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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

2013 Year End Review & January 2014 Updates

Happy New Year 2014! We hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season. Many wishes for a prosperous New Year from our team at UPLift. As it has been a while since our last update, we will include December outcomes as well as recent activities in this post. 

1. KLDF Farm at TPC/ Agricultural Training Center
Teacher Preparation College or TPC is a 9-month teacher training program for Burmese teachers (from within Burma & who will return back to various communities throughout Burma) located on land owned by the Canadian Organization, Global Neighbors. KLDF continues to develop 2.5 rai of farmland near TPC while concurrently training TPC students on natural farming practices.

December Outcomes
  • In early December, we welcomed Global Neighbors (www.gnci.ca) Staff along with 20 engineering student volunteers from Satskathewan Canada to tour our land and learn about the training center in-progress. 
  • KLDF friends from Vancouver, Nina & John Cassils joined us at TPC as well as many of our other project sites.
  • Our team made our first round of rice husk biochar with great success!
  • U Tin Yu, our farm manager completed preparation of plots 1-4 using materials produced entirely from our farm—homemade biochar, indigenous microorganisms and pig manure compost from our pigpens. 

Current/Future Activities
  • Farm development for Khom Loy is coming along nicely.  Our first sweet potato harvest is in-progress with Wide Horizon Students. 
  • Operation planting is underway! Corn and pumpkins are in the ground (only beans remain) for our 3-sisters plot.
  •  Our farm manager will plant Morning Glory this week in plot 5 which will serve as part of the pigs diet in the future.
  • As we outlined in our land plan, plots 1-4 will serve as living demonstrations as well as research and development for efficiency garden methods used at Migrant Schools and in Urban Communities. Plot 1 which displays vertical gardening (beans & various gourds) was planted this week as well.

Khom Loy's Program Managers for UPlift (Heidi) & Montessori (Damaris) lead visitors to the farm. 

Leading our group of visitors through the TPC garden to the KLDF farm in December 2013.

Before: Engineering students tour KLDF's farm--corn just planted, 1 week 

After: Khom Loy's farm at TPC--6 weeks after planting corn for the 3 sisters crop plot 
UPlift Staff making rice husk hill bio char--the apparatus in the middle burns from the inside-out.
Harvesting sweet potatoes at our farm--first harvest ever! 
Beautiful organic sweet potatoes--January 19, 2014.

2. Natural Farming Pig Rearing (NFPR) Project
As we wrap up with our first round of 10 mixed breed pigs (5 left to sell), Project UPlift looks to refiine making/using locally available lower cost pig feed from 100% natural resources without use of commercial feed whatsoever. This time around, we will test breeding our own pigs while simultaneously buying local mixed breed pigs to weigh the costs and benefits of buying vs. breeding. Also, our goal is to expand our experience of rearing pigs to breeding pigs/birthing to add to our training process & passing on knowledge.

December Outcomes
  • In mid-December we had our first pig sale (ever!) to a local meat distributor for 5000 Baht (about 150 USD).  Since then, our pigs have fattened up quite a bit and we have been able to sell 3 more for 5,500 Baht (about 170 USD) apiece.
  • By the end of December, we completed the last round of trainings with TPC students.  Now have all 80 students trained on natural farming pig rearing and sustainable agriculture.
  • In-process of fixing pigpen 3 from rainy season damages.
Current/Future Activities
  • We anticipate selling our remaining 5 pigs by Feb. 2014 for no less than 5,500 Baht.
  • The remaining black mixed breed sow will be bred with a White Duroc male pig. belonging to a local breeder in late January/early February 2014.
  • We will purchase an additional 5 mixed breed piglets for round 2 pig rearing in February 2014. 
  • As we gain more experience in natural pig rearing, we are thinking of ways we can expand our project to a 'pass on the gift' model wherein we teach students/ families how to use the natural farming method then give them pigs of their own to raise. 

Feed time for pigs. 3 of 4 pictured have been sold as of January 21, 2014. 
U Tin Yu delivers the last round of natural farming pig training with TPC students.

3. School Garden Projects '13-'14 (4 Schools)
UPlift's School Garden Project allow students in Migrant Schools to learn the skills necessary to build and maintain a successful organic garden which allows for greater food security and practical knowledge students can carry with them throughout their lives. 

