Establishing a Learning Centre for the Development of Sustainable Agriculture Based on Thailand’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy

By March 17, 2019 November 12th, 2019 Highlighted, Solution

Challenge

Although a very high percentage of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) population – approximately 80 per cent – works in agriculture, people still lack a solid understanding of and know-how in agricultural management. This poses a challenge to Lao PDR in terms of its agricultural productivity.

Towards a Solution

Thailand has thus developed initiatives designed to provide relevant knowledge and the skills needed to tackle the issue. Between 2010 and 2016, the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) provided a range of support for the Dongkhamxang Agricultural Technical School, including scholarships for personnel, teaching materials and laboratory facilities. In 2016, the agency established a learning centre for the development of sustainable agriculture, based on the application of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP). The learning centre was intended to serve as a hub that would generate and disseminate knowledge of skills in sustainable agriculture practices, which would ultimately improve the quality of life for students, teaching staff and the wider community.

This learning centre was established based on an agreement between Thailand and Lao PDR to address the challenges of agricultural productivity in Lao PDR and, specifically, agricultural management, resulting from a lack of know-how and a solid understanding of agricultural management. The learning centre was developed to provide the relevant knowledge and skills needed to manage the agriculture sector efficiently and productively, simultaneously helping the people of Lao PDR to achieve SDGs 1, 2, 4, 12 and 17.

The SEP stresses a balanced way of life in which the economic, social, environmental or cultural dimensions may not be pursued at a cost to another dimension. It is essentially a way of thinking that guides conduct at every level of society, from the individual to the country, to achieve sustainability. Its three overriding principles are moderation, reasonableness and self-immunity, with the application of knowledge and morality. Practices focused on sustainable agriculture should therefore be the result of a moderate, reasonable and prudent decision-making process, based on consideration of the four dimensions referred to above and on knowledge and morality.

Following SEP guidance, the learning centre covers a wide range of learning stations, such as organic farming, including organic fertilizer and Good Agriculture Practices (GAP), animal husbandry, and handicrafts and household accounting. However, due to a growing interest and demand from the community, the scope and scale of the learning centre is expected to grow even further. Its three phases have involved many activities, including a study visit to Thailand by 16 executives and teaching staff from

the school in phase I (October 2016-March 2017); the establishment of the learning centre; a meeting of the Project Steering Committee (PSC); four training courses for teaching staff on management of the learning centre, farming and production management, productivity improvement and marketing; introduction of teaching approaches to be used at the learning centre; a youth seminar on sustainable agriculture based on SEP; and a study visit to Thailand in phase II (April-September 2017). While phase III is still underway (October 2017-September 2018), it has drawn a host of visitors, including teaching staff from 40 educational institutions, 100 students and 30 farmers. Workshops have also been held on agricultural entrepreneurship and professional services.

In this context, the learning centre has helped Lao PDR to make progress toward reaching the targets of several SDGs, including Goal 1: ensure mobilization of resources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions; Goal 2: increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development, and plant and livestock genebanks to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries; Goal 4: by 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles; Goal 12: by 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources; and, Goal 17: leverage global partnerships through technology transfer, capacity building, multi-stakeholder partnerships.

The process of establishing the learning centre and learning how SEP can help achieve sustainable agriculture has led to close interaction among, for example, agriculture sector staff from both countries, leading to systematic, cross-country transfer of the good practice and knowledge through the South- South cooperation framework. This participatory approach has allowed Laotian stakeholders to teaching staff and students to gradually begin to take responsibility for operating the learning centre. (This has become more visible since phase III.) Additionally, this learning centre has proven to be innovative in that, as Thailand’s homegrown approach to sustainable development, SEP has been implemented for the first time in Lao PDR.

After the first learning centre was created, two others, located at Khammoune Technical Vocation College and Sekong Integrated Technical Vocational School, were established outside of Vientiane in 2018.

Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 1.a, 2.a, 4.7, 12.2, 17.6, 17.9, 17.6, 17.17

Countries/territories involved: Lao PDR, Thailand

Implementing entities: Thailand: Udon Thani College of Agriculture and Technology, Office of Vocational Education Commission, Ministry of Education, Thailand; Lao PDR: Dongkhamxang Agricultural Technical School

Project status: Ongoing

Project period: 2016- 2018

URL of the practice: goo.gl/XEGKeR

Contact:

Name: Ms. Panitee Srisawang, Development Cooperation Officer, Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA)

Email: panitees@mfa.go.th

Name: Mr. Ratchada Moryadee, Special Education Teacher, Udon Thani College of Agriculture and Technology

Email: piuy.ratchada@gmail.com

Name: Mr. Chittakhone Sisanonh, Deputy Director, Dongkhamxang Agricultural Technical School

Email: chithakone@yahoo.com