The CBDC-BUCAP Programme in Thailand:
Something Old, Something New
Students from Monk school learning about PGR CDU
Thailand is a country rich in traditional ceremonies. The belief of its people that offerings must be made to the gods and goddesses for various intentions is apparent in every aspect of their lives. In agriculture, one of the ceremonies practiced is the Bun Kaw Mai, a tradition in which a portion of the harvested rice seeds is presented at the temple as offering for blessing and protection. And this ceremony is one of the unique features of Community Biodiversity Development Conservation-Biodiversity Use and Conservation Programme (CBDC- BUCAP) in Thailand.
Of ceremonies and monks
Farmers‟ field days (FFD) are opportunities used for exchange of ideas and showcasing of varieties developed, including marketing of products. The Bun Kaw Mai has become a ritual and is performed in these gatherings. With integration in the FFD, the project contributes in the preservation of a traditional ceremony and, at the same time, promotes farmers' varieties.
Another distinct feature of the project is the partnership forged with a Buddhist monk school which stemmed from the need of the monks to have continuous supply of rice for their consumption. The monks used to be dependent on the community for their provisions daily until CBDC-BUCAP entered the picture and a member of the community donated a parcel of land for the use of the students.
Starting them young
The inclusion of plant genetic resources' conservation, development, and use (PGR CDU) in the curricula of formal schools provides students with opportunities not just to learn theories and concepts but to experience actual farm work. One student from the Satthasiraphetrangsan Secondary School recalled how tired she got the first time she planted rice, but added that though the labor was difficult, working with the group was enjoyable.
The FFS is used to teach the subject of Biology. Each student is assigned one variety to study and instead of the school teachers, farmers provided the inputs and acted as instructors when they did the explaining regarding rice farming. Aside from learning practical application of concepts on biology, students are also able to interact with the families of the farmers when they visit the farms.
The experience of students with FFS was found to be very rewarding such that one wrote about this in his application for a scholarship to take agriculture as his college major. Another student presented the lessons and experiences in FFS in his application in the Faculty of Chulalongkorn University and was able to obtain a scholarship portfolio.
Being there when needed
The program faced a major test on its capacity to fill in huge volume of seeds needed when a great flood affected Nan province. It was able to respond to the crisis by sending seeds to affected farmers through the Kuan Kao Seed Fund. This not only contributed to the spread and expansion of farmers‟ varieties but also provided a good example of local resource mobilization.