Though the sun was getting low and the darkness was taking over Ban Thungnanoi School, a group of students were still at the school, which is embraced by mountains, situated at the country border right next to Mekong River. The place is more than 3 hours away from downtown Chiang Rai.
Some boys and girls were dashing while laughing all the way towards the vegetable bed. Others were heading to the area behind the school to take care of the chicken house and pig pen or the fish and frog ponds. Each of them were looking forwards for the plants and livestock to becoming full-grown, which then will be transformed to lunch to serve their peers and all fellow schoolmates.
Sitthiphon, an 8th grader, was taking his responsibilities earnestly and rushing to check the pig pen he’s in charge with a serious look on his face. It can be said that he is an expert in pig raising as he knows how to feed them, how to clean them and how to make them grow fast. He even knows how to castrate and vaccinate them.
Sitthiphon is the leader of the pig raising group under Banthungnanoi School Young Farmers Group, which currently has 59 members and 6 types of agricultural activities. The pig raising group is part of the school’s integrated farming activities supported by Child Sponsorship Programme of World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT) through the implementation of Song Phi Nong Area Development Programme. Besides hen, broiler chicken, catfish and frog raising and bio-fertiliser pellet production (made from chicken and pig dung) with the objective to enable the students -- all of whom are farming heirs-- to obtain appropriate farming foundations to apply in daily life, the school has organised a training course to enable students to learn through actions throughout the academic year. The purpose is to build awareness and cultivate senses of disciplines, integrity, sufficiency and gratitude among students, so that they develop the love in agricultural occupations, are able to help their families and do these activities as their livelihoods in the future. Moreover, the produce is processed into lunch and is sold to generate income to provide a source of fund for more production and to allocate dividends to the responsible students.
Talking about the school Young Farmers or Faming Heirs initiative, Mr Thanin Tharaphorn, Banthungnanoi School Director, elaborated further, “The school invites students from grade 4 to 9 to apply for the activities of their interest. We won’t just assign them. I believe if they love their work, they’ll do it wholeheartedly. Most students are from poor families. Learning about integrated farming provides them another option to achieve self-development, life skills, vocational skills and good health. The initiative has also provided an extracurricular learning source that ensures the school’s food security. Thank you sponsors for supporting children to have learning and improved quality of life. The school’s integrated farming activities have been carried out continuously and served as a model project for the community and organisations to visit and learn from.”
Since October last year, Sitthiphon and his friends have learned about the end-to-end agricultural occupations and had first-hand experience, including cooperative system, buying and selling, and accounting. They’ve also been provided with chickens for raising and breeding at home to establish household food sources to ensure family health security. “I used to help my father raise 2 pigs supported by WVFT. So, I was really interested in joining the project,” Sitthiphon talked about how he started joining the school’s Young Farmer project. Aside from having gained knowledge on integrated farming, Sitthiphon has also generated income while schooling, which is partially given to his mother to pay for family expense. The rest is saved for him to buy things when necessary, so that he won’t have to bother his mother.
“Thank you sponsor for helping lessening the expense burden on my son’s education. I wish you more and more happiness and prosperity,” Sua, Sutthisit’s mother, thanked from her heart with a smile.