UPLift--Poverty Alleviation For The Ultra-Poor

UPLift is a program designed to empower communities on the Thai/Burmese border that lack food security, opportunities for income, and education. Through the use of small grants and skills trainings, these families receive the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty without having to rely on external aid indefinitely.

Friday, April 29, 2011

April Activities--Banana Chopping and Mae Sot Visit

Flowers, veggies and compost at BHSOH School

In preparation for upcoming sustainable school projects UPLift staff has been surveying schools and testing inexpensive methods for raising pigs and making natural fermented food.  The past week has been packed with new experiences!

On Monday we visited a local equipment producer in Chiang Rai province who had agreed to create a prototype banana stalk processor that is powered by a bicycle setup.  This eliminates the need for purchasing an engine and the utility costs involved.  This setup costs 8,000 Thai baht, compared to 18,000 baht for the engine-powered conventional version.

We arrived in Mae Sot on Monday evening and began surveying migrant schools and checking up on schools that we already have projects with.  A new school, Future Garden, has a great principal and staff but is located on a very poor-quality piece of land.

We are working with them to create the ultimate success case--turning an almost useless piece of land into a thriving agricultural center for creating income.  The skill and motivation is already there, so we want to see what happens when Future Garden is given the chance to try new things and create their own source of school income.

We also visited BHSOH, one of the largest migrant schools here in Mae Sot.  The school has recently moved to a very large piece of land with adequate soil...however, there is a problem: There is little or no water here!  In order to expand beyond dependence on the monsoon season rains, the school has dug a new pond and sunk a deeper well (since their current well is defunct).  We have helped by purchasing a water pump for them and are planning to have garden and pig-raising projects here starting in rainy season.

Original garden training with BHSOH in Nov 2010

The principal's wife has a lot of agricultural experience and does a great job of keeping the older students involved in gaining knowledge and experience in agriculture.

Yesterday we visited Hway Ka Loke, another large school in Mae Sot.  This particular school consists of all Karen students and is located just a few kilometers away from the Burmese border.  They have shown great ability in running creative and useful projects in the past, as we have shown in previous posts with their sustainable garden.  Jim (the principal) has great leadership skills and initiative.  Due to this, we are working with Hway Ka Loke to launch the first pig/compost pilot project starting in May.

Hway Ka Loke principal with some of their existing pigs
 While we were there we ran into a student showing off the seeds he and other students were able to harvest, dry and save for the upcoming planting season (video below):

Friday, April 22, 2011

Learning More About Natural Farming

We have spent the last month researching Natural Farming (NF) for upcoming pilot projects in Mae Sot with migrant schools.  This low-cost method of farming produces strong pigs, vegetables, and large amounts of compost and is geared towards improving income for a small piece of land.

Learning about lactic acid with Aj. Chokchai

In late March, Mark attended a 3-day training at the Northern Sustainable Development Learning Center in Chiang Rai province.  Ajarn Chokchai Sarakit ran the training, which covers the general theory of NF and instructions.  See here for pictures from the training.

We've also been working on a training manual based on the above training, and practicing training methods with a local group of Thai villagers close to Chiang Rai city.  Our first round focused on fermenting food for pigs, and how it cuts costs and improves pig health.

Raising pigs in deep-litter compost

In addition, we are looking at success cases of NF in Northern Thailand and trying to transmit experience and lessons learned to a future project in Mae Sot.  This album (and the video above) are from our most recent visit to an Akha farmer in Mae Suay, Chiang Rai province.

With this information in hand we are looking forward to excellent income-generation projects for Burmese, Karen and Shan migrants.