No waiting, no begging, today’s farmers are capable of producing and earning extra 10,000 Thai baht per month using scientific knowledge, research and innovations together with development networks in Krabi
“Supposing I had a ginger plantation, I put in so much labor and investment into fattening and nourishing my gingers until they were ready to be sold. Being proud of my farm produces, little did I know that those plump gingers were bid by middlemen for 10 Thai baht per Kilogram. However, the price kept soaring the further upward it goes in a supply chain. At the end, I found all types of ginger-derived products on a supermarket shelf costing a lot more. I came home and found a pile of bills on fertilizers which I had to pay with the little money I had made from selling the ginners,” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit Pongsakornrungsilp, Dean of School of Management, Walailak University and Head of Krabi Model project, tells us a familiar story of Thai farmers.
“You can replace “gingers” with whatever farm produces and the case still holds true. Why? Because for centuries, the one thing having been missing from our agricultural practices is an integration of relevant knowledge about science, technology, innovation and perhaps business management.
Owing to our global branding as an agricultural nation, the majority of Thai farmers earn relatively little as part of the supply chain, compared to others such as middlemen and factories.
“What difference will it make?”
“For example, if trained on Precision Agriculture (PA), I, a ginger famer, would have known to determine the right amount of fertilizers without wasting them as a run-off. Also, knowing that ginger candy is becoming a trendy snack, I might somehow have learned how to make ones rather than selling fresh gingers entirely,” explained Head of Krabi Model project.
Krabi models: Ways to achieve a sustainable way for profitability for local farmers
Krabi model is a business model to tackle “a lack of knowledge” among farmers in Krabi an aim to increase monthly 10,000 Thai baht income in every household. Krabi model, proceeded to its second year of operation succeeding Prince of Songkla University (PSU)under supports from the Program Management Unit on Area Based Development (PMUA), Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council, and Committee on Science, Research, Technology and Innovation House of Representatives with Professor Dr. Kanok Wongtrangan, former Deputy Leader of the Democrat party, leading as the project’s mainstay. Besides the Krabi Model, 11 other provinces also have had the model project set in motion and supervised by members of the house of representatives from several parties including Pheu Thai Party, Democrat Party and Palang Pracharath Party. Emerging as a science-integrated agricultural improvement project, the Krabi model has been operating in all districts.
“The idea is that we, the university with academic workforce, step in to optimize the local farmers ’approaches to producing farm yields and the indicator of success is a figure of 10,000 THB extra earning each month,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit. Despite the explicit number to reach, what Krabi model is committed to bring to being is of a much larger scale since it involves a sustainable establishment of a value network collaborated by three principal stakeholders including the agriculturists, academics and local government agencies.
Without knowledge, farmers do not know the market value of what they are producing, or even unknowingly waste budget and resources by simply applying too much fertilizers or pesticide in hope to optimize the soil’s health but all the nourishments end up as a run-off instead. This is where education institutions come to assist in orienting traditional agriculturists to using knowledge-based practices leading to sustainable effective practices and higher income. Krabi model unites three working parties of stakeholders including researchers/ innovators from universities, local government agencies and local farmers to refine agricultural practices.
Krabi model: Forging the value network
Stakeholders holding keys to a success are researchers, local government agencies and the farmers themselves, each of which plays a distinctive role and turning themselves into a resource integrator.
“Despite the final goal of helping farmers to earn a monthly extra 10,000 THB income, what is even more substantial is that every party involved can reap the returns of their contributions. Everyone has his share of benefits,” explained Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit.
The value network revolves around the idea that everyone playing to their strengths in endorsing the model are entitled to set the mutual rules in order to obtain the mutual gains.
Researcher and innovators: integrating multidisciplinary knowledge into the community’s life and farming practices
With support from Prof. Dr. Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, Acting President of Walailak University, the university has been taking a lead in sending in troops of researchers to establish and strengthen the knowledge base in communities.
Starting with researchers, putting a hat of a knowledge distributor educating Krabi local farmers on several topics such as goat farming in an oil palm plantation, oil palm plantations, Bamboo mushroom and Tie-dye Batik fabric. Their gain is predicated on having opportunities to investigate the fields and applying field-specific knowledge to create added values of agricultural yields or local products.
“Krabi model is literally transitioning scientific research and innovations to the field where the works can generate tangible impacts,” said Head of Krabi Model project.
Over the year, efforts to promote the livelihood of local residents in eight districts have been made through several projects. In Thung Sai Thong sub district, Lam Thap district, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chatchai Kanlayanapaphon from school of Science, Walailak University, and “Teacher Dean” known as “Mushroom engineer” spearheaded the Bamboo mushroom development project. The team looked into effective approaches to Bamboo mushroom cultivation and preparation of spawns. Ensuring food security, Asst. Prof. Dr. Teeyaporn Keawtawee, Lecturer from Prince of Songkhla University, oversees the project on feather seaweed, Krabi ’s signature food, at Nuea Khlong District. There has also been an oil palm plantation project led by Dr. Thanet Khomphet, from Prince of Songkhla University, aiming for an annual yield equivalent to 4.5 tons as a result of Precision Agriculture. In conjunction with this, the project on goat farming in an oil palm plantation led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chaiwan Wattanachant is also conducted to exploit the complement relation between oil palm plantation, a natural grazing area, and targeted farm animals.
