Knowledge sharing: a sustainable capacity development for Robusta smallholder farmers

Story and Photos: Chollatip Klinsrisuk and Weerinpat Janewatanakul

Huai Nai Roi coffee farmer group from La-un District, Ranong province comprises 17 members who are proactive and interested in capacity development as a group.  They participated in different activities. However, there is still a lack of group development.

Thanks to the Coffee Plus Thailand project, Robusta coffee farmers at Huai Nai Roi community group has been facilitated with skills needed for strengthening their farming group management.  

A group of 17 farmers from Huai Nai Roi Community visited a community fertiliser and soil management centre in neighbour district of Kraburi.

Implemented in southern provinces of Chumphon and Ranong during 2019-2022, Coffee Plus Thailand project aims at contributing to the development and strengthening of the farmer groups through a series of training on Farmer Business School (FBS). The FBS curriculum allows farmers and farmer groups to learn about production planning, record-keeping of costs, revenue, profit and loss, diversification through the coffee intercropping model, and how to increase yields and reduce production costs.

The project team has regularly conducted follow up and coaching to ensure the adoption of key FBS practices. In order to better understand and design activities that fit the needs of farmer groups, the project conducted one workshop on identifying problems and obstacles related to farming in general and coffee farming in particular, as well as the needs for further development. The results showed that in addition to the growing of coffee and other crops together with other activities such as livestock and broom making.

Chanidapa Wiramonphon, Huai Nai Roi coffee farmer group member, learned about coffee harvesting at a demonstration plot owned by Coffee Plus Thailand project member Pichet Niambandit located in a nearby province of Prachuabkhirikan.

Coffee Plus Thailand farmer members were previously trained on a self-made fertiliser by project partner Nestle (Thai) Ltd to reduce the cost of farming. However, a rising fertiliser price has a significant impact on production cost.  

As part of the project’s knowledge sharing experience, a study visit to an organic coffee-husk compost learning centre at Bang Mud Community in Kraburi District was organised. Community leader Samruay Khunthongnoi said the group started with seeking the best way to utilise coffee husk as agricultural waste. Twenty years on, there are 30 members joining the fertiliser and soil management centre. The community’s organic fertiliser made of coffee husk compost also receives a certification from the Department of Land Development.

“Respect for each other is the key for community group management,” Mr Samruay said, added that all members must follow rules set by the group. They have to participate in the compost making day. If any of the member is absent, he or she will not have any share of the compost made that year. Group members need to participate in every step of compost making process. In case some of the members are not available, they have to send a representative to join the activity.  

Besides making compost from coffee husks, the group also produces bio-fermented water from fish, Trichoderma fungi, and provides soil analysis services. The amount of compost sold each year depends on coffee husk inputs and members’ needs.

Samruay Khunthongnoi, leader of organic coffee-husk compost learning centre at Bang Mud Community, explained the compost making process to farmer members from Huai Nai Roi Community during their visit.

Huai Nai Roi coffee farmer group members also had chance to learn about integrated farming management from another two Coffee Plus Thailand project members in Prachuapkhirikan province’s Bang Saphan Noi district.

Kan Raksanit grows 11 robusta coffee varieties together with other crops such as papaya, rice, betel nut, and pumpkin.  Pichet Niambandit can generate income all year round from growing rotational crops apart from Robusta coffee. In addition, they learned how to improve soil nutrition by growing pinto peanut to preserve soil moisture.

Pichet Niambandit (right), explains to Sakol Piewkham (left), a member of Huai Nai Roi Community Group, how to grow Pinto peanut to preserve soil moisture conditions for integrated farming management.

“Having an opportunity to visit other Coffee Plus Thailand project members make me realise the importance of group management and experience sharing.  I learn from other project members  very useful information and agricultural techniques that can be applied to our community for reducing cost, generating income and scaling up our group activities,” said Chanidapa Wiramonphon, a representative from Huai Nai Roi coffee farmer group.

Sakol Piewkham, also Huai Nai Roi coffee farmer group member, also said he would apply new ideas for boosting farming yield and income. “The weather in Ranong and Prachuapkhirikhan is similr. The yield of the coffee plots indicates that the farm owner takes very good care of his plot. I’m delighted to have an opportunity to exchange ideas with other project members. I will apply new ideas and the methods learned to both my garden and support other farmer members.”

Such study visits allow for the exchange of ideas and learning among farmers, inspiring them to take best practices on farms/plots and apply the knowledge gained to their own plots. Moreover, it can further promote group activities that can be done together such as making compost from coffee husks. In addition, it creates a good opportunity for farmers to get to know each other and create a network among farmers who live in different areas ■

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