Small grants reducing unemployment and increasing livelihoods in southern ThailandFeb 8, 2016
In Ja-Nga village, Paka Harang sub-district, Muang district, at the home of 67-year-old Dolwahab Ma-ea and his wife, the only noise to be heard coming from the newly built Barakat Farm house in their back yard where they raise goats, is the rustling of tree branches. It is feeding time for the twenty healthy goats recently purchased upon receivership of a small grant from UNDP’s Southern Thailand Empowerment and Participation (STEP) Project. After feeding and providing water to the goats, a jovial Dolwahab says, “I love these goats, that’s why we have this sign Goat Lovers Farm,” whilst pointing to the sign written in Thai.
The small grants awarded by the STEP II Project to eight community projects in targeted provinces in southern Thailand, are generously financed by the Japan-UNDP Partnership Fund. The small grants aim to assist local communities to become more resilient amid the ongoing violent conflict in southern Thailand, through the improvement of their livelihoods. The provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and four districts within Songkhla province (Chana, Thepha, Na Thawi, and Saba Yoi) are located in southern Thailand, where on a regular basis, violent incidents take place, resulting in numerous civilian casualties. The on-going violent conflicts in the three provinces have significantly hindered human development. According to UNDP’s Human Achievement Index 2014, the province of Pattani is ranked 76th on the employment index out of the 76* provinces in Thailand, where the majority of residents are Malay-Muslim and make up about 88 per cent of the population.
The STEP II Project seeks to broadened participation in the “peace processes” through the strengthened capacity of local peace networks and better access to information; increased access to justice for vulnerable groups; and aiding greater social cohesion and resilience of local communities through the improvement of livelihoods.
Before establishing the Barakat Farm, Dolwahab, a father of five, carried out a variety jobs to financially support his family. He made roofs constructed from palm leaves, raised a few goats and worked in his rice paddy. “It used to take a long time to sell the goats and I would earn around 42,000 Thai Baht (US$1,168) per year. I would sell roughly seven goats a year for 8,000 Thai Baht (US$222) each,” recalls Dolwahab. “I would sell the roofs and the goats on the main road. People purchased the goats mainly for religious ceremonies and my family and I just about survived on the money I earned,” added Dolwahab
Due to Dolwahab’s good reputation in his village for raising goats, he was contacted by a staff member at the local Livestock Department who informed him about the STEP II Project’s small grants programme which were available to community projects. Dolwahab, excited by the opportunity to expand his goat raising business further, gathered nine friends and neighbours to discuss setting up the goat raising business on a bigger scale. He contacted the STEP II Project to obtain more information.
In June 2015, Dolwahab and two other members from his community project, were among 30 people from eight selected community projects who attended a three-day training programme as part of UNDP’s STEP II Project to improve the livelihoods of local communities. The training was facilitated by UNDP in partnership with the College of Islamic Studies. The training covered topics like proposal writing, marketing, and product development. “I especially liked engaging and networking with people from other community projects,” said Dolwahab when asked about the training. “I found the session on financial management, public speaking and communications quite useful. Most importantly, we learned about value added and getting the most out of the product. I enjoy raising the goats, but I just didn’t know how to expand it further, and the training provided me with the information I needed to fulfil my dreams,” he added.
After completing the training, Dolwahab and his partners, worked closely with the STEP II Project team to draft a project proposal for their goat raising business. They submitted the proposal to the Small Grants Committee, which included representatives from the College of Islamic Studies, the Institute for Peace Studies, the Center for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity, the Faculty of Communication Sciences, and King Prajadhipok’s Institute. Within a month of their submission, the group were informed their proposal was successful and were awarded a small grant of US$827 one month later.
With the newly acquired small grant, Dolwahab and his partners acted fast and commissioned work to build Barakat Farm. The building took twenty-seven days to complete which quickly followed the purchase of twenty goats. Based on the budget, group members were assigned to looking after two goats each. The group used the remaining funds of the small grant to ensure the farm was a sustainable community enterprise, and to obtain additional training for group members.
Building social cohesion
Since receiving the small grant, Dolwahab has high hopes for the group’s goat raising venture. He envisages his income will increase by an additional 16,000 Thai Baht (US$443) a year. He plans to re-invest the money earned by purchasing more goats. “We are thinking about getting more value added from the goats,” said Dolwahab excitedly. “Many years ago I used to run a restaurant, so I can use my culinary skills to sell curry goat, goat burgers, and goat soup made to order. We’re so excited about the endless possibilities,” he explained.
Additionally, Dolwahab noted that since Barakat Farm was built, the community has grown significantly closer. “Whilst feeding the goats in the morning and in the evenings, we gather and talk, and as a community we’ve become more unified. We’ve used the extra space at the farm as a meeting place to discuss issues in the village and for holding celebratory gatherings. It is also used as a learning centre. So many people from other districts have visited our farm and see it as a good model for raising goats. They’ve taken what they learnt from us, and I believe a group in Songkhla province have set up a similar business after visiting our farm," said Dolwahab proudly.
*There were 76 provinces in Thailand when the UNDP Thailand Human Development Index report was published.
Ms. Angelique Reid, Communication and Partnership Officer
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