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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mae Sot School Gardens--Update

Potatoes, greens and roselle intercropping at Shwe Tar Zin school

Khom Loy has recently been working on another round of migrant school garden projects in Mae Sot, Thailand, starting with Shwe Tar Zin school (for full photo album of Shwe Tar Zin's garden, click here).

The UPLift Garden program, supported by Thai Children's Trust, is designed to make a lot out of a little--in other words, using a small amount of land and limited resources to yield large amounts of healthy, nutritious vegetables for migrant students living in and around Mae Sot.  After running two successful pilots last dry season, we are back to talking to and collaborating with motivated schools.

Shwe Tar Zin, our first expansion school, consists mostly of Arakanese staff and students.  Arakan State is on the western side of Burma, on the border with Bangladesh.  Most of these families came to Thailand after Cyclone Nargis wreaked havoc on the Burmese coastline in 2008.

A lesson learned from our pilot projects was that ownership and creativity actually increase when only a small amount of land is used.  In this case, Shwe Tar Zin's staff and principal are doing a great job of fitting in a diverse and nutritious array of vegetables--including red potatoes from Arakan State!

Check out the pictures below to see the difference that one month makes.  By the end of January this garden will be in full bloom!

Mid-November, to...


Sunday, December 11, 2011

November Monthly Report

Some reflection on last month, and a sneak peak of what's coming during the holidays!

Pig Project
This pilot project uses natural farming techniques that significantly lower the costs of animal rearing, by using fermented banana stalk as feed and using other fermented inputs that improve health and digestion, particularly nutritional intake.
We finally purchased 5 pigs of a mixed breed (mix-sai paan) on Nov 4th.  We are testing this breed of pigs to see if a 100-day natural feed schedule provided by Ajan Suthat (our technical advisor on this project) will result in a weight of 90-100kg with this type of pig.  So far they have been healthy and active, but have not been eating the full amount of store feed provided by the schedule.
Banana feed was introduced in small amounts to the pig diet in late-November.  As time continues banana feed will increase until it reaches 50% of the overall feed amount.
We are continuing our search for white Duroc breed pigs.  The farm assistant at Good Morning School is soon to have a litter of piglets available, and we will attempt to purchase these if possible.

School Garden Program
It will be recalled that this program started in 2010 with 2 pilot schools, and we are now rolling the program out to another 4 schools with the aid of funding from Vitol/Thai Children’s Trust.
UPLift staff doing some surveying at Nya Li Ah Ta migrant school, Tak, Thailand.
Shwe Tar Zin, the first school project of this cold season, has continued its garden program on schedule.  After a few more incremental training sessions with the staff there, we will present a student training.
Nya Li Ah Ta and Maw Thaw Lu , 2 other migrant schools, have experienced a delay while we are discussing the garden project and its process with staff at the BMWEC school network (which coordinates donor activities among migrant learning centers).  We hope to begin these projects as soon as possible.
A return trip to the migrant school New Blood to discuss the ideal garden project (using existing land and efficient water usage as opposed to renting land further away from the school) will occur in December.
We have decided to wait on projects at Heavenly Home, Dominican and Pyi Chit schools until a more suitable date next year.  All three have existing constraints (soil quality, land availability, construction) that are being dealt with currently.
Finally, Mark and Nobel had useful meetings with Spinning Top and Mae Tao Clinic, organizations that are interested in sharing ideas and resources for empowering schools with food security needs.  We will be continuing to meet with them to discuss possible ways in which to create both an agricultural NGO network and to continue the migrant school NGO network meetings that Khom Loy has hosted this year.

Black Soldier Fly (BSF) production unit
BSF production is of great interest to us as the larvae, which can be produced with food waste, are very high in calories and make ideal fish food.
After working with staff from Partners Relief and Development in Mae Sot, our staff member Kaw Maw Taw was able to construct our first BSF unit, which cost under 280 baht (USD$9).  He delivered it along with an introductory training to Principal David from Agape school, who is currently testing it to see if BSFs can be harvested in Agape’s area.

Project Inspire Landfill Project
Project Inspire, a women’s empowerment program founded by UN Women and Mastercard, recently awarded Khom Loy Foundation and Room To Grow Foundation a financial literacy project grant to continue their existing success in assisting women living in a landfill community near Mae Sot, Thailand.
Wide Horizons students manage a market simulation that stresses budgeting and savings plans

A lot was achieved during November for the PI project.  Khom Loy and Room To Grow provided the first financial literacy training to students from Wide Horizons project management school, who will in turn serve as trainers on the landfill in January.  In addition, these Wide Horizons students delivered a practice training to students from another post-10 school in order to gain experience and practice training skills as discussed by Jen from Room To Grow.
One group of Wide Horizons students will also attempt to deliver one or all of these trainings to a group of migrant women living in Mae Pa community with whom they are currently spending time with.

Break The Silence (BTS)—Child Protection Program
Originally designed by Stairway Foundation in the Philippines, BTS uses animations and capacity building to strengthen organizations that work in areas where children have a high risk of sexual abuse and trafficking. Funded by ADM Capital Foundation, Khom Loy has been assisting with planning and implementation for regional trainings in Thailand.
A youth singing contest and theater on World Children's day, organized by Burma ACT and HREIB
In November we continued the conversation with local contacts about setting up a permanent child protection initiative in Mae Sot, Thailand.  This would improve access to knowledge for organizations who work directly with children or with at-risk migrant communities.  We will post updates as this activity progresses.
On November 20 (World Children’s Day), Mark visited a play performed by United Act, a theatric group that focuses on spreading awareness of social issues.  Members of United Act attended a BTS introductory training in August, and adapted some of its concepts into its newest play covering the issue of human trafficking.
Mark attended an INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Program in Singapore from 28 November to 2 December.  The course provided courses and case studies on innovation, team-building, managing social enterprises and financing social ventures.  As a result, UPLift has improved management skills and abilities, as well as a network of successful social entrepreneurs from other countries.

Paul Hancock, Damaris Lynchao and Natchakarn Si Ayutthaya (KLDF staff).

·         Successfully completed the financial literacy training at Wide Horizons, which is the most difficult of the project in whole.
·         Bought pigs!  The pigs haven’t died after a month!  Did I mention that we have pigs now?

·         Launching garden projects in a timely fashion (pending discussions with BMWEC)
·         Creating staff autonomy (currently being addressed with skills learned from INSEAD program, as well as input from Paul Hancock)

Next Month’s Activities
  • Monitoring BSF pilot at Agape School
  • Continuing research on evaporation reduction for BHSOH school water reservoir
  • Researching and setting up “duck litter” project @ Hway Ka Loke school (when possible)
  • Surveying garden schools: New Blood (second visit), Heavenly Home (to discuss steps needed before beginning project next year)
  • Supporting Wide Horizons staff and students for a possible financial literacy training opportunity in Mae Pa community
  • Initial location/demographic survey of landfill community to determine 5 training areas
  • Continue to look for suitable land
  • Visiting Global Neighbors to discuss use of land for banana farm/pilot projects
  • Researching the state of food waste disposal in Mae Sot, as well as determining which entity is responsible for transporting waste in the area
  • Launch a December ag school network meeting

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Project Inspire Diary--Parts I And II

The UPLift Initiative, having recently been awarded the Best Financial Literacy Project grant by Project Inspire, has been participating in a separate blog to discuss progress thus far!

Part I, which explains the first month of the project, can be found here.

Part II, a description of our financial literacy modules in action, is here.