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Fruitful crop switch

By: Achara Pongvutitham, The Nation (Thailand) April 9, 2002, Tuesday

Fruitful crop switch

Jai Saeyang is a Hmong farmer who is trying to make a living from a legal crop instead of growing opium.

Jai says he started growing chill-tolerant temperate fruits such as peaches and plums about five years ago at the suggestion of officials from the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry.

He has enjoyed increased yield and a higher quality of fruit over the past three years through careful attention to his peach trees.

"Good quality products mean higher income," he says.

Last year, Jai's three rai of peach trees yielded only 200 kilograms of fruit and earned him only Bt10,000. But he hopes to harvest at least 1,000 kilograms this year as he concentrates more on better farm management. And he expects the price for the fruit to reach Bt60-Bt70 per kilogram by selling it through a Royal Projects marketing arm.

Jai graduated from the Teachers' College in Chiang Rai, where he learned how to improve not only his own life but that of his neighbours. His family is not unlike those of other hill-tribes people whose main sources of income are growing opium trees and destroying forests.

Jai said he turned his land into growing fruit, vegetables and flowers following the suggestions of the government officials. He has learned about farm technology that allows him to enjoy high yields, good quality and high prices. He is also a member of the "Quality-of-Life" development project of the World Vision Foundation of Thailand. The organisation encourages poor people to achieve sustainable development.

The World Vision Foundation has asked for assistance from the Agriculture Ministry to provide plant-breeding materials ("scions") and grafting technology to hill-tribes people.

Achara Pongvutitham