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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

End August/Early September 2013 Updates

General Update: Floods in late-July on into early August continued to affect our UPLift projects, some minimally, some majorly. On the TPC Land, soil preparation for planting on the land was delayed until the rainy season winds down and pigpens at TPC continue to flood (a major issue).  School gardens from KLDF projects last year experienced a fair amount of rain damage and UPLift Staff continues to provide support to help remedy these damages and ensure the viability of the gardens.  Lastly, we see how the rains affect migrant families in Mae Sot as we continue to assess communities for our financial literacy project.  The weather has quieted down in these last weeks of late August and early September and Team UPLift is working in full swing to find 3 schools appropriate to collaborate with on garden projects (one of which we’ve ensured) while we concurrently search for a suitable community to implement our Women’s Financial Literacy Training. 

Project-Specific Updates
1. TPC Land: In early August, Uplift staff prepared flags to survey land plots to begin initial phases of preparing the land for our agricultural training center/ ‘farm’. According to the aerial map we shared a few post ago, we will begin by planting Morning Glory (a leafy green very popular to Thailand) as soon as possible in one of our lower plot areas since it can grow well in swampy conditions.  Once the rains become less frequent and as we move into the dry/cool season, we will follow with planting sweet potatoes and the “Three Sisters” (beans, corns, and pumpkin) in higher ground plots.  Further on, we will incorporate model efficiency farming in 4 plots using a variety of techniques such as bamboo beds, mounds, vertical gardening, and container gardening. Lots of cultivating ahead!

                  UPLift Staff preparing flags for surveying land plots according to our aerial map from July post.

Uplift Staff surveying KLDF-leased land around the Global Neighbors pond.

2. TPC Natural Farming Pig Rearing (NFPR) Project:
·      Pigpen Flooding & Remediation:  Since our last update, the pigpen flooding situation has proved to be a continuous hurdle for us.  Following our first drainage, the Mae Sot Area encountered heavy rains again in mid- August and as we feared, our pens once again filled partially with water.  To ensure our pigs health, we required moving them to a nearby conventional pigpen while we continue to work towards finding long term solutions to flooding.  Ultimately, we will have to abandon the practice of digging the pens as deep as we initially planned. We will change these measurements from 90cm depth to 20cm. Granted this will decreased the amount of compost produced using the NFPR method.  However, as we learned from digging out manure and filling from the semi-flooded pens, we are quite confident there will be no shortage of compost even if the bed is made shallower.  As we begin the remediation process, staff will need to redraw pen blueprints and consult with a local expert in order to address the issue soundly.  Since our pigs only require one pen, we will devote our current efforts to fixing one pen so we can get our pigs back into their designated space ASAP.  Given this, staff members are devoting efforts the first weeks of September to achieving a sufficient solution—filling the pen in with material up to 20 cm below ground (from 90cm). Once this is completed, we will test the solution when the pigs are moved back and as we continue through the rainy season. 

Pigs enjoying ‘green snacks’ in Pigpen 1—minor flooding can be seen off to the side.

Second pen, second flooding episode; pigs are seen huddling to avoid the wetness.

·      Pig Feeding System, Schedule & FBS (Fermented Banana Stalk): Beginning in August, we initiated the use of 2 5-slot pig feeders and a watering drip system to improve feeding efficiently. In terms of what we feed the pigs, following the NFPR schedule we have also begun to increase more natural feeding methods as the pigs mature. According the method, we start out with a higher amount commercial food to initiate a growth spurt and ensure solid health early on.  Pigs are already fed leafy greens “green snacks” and some leftover food scraps.  Beginning a few weeks ago, we starting decreasing commercial food and added rice bran to their diet.  Yet another diet change we incorporated just two weeks ago is the use of Fermented Banana Stalk (FBS).  As we have made and used this type of feed in our previous school pig projects, we are confident in the benefits and eager to follow the results of adding this natural food.  FBS is just one aspect of NFPR that uses low-cost local natural ingredients (banana stalk, sugar/sugar derivatives) to grow plants and rear animals.  FBS is an effective food containing a millions of good micro bacteria (like yogurt) for pigs to better and more efficiently absorb nutrients and proteins from other foods, build immunity and fight against sickness.

Pigs apparent growth after 6 weeks in Khom Loy’s care—with new feeding trough.

Piglets at about 6 weeks old before they arrived at the Khom Loy Farm.

·      FBS Making: According to our planned feeding schedule, once we start making and feeding FBS, we slowly increase the amount until the FBS to commercial feed ratio is 50:50 or more.  Since FBS is not protein dense, pigs still need a varied nutrient diet.  The benefit of commercial food is that it provides a secure amount of protein—but as we explore feeding methods, we could potentially find a plant or byproduct that would work as an additional/alternative protein so we can continue to decrease and perhaps eventually cut out commercial feed.  As part of making FBS, our staff uses a bicycle propelled ‘banana chopper’ (a replica of the chopper used in the school pig project) to cut thick banana stalks utilizing a fraction of the time and effort it would take to do this by hand.  As of now, we are making about 30kg of FBS/week and making a new batch with increased amounts each week. 

