School for enhancing Thai farmers’ business skills

Siriwan Nakmuk, Agriculture Extension Officer in Sawee district in the southern province of Chumphon, was surprised to find out that each agricultural household might have to spend up to 45,000 baht each month on fertilisers, seeds, seedlings and other family expenses. That amount of money is considered relatively high so it is understandable many farmers are still in debt.

Income and expense accounting is among 12 key chapters in the “Farmers Business School”

Mrs Siriwan said she will be using the knowledge gained from the train the trainer session she attended and would experiment in her family’s integrated farming on 40-rai plots of land. She will also be training other farmers in her community to experiment with growing coffee together with other traditional/local? plants. “Learning by doing is the best method to enhance farmers’ capacity to become agricultural business entrepreneurs,” she said.
Income and expense accounting is among 12 key modules in the “Farmers Business School” capacity development tool aimed at improving the business and management skills of smallholder coffee growers. The project is being implemented in Chumphon’s Sawee and Tasae districts as well as in Kaper and Kraburi districts in the nearby province of Ranong.

“Changes in household financial management will be helpful for farmers. If they can plan their expenses throughout the year, they will be able to control their outlay and become successful business farmers,” she said.

The Farmer Business School (FBS) is one of the project’s key components and aims to improve the business and management skills of smallholder coffee growers. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) through the Improving Smallholder Coffee Farming Systems in Southeast Asia ( Coffee+) project, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives’ Department of Agricultural Extension and the Department of Agriculture provided the first “train the trainers” session to government officials, which is designed not only to increase entrepreneurship and farmers’ abilities to manage their farms as a small business, but also help agricultural officials to include the curriculum in the system and continue enhancing farmers’ business capacities. This allows both the agricultural extension officials and the farmers to learn how to optimise production costs and improve their incomes.

Suthonya Thongrak, an academic with Prince of Songkhla University’s Faculty of Economics, said the FBS module was developed by GIZ to support the training which has been given to 350,000 smallholders in cocoa regions in West and Central Africa, and is now being applied in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand to reach 10,500 smallholder coffee farmers in total under coffee+ project. The FBS consists of 12 modules covering basic farming planning, managing a farm to produce enough and good quality food, money in-money out, farmer organization and potential additional income until the farmer is able to become an entrepreneur in practice.

Charoen Boonlarptaveechoke, Vice President of the Coffee Association of Thailand, said all the techniques and knowledge learned from the four-day training the trainer session will be adopted and passed on the coffee farmers who are members of the association nationwide. The aim is to encourage coffee smallholders to put integrated agricultural methods into practice and earn a better living in their own communities.

Pouchamarn Wongsanga, Director of the Coffee+ project in Thailand, added that the knowledge and skills will enable smallholder farmers to adapt to the changing environment, the global situation on commodity prices, and reduce risks in farming while generating more sustainable income for their families and communities. After the training, GIZ will follow up on the implementation of extension officers by the trainers in their areas of responsibility. An assessment of the programme is scheduled for late October.
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