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Back to where it began: Following King Rama IX’s sufficiency legacy


The “Power of Human Energy: A Journey Inspired by the King” project has not been without its difficulties, but its successes have more than paid off

Following His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy isn’t always easy, but it should not be rejected either as being too difficult. Today, nine years after it started, the “Power of Human Energy: A Journey Inspired by the King” project, has achieved its objectives.

Managed by Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, the Institute of Sufficiency Economy and the Agri-Nature Foundation, this human-driven project, based on the late beloved monarch’s theories on water conservation, aimed to instruct people living in and around the Pa Sak River on how to design catchment areas – “loom kanom krok” or “khok nong na” as they are known in Thai – in order to prevent floods and provide water during the drought.

Dr Wiwat Salyakamthorn, president of the Agri-Nature Foundation and Institute of Sufficiency Economy, says: “I have been an instructor in rural development and a rural developer since 1974. My work has shown me how difficult it is to make people change their minds. The art of magnetic communication is to attract and charm people with knowledge.

“If they start taking action, they’ll see results. The sufficiency economy philosophy has more than 40 theories and success looks different for everyone. Thailand’s special forces helped change villagers’ mindsets and that in itself was a victory in the war over hardship. Famously, a foreign reporter once asked the late King if his struggle was against the Communists, to which His Majesty said no, the battle is against starvation. So, His Majesty’s philosophy of sufficiency is not just about solving the water problem, but also saving people’s lives.” Back to where it began: Following King Rama IX’s sufficiency legacy

Arthit Kritpipat, business support general manager of Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Ltd, says: “Social networks have played an important role as a public relations tool, showing examples and allowing people to chat with each other. When Covid-19 arrived, we created an online agri-nature handbook to serve as the foundation for self-sufficiency standards and to further expand knowledge. Now, many people are paying attention to ‘khok nong na’.”

Moving step by step

The past nine years have been divided into three stages comprising creating a social ripple, creating instructors and tools and creating abundance.

Back to where it began: Following King Rama IX’s sufficiency legacy Dr Wiwat, who is better known as Ajarn Yak, recalls the early days, saying: “I remember when the King wrote his new theory and three procedures for small farmers to follow on a computer himself. The guidelines were on how to have enough to eat, how to collaborate in the community and how to join with government, private companies, and foundations. The prime minister, who was also commander-in-chief at that time, ordered military units around the country to study at the Mab Aung Natural Agriculture Centre and practice making 100 ‘khok nong na’ at Army training units for six months before heading to villages to build another 100 over the following six months.

“The ‘khok nong na’ at the Special Warfare Command in Lop Buri, which was led by Maj-General Thanasak Kengthanomma, is considered the most beautiful and amazing.

Back to where it began: Following King Rama IX’s sufficiency legacy “In the second three-year phase, some of those who had completed their catchments and were running their smallholdings according to the self-sufficiency philosophy became teachers and turned their places into learning centres. They included Ban Pong Ket School in Saraburi where the teacher initially received complaints from parents that their children were learning to dig. But, after Covid-19, their children participated in collaborative farming activities, or ‘Aou Mue’ in Thai, and were able to support our agri-nature networks.

“In the last phase, ‘khok nong na’ were developed and became more abundant, while learning centres became more powerful and effective. The most important achievement was changing people’s mindsets; those who once thought we were going mad by insisting on and making use of our swampy agricultural land, turned to follow the King’s philosophy.”

