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, January 9, 2012

December Monthly Report

Khom Loy Development Foundation
UPLift Project
December Monthly Report- 2011

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.
As seen in our last monthly report, we have been raising five pigs on a 100 day, high-protein feed schedule intended to result in a sales weight of 90-100kg for most breeds of pigs.  We are two months into the system and have made great progress.  This first group of pigs is healthy, energetic and active.
At the very end of the month, we purchased another five pigs from the same source in order to test a different feed regimen—one that uses only 100% fermented banana stalk and other natural inputs, while using no store-bought feed.
Mixed breed pigs living on a high-protein diet

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.
Our first school of this round, Shwe Tar Zin, began in late October and has made great progress thus far.  Their larger yields are beginning to emerge, including some great red potatoes and morning glory.
Heavenly Home, a nearby orphanage in Mae Pa, had previously been surveyed and agreed to work on a plan of improving their soil before beginning a full-scale vegetable project.  To help with this plan we helped staff set up black bean seedlings in the hope of transplanting into the now-barren soil.  With some compost mixed in, we hope that a round of black beans will marginally improve the soil; in mid-2012 we plan to bring more dirt as well when planning a full project.
We also visited Hsa Mu Htaw school and discussed a new type of project—Urban Gardening.  Using space-saving techniques, improved water usage, clever methods of making inputs and high levels of interest by its students and staff, Hsa Mu Htaw will put the belief that inner city schools cannot run a sustainable garden project to the test.
A challenge occurred when we learned that Nya Li Ah Ta and Maw Thaw Lu, two migrant learning centers located in very remote areas, experienced some setbacks for beginning their projects.  We are hoping to set up garden projects at both schools before rainy season.
Finally, we surveyed 4 additional school: Ah Yone Oo, Irrawaddy Flower Garden, New Blood (second visit), and Kwae Ga Bawng.
Great job by Shwe Tar Zin migrant school in planning and implementing their own garden!
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.
December was a relatively relaxed month for the project, as our main training partner, Wide Horizons project management school, had an extended holiday.  However, we were able to use feedback and observations from Wide Horizon’s previous mock training in November to revise and update our modules to what we consider “complete”.
In addition, we continued providing school fruit and milk support to Sky Blue school, which is nearby the landfill.  This support, in tandem with increased income for women after receiving financial literacy training, is intended to increase school enrollment for an estimated 15 young girls who currently cannot attend school.

Mark visited a Natural Farming lecture at Mae Jo University in Chiang Mai province, where he received a lot of review information on techniques for making fermented agricultural inputs, as well as new information on how to make deep litters for pig pens.  Special thanks to Lawson LeGore, an American writing his thesis on fermented banana stalk in Chiang Mai, for introducing us to the Mae Jo lecture and sharing a great deal of useful information about natural farming.    

Pat (Spinning Top New Zealand) dropped by the KLDF Mae Sot office to discuss agriculture activities as well as organizational goals with Mark.  Thanks for the visit!
Paul Hancock (KLDF)
KLDF Montessori Staff (Khun Ratri, Damaris, Nin, Lee, Diyanti, Bern, San)
Krio Hirundo Onus – an Italian organization working with families relocated from the landfill found us to speak about income generating agriculture projects, especially raising pigs.  We look forward to learning more about what they do and provide knowledge/training materials if possible.  Their website is http://kriohirundo.webnode.it  .

Opening of KLDF Mae Sot office
Implementation of a new staff evaluation system
Revised Project Inspire Financial Literacy modules to a finished product
Moved forward with garden activities despite unexpected delays
Paul and Mark developed a new vision for the pig rearing project based on schools that can each provide individual services or products for a larger network of schools, which in essence replicates a supply chain.
Discussion w/ BMWEC migrant school organization per school gardens
Next Month’s Activities
Arrange a brainstorming session to discuss strategies for addressing 2012 funding cuts in the donor community for boarding house schools in the Mae Sot Burmese migrant school system
Launch the first agriculture network meeting of 2012 for interested migrant schools
Work with Wide Horizon students to finalize the Burmese language financial literacy modules for delivery on the landfill
Survey the landfill community and choose 5 locations for the financial literacy trainings
Begin implementing Project Inspire on the landfill!
Discussing the idea of a low-cost chicken rearing project at Hway Ka Loke school
Begin work on an “Urban Gardening” pilot project at Hsa Mu Htaw school upon completion of KLDF Montessori training there
Preparing Heavenly Home orphanage for an eventual garden project (Soil Addition, Black Bean Planting)
Meet with BMWEC staff about garden programs at their schools in 2012
Coordinating with Holy Infant Orphanage on finding a source of soil to preserve garden activities during rainy season (they had flooding problems last season)
Visit Kwae Ga Bawng school’s new land to determine suitability for a garden project
Visit Partners Relief and Development management staff to discuss their agriculture activities in Mae Sot, as well as possible ways to collaborate in future
Visit Help Without Frontiers (HWF) Mae Sot office to speak about their food program, learn about how they support schools

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy 2012! The past year at UPLift/The World In Microfinance

A belated Happy New Year to all of you from the UPLift staff!

2011 has come and passed, and with it a lot of new ideas, work and projects for UPLift in Mae Sot:

In addition to expanding the school garden program, we also learned about aspects of Natural Farming, especially the use of fermented banana stalk (FBS) and other fermented feeds to cut the costs of animal rearing dramatically.  We were able to start a pilot project rearing pigs at Hway Ka Loke school in Mae Sot, which is going strong and set to finish in early 2012.

Finally, we teamed up with Room To Grow Foundation to enter the Project Inspire competition with a goal of improving women's empowerment and financial literacy for a nearby landfill community in Mae Sot.  Using our creativity and existing experience with the community, we successfully secured a USD$10,000 grant at the competition, courtesy of UN Women Singapore and Mastercard.

Going into 2012 we look forward to continuing our efforts to empower migrants and refugees on the Thai/Burmese border regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender.  We will keep you updated with more posts, pictures, and videos throughout the new year.

To close, this story from BRAC Bangladesh highlights several worldwide changes of attitude towards working with the "ultra-poor" by using small grants and skills trainings, as UPLift does.