only looking for something free. Misunderstanding and non-communication was the rule. However, once the government officers, farmers, NGOs, monks, private sector, and educational institutions were coordinated and participating integratively, a project was implemented and problems were solved; not for the individual but for the benefit of everyone working and living in Khao Wong district.
At the committee level, we recorded the vision and mission and set goals and objectives. With common, known goals, we started the collaborative work immediately and our budgetary needs were nominal. In spite of limited resources, a great job was done because we did the work from the heart: the greatest reward was “working together”. We announced the “1 Rai, No Poor” and hoped for 168 members but actually got 479 members as NGOs sent out a letter to all their contacts: this was more effective than the government officers could ever have achieved.
Money is necessary but not the most important thing. Working together and learning the perspective of each other drew us closer and made our work something we cared passionately about. Utilizing technology also made our work more effective (e.g., by cell phone, texting and email). We used informal contact, which was faster and more effective than the official channels.
We applied for and won the “Administrate Participated Management Award” from the Thai Government. We were then nominated to apply for The United Nation Public Service. We wrote this report based on our mutual experience. The public notice of our work has now drawn many interested people to Khao Wong to learn: how to achieve a similar success between government and people; how to expand networks; how to improve the quality of life, how to reduce household debt; how to find and develop markets for farm products; and how to get the added social value.
The farmers in Khao Wong now have a better quality of life, warm family, and a strong community, AND all stakeholders are working collaboratively and integratively with the community.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   1. Kalasin Provincial Agricultural and Cooperative Office
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Ampornpun Apiraksakorn
Title:   Miss  
Telephone/ Fax:   +(66) 43873172/+(66) 43873165
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Kalasin Provincial Agricultural and Cooperative Office, Post Office Box 7, Amphur Muang
Postal Code:   46000
State/Province:   Kalasin
Country:   Thailand

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