Back to where it began: Following King Rama IX’s sufficiency legacy This nine-year project has utilised “Aou Mue” collaborative farming to improve the land of nine sufficiency economy learning centres with catchments for water. They are Boonrom Taokaew's Suan Lom Sri Rin Sufficiency Economy Centre in Saraburi, Sila Muangngam's Ban Hin Ngon Community Learning Centre in Phetchabun, Piranrat Sookpeat's Khuen Pa Sak Learning Centre in Lop Buri, Maj-General Thanasak Kengthanomma at the Special Warfare Command in Lop Buri, Sawaeng Srithammabut's Naring Church Earth Safe Standard Agri-Nature Centre in Udon Thani, Bandid Chimchat's Si Nan National Park in Nan, Krongkan Sirapaibulporn's Haihao Farm in Lampang, Pranee Chaitaweepornsuk's Bok Lao Kao Tam Sufficiency Economy Centre in Chaiyaphum and Sunita Haewnok's Sa-ngiamkam Agriculture Farm in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Boonrom Taokaew says: “My parents owned 20 rai of paddy fields. Previously, my father rented another 80 rai of fields in the hope of becoming rich from the rice trade, but couldn’t pay back his loans due to insufficient output. In 1992, he had the chance to see the new theory of agriculture of HM the late King at Wat Mongkhon Chai Phatthana and began digging an 8-metre deep swamp on one-rai of land for water catchment. After that, he stopped renting the 80-rai of fields and planted 300 mango, 100 santol and 100 jackfruit trees, which didn’t sell as well as expected. His mindset, however, changed after he attended a course at Mab Aung Agri-Nature Centre because the main purpose of New Theory Agriculture is to make farmers more self-reliant through holistic management of their land while living harmoniously with nature and within society.”

Back to where it began: Following King Rama IX’s sufficiency legacy A legacy of sufficiency

The project came to an end this year at the Sufficiency Economy Learning Centre, Suan Lom Sri Rin in Saraburi, which featured a photography exhibition presenting several farming activities of the nine learning centres as well as 21 booths from the agri-nature networks in several provinces offering fresh vegetables and fruits, food and beverages, processed goods, and handicrafts.

Suparpron Kanjaree from Suan Kanjaree Learning Centre in Lop Buri owns 13 rai and has transformed 6 rai into “khok nong na” after taking a course at Mab Aung Agri-Nature Learning Centre in Chon Buri.

“Previously, we practised monoculture farming – growing corn – but nowadays we can grow upland rice, several vegetables, bananas, cabbage and jackfruit, and make processed products such as pickled fish, sour fish with fermented rice and a herbal drink from dried bael fruit after learning the ways of nourishing the soil and digging a swamp for water catchment. Our lives are better because we have organic products that are good and safe. Right now, we are very proud of our shady area where students come to learn about planting practices. Taking part in the King’s philosophy means having perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves.”

Thanaporn Pangjid from Art & Mam Farm Slow Life in Saraburi enjoys a healthy life with many organic vegetables and fruits such as “phak plang” (Ceylon spinach), “cha om” (Senegalia pennata), sweet basil, banana, mango, papaya and coconut on her 4-rai land after taking on the King’s philosophy.

“We are preserving and making local sweets ‘Khao Piang’ [black glutinous rice with shredded coconut] and ‘Khanom Tok Huab or Khao Krieb Wow’ [crispy rice] using my grandmother’s recipes. We follow the King’s new theory of nine steps to a sufficiency economy livelihood, especially the 7th step of preservation. Prices for all products have increased as a result of Covid-19, but we aren’t too badly affected because we have vegetables and fruits from our farm, which keeps costs down.”

Wanida Damrongchai, or Kamnan Kai, a village chief in Sao Hai District of Saraburi and president of Kok Na Sai Sufficiency Economy Learning Centre, has followed in the King’s footsteps of sufficiency economy philosophy for four years on her 20 rai of land after having learned by trial and error for five years.

“I’m a leader, so I felt I had to create a model for people in our community to see how good it is before persuading them to believe in what I did. It was very difficult to change their mindset. They thought that rice farming was better for productivity, while ‘khok nong na’ damaged their farm with potholes. They didn’t know how to earn money. But I proved them wrong even though I don’t do rice farming, as I have income from my productivity.

“We created our signature drink, Iced Tamarind Americano, sell doormats made by housewives and brooms by a group of seniors. Over the past two years, many more people have started paying attention to ‘khok nong na’.”

Published : April 05, 2022