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.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Happy Thai/Burmese New Year & Welcome New Intern!

Lots of updates since our last post...
Pumpkin harvest time!

April brings yet another record hot month with the beginning of the Theravada Buddhist New Year. We wish a very Happy New Year from everyone at our Khom Loy office here in Mae Sot.  Our staff enjoyed much needed rest, relaxation and water-tossing fun during the observed Thai New Year on April 14, 15, & 16.

Our mama pig enjoys green snacks, getting closer to having piglets, eta: Early June 2014.

Our Newest Member
Our newest team member, Intern Moe Thu!

On March 31, we welcomed our newest team member: UPLIft Program Intern, Pwint Moe Thu. As a Wide Horizon Student, Moe Thu comes to Khom Loy with a great deal of training from Khom Loy (in both gardening and financial literacy) and various CBO’s under her belt.  In addition, she has spent 2 years already working as a trainer in Mae Sot for Sa Na Yar Thi Pan Women’s Centre, an organization devoted to supporting and empowering women.  The UPLift team is very excited and grateful to have such a talented and experienced intern to join our ranks!  Welcome, Moe Thu!

Laying Hen Pilot
Since March 16, our Agricultural Officer Sai Aung has been overseeing the care of our chicken pilot project at Irrawaddy Flower Garden School.  Part of the pilot's purpose is to test the efficiency of feeding a low-cost homemade fermented feed to chickens versus store bought feed.  Therefore, we have two sets of 10 chickens with different feeds, Group A & B. The ultimate goal is to figure out a method of feeding that is both efficient for egg production/good health as well as low cost and easy to acquire. Since this is Khom Loy's first go at chicken rearing, it's a learning process for everyone--hopefully another method of natural farming we can add to our repertoire!
Having chickens at the school allows children a learning opportunity (for caring & tending chickens), offers a local source of protein (eggs), and provides ready to use garden fertilizer!  
As of now/approximately 6-weeks into the pilot, we have observed the following...

Group A
No egg-laying yet
Average 0.15 kg less weight that Group B (1.3-1.5kg)
Healthy looking and regular eating habits

Group B
Begun laying eggs 2 weeks ago
In the last week, lay an average of 8 eggs/day
Average 0.15 higher weight than Group A (1.5-1.7)
Healthy looking and regular eating habits

Sectioned off in 2 separate areas (10 each) , chickens continue to grow from differing diets of homemade & store feeds. 

Some of our first eggs! Now we receive about 8/day.  Old tires provide the perfect nesting beds. 

Currently, we are looking into adding more protein to Group A's diet in order to jump-start egg production. We'll have more updates as this pilot progresses!

Business Trainings & follow-up at PSD

At the Migrant Community, Paseidan, we were able to support two additional women in small business startup this month.  One of our business entrepreneurs started up a service business, which provides landline calls to and from Burma for people in the community at 4THB/minute.  Pictured below with phone in hand, our new entrepreneur eagerly starts her first business.  Fast-forward to now (3 weeks into her business) and she is almost ready to repay 50% of the loan per our loan agreement--3 months in advanced!  

Cho Sang receiving her phone and viewing the details of KLDF Contract.

Cho Sang, Phone service entrepreneur signing her terms of use contract with Khom Loy Staff in early April 2014.

 Entrepreneur #2 just set up her business this last week after a great deal of preparation and many revisions to her business plan.  With support, she is launching a wholesale business in which she buys goods (such as coffee, onion, garlic, soap, shampoo, etc) and sells to another remote migrant community.  She is building upon an already established business relationship she has with this community who happens to have limited exposure to basic market goods.  

Intern, Moe Thu works on business planning with another entrepreneur, Kim Ba Sang,  proposing to wholesale goods.

Financial Literacy Training with UTY
We continue to expand trainings on financial literacy--particularly for our own staff.  This month as part of on-the-job training, our intern Moe Thu has been conducting one-on-one financial literacy training with our farm manager U Tin Yu and his wife, Mae Thaeng Yi. See Moe Thu discussing savings plans during a recent training (below).  With ambitions goals this year, we hope to train all 80 TPC teacher trainers on financial literacy modules along with another community this Fall (similar to what we did with the community at Paseidan this year & Cattle Yard last year).  Ideally, U Tin Yu will not only benefit from this training by feeling more empowered and knowledgeable to save money but also serve as a trainer for financial literacy in the future.  

Moe Thu & Ko Lynn (supervising) conduct financial literacy traning with our farm manager, U Tin Yu and wife, Mae Thaeng Yi.

Revised Land Plan (Land next to TPC/Teacher Prep College)
In the past month, our team has spent lots of time reflecting on the farming experience next to Teacher Prep Center (TPC) on our 2.5 rai of land.  For a while now, our observations have told us we need to revise to our original land plan; which, required us to think critically about what we will do with produce from our farm now and in the future.  These observations led to the following assertions...
1.     It does not necessarily make sense to grow crops to sell locally when there is a school (Teacher Prep College/TPC) full of 80 students, running 9 months out of the year right next door to our farm that could use vegetables.
2.     Khom Loy is able to form a closer relationship with TPC Students by allowing TPC students to tend vegetables in exchange for using them for food--particularly since both organizations (TPC and KLDF) receive funding from Thai Children’s Trust/TCT for vegetable buying and growing purposes.
3.     TPC receives a food budget supported by TCT, the same donor Khom Loy receives funding from for School Gardens. Our team agrees that the obvious relationship between the Khom Loy farm and TPC Students should be that TPC students get as many vegetables as they can from our farm, therefore, alleviating some food costs.
4.     To bring depth to our relationship with TPC, our team believes we could minimize the cost of outsourcing additional labor if we had TPC students routinely assisting in caring for the land and therefore, benefitting by receiving all the produce/ “fruits of their labor”.
5.     We will still have to set aside some plots for animal feed.
6.     We can simplify our land plots by growing vegetables that are more in-demand (by TPC students & the local community) & easier to grow.  Corn, for instance, being a hard crop to grow with little demand would not be part of the new land plan.  Morning glory, on the other hand, which is easy to grow and in great demand (also good for pig food) will most definitely be upscaled.
In summary, we have a newly revised land plan requiring less labor and additional manures; and minimizing crops that are harder to grow and less in-demand. In conjunction, we are in the process of forming a closer, more interactive relationship with TPC Students during the coming school year (beginning June 2014).

More on these revisions as we move throughout the year!

Visit by ACU

In mid-April, we received a visit by students and professors from Australian Catholic University (ACU).  ACU students learned about the many methods Khom Loy uses to teach Natural Farming skills, along with an overview of financial literacy, small business development, and agriculture innovation with local Burmese Migrant Schools and Communities.  Some of what they saw (see below) consisted of our ever-expanding seed nursery, blossoming crops of chili peppers and morning glory. Also, included in learning about our Natural Farming methods, visitors observed the production and use of Indigenous Microorganisms/IMO's as natural fertilizers (see our staff making new IMO's below).

Sai Aung Tun, adds on to our nursery beds at the KLDF Land. 

Chilies and tomatoes coming up nicely on our raised bed plot.

Morning Glory grows amazingly on our land and serves as an important "green snack" for our mama pig.

Sai Aung and Moe Thu work on making a fresh batch of Indigenous Microorganisms, natural fertilizers.