After a grand welcome and lunch amidst paddy fields, I headed to an organic farm with my friend Prae and our guide Toy. A refreshing glass of lemongrass water and sticky rice with sweet potato welcomed us. I sipped feeling energized and relaxed my feet as we got talking. Slowly, the story of one woman entrepreneurship unfolded before me. She is one of the many local heroes Nathon and the surrounding villages are proud. And her story is similar to tales of heroes - a saga of hardship, hard work, smartness and will.
His Majesty Late King Bhumibol is Thailand's most revered King, whose mention invokes respect and cheer in Thai people. One of his visions and ideas was the implementation of a New Policy in every possible household to achieve self reliability and sustenance. It is to go back to the roots and make use of one's land to have everything required for a living.
Let me explain it to you in simple terms by bringing you the story of this local hero - Ms Lamduan.
Ms Lamduan, now 53, worked in Bangkok, during her younger years in the city of dreams and opportunities. A mishap changed her course of life forever. Her father passed away in the village, and her mom became alone as the only daughter was away. Lamduan decided to quit her job and bid goodbye to her life in the metropolis to stay with her mom. She didn't want to go back but couldn't find a way to engage herself and find a job in the village. That's when she started to utilize what she had - her parent's farm in the backyard. 3.16 acres of land was waiting to be made use of, which she did eventually.
The challenges were many - limited budget, human resources and resources. Lamduan had to take care of herself and her mother. So she started with basics first and was smart enough to employ King's policy of using one's land for a living. She began with growing Kiffir Lime and started making products like liquid soap, moisturizing lotion and soap bars. Then, she grew lemongrass for food as well as an insect repellant. Slowly, she started cultivating chillies, rice and paddy.
If you are wondering what's unique about her farm, here it is - the way she has diversified her source of food and income. She grows fruits like banana, papaya, mangoes and Lychees in a section. The farm has a large pond, which is home to local types of fish, insects and frogs. She has cultured a small place for frogs to breed, which she uses for food as well as selling. In another section are crickets - insects very popular in Thailand, consumed as fried food. She learnt the cultivation from scratch and now earns quite well.
If you walk past this room, you'll find chickens and cattle on the other end. She has a section to produce natural fertilizers as well. Do you get it? It means she is not dependent on any specific crop or cultivation for her survival or income. And she makes sure products are recyclable and reusable. If rice cannot be grown, she can rely on fish, frogs, crickets, chickens and all the fruits and vice versa. She doesn't need to buy most of the things to cook as they are all there on her farm! She also has a planned water supply system in the form of a pond and a well for backup. From cattle comes all the byproducts along with the milk. Last but not least, she also a massage parlour, which uses her products to give a relaxing massage.
We had this educative tour around the farm with her, and it was now time to head back. I asked her one last question - What inspired her idea, for which she remembered her Late King's words, her source of inspiration. Like a true subject, she has implemented his view not only for her living, but to become a hero to inspire other women to become self-reliable entrepreneurs. Respect!
As we bid goodbye to her, train of thoughts ran through my mind - what if more people adopted the new policy, not only in Thailand but everywhere? Imagine how better could we be - responsible, self-reliable children of mother earth who would not destroy her systematically, but instead, respect, nurture and protect her and still live contentedly. What a beautiful earth would it be!