Sa-ad Donkaew, who once failed as a farmer, received a new lease on life from His Majesty the late King Bhumibol’s “New Agriculture Theory”, which brought happiness to his life.
At age 57 years old, Sa-ad who heads the Ban Don Chieng organic farming group smilingly welcomed us from afar. He took us on a tour around his 3-rai plot of land, which thrives on new agriculture and sufficiency economy theories. His land is allocated to grow a combination of produce, with enough produce to sustain the families’ needs and to sell for additional income. The public and various state agencies also regularly visit his orchard to observe his work.
“WVFT provided me with information on community living. I used to grow vegetables using chemicals, which wasted my time and money and also harmed my health.” Sa-ad told us that previously, due to his lack of knowledge, he used chemical in farming until the soil became infertile. Whatever he planted, it did not yield. Staying at home did not give him any income. His 2 children needed to go to school, so he took his family to Bangkok where he found labour work. Eventually his older son completed his schooling and went to sell his labour abroad.
In 2003, Sa-ad heard from his neighbours that an educational scholarships project had started in his village. Seeing this as a better option than living in Bangkok, he and his family returned to their hometown in Mae Tang district, Chiang Mai province. That was when he took his daughter to apply for World Vision Foundation of Thailand’s (WVFT) child sponsorship programme.
“At first, WVFT had each of the 40 families grow vegetable so that we would have food to eat. If there were any surplus produce, they could be shared or sold. Then WVFT gave us seeds, fermented fertiliser and chicks to raise. An interest to do sufficiency agriculture started to grow in me. So I began to do this since 2004 until now. WVFT took us on observation trips in 2005. We formed a livelihood network of parents of sponsored children in Sob Pueng sub-district to make banana tree-cutting equipment for making animal feed.” Sa-ad continued, “Doing 100 percent organic farming and adopting sufficiency economy lifestyle must be carried out with love and the family must understand. If you compare a construction worker who works for 10 days and gets 2,000 Baht and a family that sometimes can’t sell their crops, and if the family doesn’t understand each other and starts to quarrel, they will not have a successful life.” Sa-ad then specified that to succeed, there are 4 key factors comprising 1. hard work, 2. patience, 3. steadfastness and 4. an understanding family.
“Nowadays I’m happy. My health is better because I’ve been doing organic farming. I want my daughter to carry on what her parents have built up here,” he said, discussing the future of the organic garden. Adding to her husband’s comments, Chanpeng revealed, “I’m glad that we are not in debts. We grow the produce and eat them. Our lives are better and we are self-reliant.”
Currently Chanchai, Sa-ad’s and Chanpeng’s 25 year-old daughter had completed her education. She is married and now has her own family. She practices the late King Rama 9’s sufficiency economy which has given her family a blessing all along.