UPLift Staff using the banana chopper to make FBS!

·      NFPR Trainings & Outreach: At present, we are in the process of a 10-day training course on NFPR with TPC students.  Over the course of the next 6 months, KLDF staff will conduct NFPR trainings with all 70-80 TPC students in addition to at least 5 local NGO staff.  One full training takes place 1 hour/day over 10 days.  Eventually our land and training officer, U Tin Yu will lead these trainings with support from Program Manager, Heidi.  Throughout the course of these 6 months, TPC student trainees will follow us through our first round of rearing full grown pigs, see the sale of market ready pigs (selling for about $200USD/pig) and observe our reinvestment process. Thus, they will have a clear understanding of how this method works from start to finish.

U Tin Yu  (Land & Training Officer) training a group of TPC students on Day 2 of the NFPR training.

Ko Lynn and Heidi training TPC students on making IMO’s (Indigenous Microorganisms).

3. School Garden Projects:
·      Garden Training with Irawaddy Students: Traditionally, KLDF staff makes 2-3 trips to potential garden project schools to assess if the school has the appropriate conditions to achieve successful garden projects. Some of the main benchmarks we look for are cooperative and engaged headmasters, a reliable water source, land available for planting, flooding, school funding (food budget), students/teachers illustrating previous project success and drive to take responsibility for projects. Once we assess by written surveys and observations, we conduct a day-long “mock” garden training as a trial or practice-run for our 3-month training that allows our staff to see how students and teachers respond to our instructions, ultimately determining their readiness and willingness to participate. For 2013-14 KLDF staff will assess 4-5 primary migrant schools in this fashion to find appropriate matches for the garden project. In August 2013, Uplift Staff began garden training assessments with a new primary school, Irrawaddy, which has 219 pupils. Upon achieving our benchmarks for an ideal garden project candidate, we proceeded with further assessments at Irawaddy.  On our third visit to the school, we conducted the mock garden training on making bamboo raised beds with about 45 student leaders and 6 teachers, including the headmaster. To our delight, students and teachers alike were enthusiastic and proactive in learning the techniques by working together to make the bamboo bed and answering their own questions about the steps in the process. Given the illustrated readiness and responsiveness of the school, we will begin a full-scale garden project at Irawaddy in October 2013 when dry season settles in.

KLDF Uplift Ag. & Training Officer, Sai Aung Tung presents about raised beds at Irawaddy School.

Irawaddy School Headmaster and students layering the raised bed with green &
dry manure, rice & coconut husk and topsoil.

   KLDF Staff with Irawaddy student leaders proudly displaying the finished bamboo bed!

·      Current Garden Project Assessments—KLDF is in full assessing mode as we work towards finding the next three schools (aside from Irawaddy) to reach with the garden project. Last month we talked about the prospect of Wide Horizons (WH) School for young adults and given the supportive donor response about a garden project at WH, we will proceed with a mock garden training in September and commence the full 3-month project in October. We continue to assess for our other two garden schools and will have a busy month of mock garden trainings at 3 additional schools.  The goal is to have our assessments finished by the end of September so it is possible to start right away at Irawaddy and WH in October.

4. Financial Literacy Revisiting Previous Projects and Planning

·      Community Assessments Cattle Yard: Financial Literacy project Phase 2 Income Generation in year two at the Cattle Yard Community continues to move along in the research stage. At large, staff is researching for Income Generation that we can incorporate with our new Financial Literacy Training this year and include it as regular step of the project. Particularly, we have been looking at mobile selling around the community (for instance, different types of basic hygienic product), small income generation groups working out of a space, home-based work, and small saving groups.
We visited the organizations called Help Without Frontier (HWF) to learn about a sewing training project they offer that could align with the Cattle Yard Women. HWF also teaches mop making with left over clothes from HWF sewing project.  The mop project would be ideal if the women are conducive to it as HWF offers the resources for doing mop and materials costs are low. Following the visit with HWF, Ko Lynn revisited the Cattle Yard in late August to talk to several women. He interviewed one woman from our Financial Literacy training who is selling things and foods such as kitchen supplies, meat, fish, and vegetables around the community. She was enthusiastic at the idea to sell more things including hygiene things and medicine via cart. Other women were receptive to the idea of mobile selling as well. This visit gave us preliminary feedback about small enterprise development possibilities at the Cattle Yard. We will continue to research other skills building/ entrepreneurial organizations in the Mae Sot area including a visit to Youth Connect, an organization reaching young adults through job skills trainings, apprenticeships, marketing, business planning, and market access.  

·      Assessing New Communities: In August staff visited a community in the greater Mae Sot Area twice. This community came into existence in 2008 and consists entirely of displaced families who fled after Cyclone Nargis ruined their livelihood on the Irawaddy Delta. An array of information and survey data was collected to allow UPLift staff to make informed inferences about the community and decide if it is a good fit for the Financial Literacy Project.  Our preliminary analysis for this community (i.e. women’s ability to demonstrate the ability to work in groups) is positive and we hope to learn more as we continue to assess other communities in September.