“Thousand acres of grass weed in an oil palm plantation is not even close to being enough for goats,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit.
The last project is 100% natural Tie-Dye Batik at Khlong Thom Nuea sub district where by the Khlong Thom Nuea Farmer housewife group. Asst. Prof. Waluka Amaek, lecturer of College of Graduate Studies, supervised this local souvenir’s non-artificial production process experimenting with seawater dying and using naturally-derived pigments yielding a signature color, and contemporary designs. Among all Schools, as a leading team, the School of Management, Walailak University, serves as the mainstay assigning faculty members to assist in training the locals for better farming practice.
“The School of Management, Walailak University, sets out to address poverty and increase food sustainability in compliance with the United Nations’ SDG1: No Poverty,” explained Assoc. Prf. Dr. Siwarit.
Farmers: Reshaping attitudes toward farming practice
Despite an explicit 10,000 THB extra income being set as a summative goal, along the way, farmers in the operational districts in Krabi immerged themselves in research-integrated learning with field experts from two universities, Walailak University and Prince of Songkhla University, learning from the communities and mentoring local farmers at the same time.
“We want the farmers to be able to rely on themselves. At the final stage, after the operational period of each of the projects has been concluded, they must be able to sustain the work by themselves,” explained Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit.
Krabi model unites all fields of expertise taught on a university level, so all schools can play a part as an educator and mentor. Up to dates, there have been lecturers from various schools both from Walailak University and Prince of Songkhla University contributing to the trainings in Krabi. With the School of Management on board as a leading agent, besides the academic nuances influencing changes in the farming and producing steps, the farmers also learn to integrate what Business management students learn in class into their product sales as well.
Regarding the this, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit emphasized five skills which are to be instilled in local farmers namely producing, controlling quality, selling and solving problems. These four learning outcomes shall indicate a success of the project and by default generate an extra income of 10,000 Thai baht. In addition to knowledge gained, Krabi model endorses the unity of community enterprises which traditionally operate individually within each one enterprise. In other words, ten Tie-Dye Fabric community enterprises will be tending to their own operations with little or no collaboration with one another. One downside to this long-practiced tradition, as said by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit, is that separation deprives them of the negotiation power, succumbing to low-price deals when selling the products to middlemen as a result.
“To turn this around, every group of the community enterprises looking into the same product is encouraged to develop a co-running management system, in addition their own team body, for each to oversee each operation area, for example, negotiation tasks, production tasks, marketing tasks and training tasks,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit.
Government agencies: Efficient budget allocation to address the needs of the community
The Krabi model project is administered by a holistic government agency body ranging from the central government supervising the overall management plan, to local government agencies closely supervising on a local level.
Krabi model operates under a 10 million budget from the Program Management Unit on Area Based Development (PMUA) in collaboration with the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council. However, it is the local government agencies of Krabi working alongside a committee consisting of representatives from different political parties, namely Ms. Sakuna Saranan, member of The Pheu Thai Party from Sakon Nakhon province, Dr. Pimrapee Phanwichatikul, member of the house of representatives (Party-list system) of the Democrat Party as well as members of the house of representatives from Palang Pracharath Party joining the management committee and make one united working team driven by the same goal, agricultural knowledge advancement for local agriculturists.
“We have been well supported by members of the House of Representatives in charge of the areas, and the government agencies involved,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit. While the universities channels in workforce to enrich the local farmers’ skills and community enterprise’s systems, government agencies play a role in consistently monitoring the management of every project in all participating districts. Walailak University collaborates with local administration agencies of Krabi province providing support in data collection and transports.
“With government agencies on board, in the future, we may be able to establish a connection between projects and budget planning. In this way, every knot is placed in alignment with one another. Proposals will be written in relevance with the needs of the community,” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit.
Breaking the tradition
Krabi model is a business model which revolutionize not only the agricultural practice but also the monetary returns. At the end, achieving an extra 10,000 Thai baht may only be a tangible figure signifying a success. However, other impacts it generates on a society as a tradition breaker for government agencies, researchers, and farmers can become more sustainable.
Among academics, the model brings archived and documented scientific breakthrough, technologies and concepts to the crop fields and mushroom farms. Research no longer ends where it starts but expands its practicality in a hand of local farmers. For the farmers themselves, Krabi model turns them from a mere farm yield producer to knowledgeable agriculturists integrating modern day’s knowledge such as Precision Agriculture (PA), resulting in ability to deliver a smart production process minimizing running, maximizing income and optimizing quality of the products. At a bidding table, with negotiation power stemming from the united community enterprises and demand-meeting products in hands, chances to hold a good negotiation ground with middlemen shall increase. Finally, local government agencies will be able to devise a budget proposal addressing the community’s relevant needs. All in all, supports are not to keep coming and areas as other areas of development also awaits the support.
“the farmers’ self-reliance is the most rewarding goal for us, the working team. I envision it that way.”
Currently, Walailak University, under leadership of Associate Prof. Dr. Siwarit Pongsakornrungsilp, Dean of School of Management, Walailak University, has been progressing with a larger collaboration with both government and public sectors. This is all to liberate Thai farmers from a classic restriction to a supply chain in which farmers, being an upstream producer, earn the smallest share of income. The future of Thai agricultural landscape has never been more exciting.
Photo by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Siwarit Pongsakornrungsilp
News by Nootchanat Sukkaew