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.