December Outcomes
  • Irrawaddy Flower Garden: Students constructed 5 garden beds & 5 mounds along with a new garden fence in late December 2013.  Just this last week students learned how to make banana stalk planting pots with Sai Aung. 
  • Rocky Mountain 1 School: Located in a hard to reach jungle hill region near an open rock quarry--students were fortunate to have a local supply of bamboo which allowed students to build 5 new bamboo beds in late December 2013.  
  • Light School: Having finished the 10-module garden training in early December, KLDF delivered top soil, coconut husk (mulch), bamboo & garden fencing. In the meantime, students set to work building the fence and garden mounds. 
  • Wide Horizons School: In December, students broke into 4 groups with 4 different areas to compete for the most successful gardens. Their gardens are in full swing and most groups have already harvested the first round of mustard greens and coriander. 
Current/Future Activities
  • Our Agriculture Officer/Trainer, Sai Aung continues to visit each school weekly to provide support and additional assistance with maintaining gardens. 
  • Once garden beds are up and running, students will begin sack and container gardens.
  • We are currently working with Irrawaddy School to make watering easier by installing a pulley and lever to the nearby well. 

Students at Light School prepare bamboo for a garden fence, Dec. 29, 2013.
Rocky Mountain 1 School students practice making natural insect repellant in December  2013.

2 of 6 new bamboo garden beds at Rocky Mountain School, Dec. 29, 2013.
Sai Aung at Irrawaddy Flower Garden School with 10 newly constructed mound beds, Jan. 20, 2014.
Irrawaddy students weeding & watering their gardens after class, Jan. 22, 2013
4. Food Security and Economic Development for Migrant Women
A new(er) venture for Khom Loy's UPLift Initiative is increasing food security for urban poor.  For the last 5 months, we've been building a relationship with women living near a factory called Paseidan.  We are happy to report an overwhelming success of 2 training sessions resulting in 20 household gardens in "full bloom". With hope to expand, we will continue working with this group for the 3rd year of financial literacy training for women and further food security/income generation pilots.  Stay tuned for more! Pictures are forthcoming. 

December Outcomes
  • The factory community we have been working with received 3 visitors in December and another round of photographer visitors in January 2014.
  • In early December, our team finished round 2 of household garden pilots. We had to be increasingly resourceful with even more limited space.  Many of the round 2 trainees opted for bottle and sack gardens while others will try using their houses as a trellis to grow pumpkins, gourds, and beans.  Overall the enthusiasm was inspiring and our team worked diligently—through a rainstorm on Sunday—to finish round 2 garden pilots.
  • Women took on the gardens entirely by themselves and expanded upon what we taught--producing way more than we had anticipated.     
Upcoming...Financial Literacy Training
  • We are now in the 3rd year of delivering financial literacy trainings to Burmese migrant women which was initiated by seed money from Project Inspire in 2011.  
  • During the week of January 6-10, UPlift Staff completed training of trainer modules with Wide Horizon Students.  
  • Next week Khom Loy staff will supervise Wide Horizons students delivering the financial literacy training to women at the Paseidan migrant community--we estimate around 50 women to be in attendance. More on this very soon! 


Visit to Local NGO
On December 17 & 18, our team visited the Border Green Energy Team (BGET/ www.bget.org)  nonprofit just meters from Karen State in Burma. Over the course of 2 days, we learned about BGET’s exciting agro-forestry, sustainable energy practices, and new adobe training center.  Together, we made bio-char from corncobs and helped the BGET team construct a new greenhouse. 

New Connections: 
Through BGET, we made connections with G’yaw G’yaw, a nearby Karen organization specializing in sustainable building using adobe, bamboo and other natural resources. (at: www.gyaw.org) and Aqueous Solutions, Chiang Mai-based nonprofit focusing on biochar water sanitizing technologies & natural, sustainable development (at: www.aqsolutions.org) with hopes to collaborate in the future.

In mid-January, we were so fortunate to have filmmaker/photographer Renee Rosensteel (http://www.rosensteel.com) and her partner, Bill join us for a few days to shoot footage of our projects in Mae Sot.  Big thank you to Renee and Bill for making this possible!

Newest Member of UPLift Family:  
Our farm manager, U Tin Yu recently celebrated the birth of a baby girl with his wife!  We will have pictures up shortly!

Border Green Energy Team's (BGET) new adobe training center.
Making corn cob bio char with the BGET team just meters from Karen State Burma, Dec. 18 2013
KLDF's UPlift Team helps the BGET Team on building a greenhouse foundation, Dec. 18, 2013.