Rural Training Center, Thailand (RTC-Thailand)

On the Occasion of His Majesty’s 80th Birthday

Dec 05, 2007

In honor of the 80th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol, the Rural Training Center-Thailand (RTC-TH) reaffirms its commitment to strive to implement the New King Theory for the self-sufficiency of family farms.

The New King Theory guides a family farm of 4-5 people with about 10-15 rai (~24,000 sq meters) of land. Depending on the specific local, geography, and resources, the family is guided to devote 30% of the land for a reservoir and raising fish, 30% for growing rice to feed the family for a year, 30% to grow rice or other crops, and use about 10% of the land for buildings, paths, roads, ditches, gardening, or livestock raising. Over time, 3 stages were envisioned. Stage 1 was self-reliance for the family to support itself in terms of food and work throughout the year. Stage 2 might occur when a number of self-reliant families produced some surpluses and form a local cooperative to sell the surpluses. Stage 3 would see successful cooperatives expand by bank loans or private business investment.

The RTC-TH is in the formative steps of Stage 1. We have yet to complete the full land survey of the farm, so are unable to determine the relative proportions of land use. But we have 3 ponds, are raising catfish, tilapia, and gouramis. The water from the fish ponds irrigate our rice paddies. We have had limited success in the area of rice production. This year the rice yield was 53% higher than last year assuring we produced enough rice to feed the family for a whole year. We have fruits (longan, limes, bananas, wood apple, coconuts, giant passion fruit, dragon fruit, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and various garden vegetables. We have a few pigs and a few cows, chickens, and ducks.

As we progress, we freely share our knowledge and experience with others striving for self-sufficiency and sustainability. We only ask those we train to share the knowledge and skills with others in an effort to empower others to improve their lives. In this way, we strive to help make the world a better place. We firmly believe in setting our own house in order as the first step. So setting an example by living a self-reliant and sustainable life is a priority for us.

The RTC-TH has developed a series of modules under an overarching program called SOIL (Save Our Independent Livelihood). SOIL is subdivided into three major parts:
LEEP (Learning Effective Environmental Practices), REEEPP (Rural Environmental Education Enhancement Pilot Program), and SAP (Sustainable Agricultural Practices).

LEEP (Learning Effective Environmental Practices) consists of GRASS (Getting Realistic Assessment Statistics) and GROW (Getting Real On-farm Weather). Good management is based on having accurate inputs for decision-making. Many rural farmers lack the education needed for monitoring environmental conditions on their farms. The GRASS seeks to integrate local indigenous knowledge and experience with sound environmental / ecological science to develop a systematic approach to practicing sustainable agriculture in northern Thailand. Low education leads to a lack of record keeping and inconsistent performance in the presence of complex ecological and socio-economic challenges in an ever shifting global economy. GROW focuses on basic weather observation and record keeping training. Water is vital to the success and survival of the family farm. Rainwater harvesting is a big concern as Nan Province gets about 80% of its water supply during the rainy season.

REEEPP is our effort to reach the future generations of Thai farmers, and to give back to Ban Na Fa, the home village of one of the RTC-TH Co-founders. In the context of human generations, this is another dimension of ?“sustainability?” for the RTC-TH. REEEPP has 6 components. Three are integrated with the public school education at Ban Na Fa Elementary School: Green School (dealing with general awareness to reduce, reuse, recycle and putting it into practice with the Tra$h Bank); Habitat (focusing on awareness of local plants, animals, and ecology); and the NASA CERES S?’COOL(Student Cloud Observation On-Line) project (introducing technology and actively involving students in an international global climate change study). Outside the classroom we have 3 other modules: SEEDS (Supporting Environmental Education Development and Sustainability---directed toward curriculum development and teacher training), WATER (Working At Teaching Environmental Responsibility---promoting environmental stewardship), and MULCH (More Useful Lessons Carried Home---encouraging students to Teach Back what they have learned in school to their family members, friends, and other villagers. This can be done one-on-one or via community organized activities.).

SAP (Sustainable Agricultural Practices) features modules such as: SOS (Save Our Soil---directed to soil conservation; SOW (Save Our Water---dealing with water conservation and watershed protection / monitoring / management); COMPOST (Creating Our Most Precious Organic Soil Treatment---training in various composting methods tailored to local conditions); WORMS (Working On Restoring and Maintaining Soil---training in restoring land to productive use); BUGS (Biodiversity Ultimately Gives Sustainability---ecologically integrated pest management to eliminate the use of synthetic pesticides and toxins on the farm); and IFS (Independent Fuel Systems---alternative energy methods adapted to local conditions to reduce off farm energy costs).

We earnestly believe that these activities will allow us to achieve self-reliance as advocated by His Majesty the King. We hope to keep detailed records to enhance our training to include feasible time lines for other families to easily implement these methods.

On the occasion of His Majesty?’s 80th birthday, we send our best wishes for good health, happiness, and our thanks for sharing the vision of the New King Theory for self-reliance and sustainability. Long may he reign!

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