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Another “Cabbages and Condoms” success story

Baht weakens on concerns over renewed violence: BoT


Another “Cabbages and Condoms” success story

Pattaya City Expats Club members are briefed on the progress of Baan Kok Klang Noi by the Village Development Committee.

B. Woods Mattingley

In the sixties, when Mechai Viravaidya (the privileged son of a prominent Thai family, who was then also the Thai Minister of Health) visited villages, he found children, more each year. The Thai population was soaring, and Mechai and his staff knew that population growth would soon overwhelm the country. Thailand was a poor country, and many of its people were rice farmers.

As Mechai studied village life, he realized that instead of making more money for himself, he really wanted to change lives.

Thus, in 1974, Mechai founded the NGO (or non-governmental organization) called Population and Community Development Association. Initially it promoted family planning, but when HIV developed, PDA fostered AIDS education and the use of condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Pattaya City Expats Club members receive a traditional
welcome from village elders at Baan Kok Klang Noi.

Mechai later developed the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant chain, with its profits providing funding for PDA. He also founded various C and C Resorts in Thailand, including Birds and Bees Resort in Pattaya. Instead of pestering people for donations, C and C invited restaurant-goers to have a good meal, in a “No Glove, No Love” atmosphere. The concept worked. C and C grew, and with it, PDA developed village-run programs to lift people out of poverty.

Recently, through their membership in Pattaya City Expats Club, a small group of donors was invited to tour the group’s own PDA-sponsored village in Buriram Province in northern Thailand. The trip was an eye-opener.

For years in America, I had been fascinated by micro-credit, whereby people with limited means could borrow money from a local micro-credit bank, repay that loan over time, and establish their own entrepreneurial businesses.

In the United States, many may think of new businesses costing hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to establish, and usually substantial bank or private loans are required.

The Baan Kok Klang Noi Village Story

But in still-developing Thailand, PCEC donor/members recently visited the 350-person Baan Kok Klang Noi village whose average income is THB25,000 per person per year.

Villagers of Baan Kok Klang Noi, Pattaya City Expats Club (sponsors), and staff of the Population & Community Development Association (NGO) pose in front of the project signboard in Buriram.

PDA’s Village Development Project (VDP) is BKKN’s backer. After 35 BKKN villagers planted 10,000 trees, PDA initially invested THB300,000 in the Village Development Bank (VDB) - but the cost of training, community empowerment, management, and PDA oversight, was covered by the remaining 500,000 baht. The 300,000 baht investment funded the bank, and allowed for initial loans to be made to the villagers.

To become eligible for a loan, villagers had to become bank shareholders and make regular deposits for six months. Only after a shareholder accumulates a sufficient balance is he permitted to apply for a loan. Loan decisions are made by Village Development Bank members.

Because Thailand is still developing, a village may loan entrepreneurial monies for a food stand, a handicraft business, motorcycle repair shop, tailor shop, or for catfish or pig-raising. The new business owner starts a business with his loan from the VDB, and begins repaying his loan monthly. As the loans are repaid - and historically most loans are repaid in full - the bank can make other loans. This is grassroots micro-credit lending in action - it works. The real plus: there is no middle man bleeding off village profits.

Baan Kok Klang Noi is villager-run: villagers are trained in banking, accounting and financial management (and why it’s necessary to save money), income generation (developing small businesses to become sustainable), village water storage planning/tank construction and the piping of water for irrigation (to provide rice and vegetables for sale), education (students chosen to attend the highly recognized Lamplaimat Pattana School), health (for sanitation planning, H1N1 and HIV/AIDS prevention, and to learn about dental care and flossing), and the environment (tree planting).

There is also the Green Village Toy Library, which is run and managed by village youth. Initially toys were donated to the library; more will come. In order for a youths to borrow a toy from the library, she/he has to do community volunteer work. Toys may be borrowed for a week at a time, and the Junior Leaders meticulously record which toy is being loaned, to whom, and for how long. I was particularly struck by how meticulous the leaders were in toy record keeping.

Where does PDA obtain its initial village bank investment? PDA seeks financial commitments from companies or organizations wishing to sponsor a village. As members of Pattaya City Expats Club, our group made the financial commitment to fund the necessary one million baht required for a village bank; however, in the case of Baan Kok Klang Noi, PDA had already accomplished some preliminary work from its budget’s leftover funds.

For that reason, and because Baan Kok Klang Noi is a smaller village than most, PDA determined that 800,000 baht would suffice. PCEC’s Friends of PDA donated 500,000 baht, but when they could not reach the required goal of one million baht, one of the PCEC members who is also a member of Rotary Clubs International, Philip Wall Morris, went before his UK Rotary Club, and they made a substantial donation of 100,000 baht. Those Rotary Club monies, when added to PCEC’s Friends of PDA funds, plus 200,000 given by Mechai, himself, funded the Baan Kok Klang Noi Village Bank.

“Field of Dreams” - Villagers in Baan Kok Klang Noi pose with Pattaya City Expats Club members and staff of the Population & Community Development Association (NGO) in front of one of their projects.

With funding from the World Bank, the Thai Government, and the Village Development Project, the village has already constructed two large-capacity water tanks, and this water can be bought by BKKN village farmers at the low rate of 3 baht per cubic meter. The village has plans to construct additional tank(s) and to lay more piping for irrigation.

These villages are successful because participating villagers must “buy into” their village, as all projects are villager designed and operated. The villager must “own” his village. When people own their lives, and do not have to rely upon others or the government, success occurs; self-reliance works.

Over the past 20 years, the VDP model has been used in over 400 villages. Baan Kok Klang Noi is an excellent example of what sustainable villages may become, not only in Thailand, but in other Asian countries with similar populations.

Mechai, the original “Mister Condom,” has fulfilled his ideal of creating spectacular change in rural Thailand.

Are you interested? Can you interest your company or club in sponsoring a new village? What can you do to help? Your 100 baht per week or even 1,000 baht per month, in concert with others, may be all it takes to change a village. Change a village; change a life.

Please call PDA (02-229-4611, extension 810, or email Paul Salvette at paulsalvette @gmail.com) to invite one of its representatives to speak to your company or organization. Or you may contact Mechai Viravaidya directly at: [email protected] PDA’s website is: http://village devlopmentpartnership.org.

Online donations are also possible via: http://pdi-global.org/how2donate.asp

(Thanks go to David Garmaise, founder of PCEC’s Friends of PDA, and PDA’s Paul Salvette, in Bangkok, for the vetting of this story.)



Baht weakens on concerns over renewed violence: BoT

The baht has continued weakening because investors are concerned over the renewed violent clashes between the military and anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship-led protesters, according to the Bank of Thailand (BoT).

BoT Assistant Governor Suchada Kirakul said foreign investors had apparently begun to sell the baht and remit the dollar home to a certain extent.

Sales of the baht are still proceeding although the volume remains thin, she said.

The spate of political violence has shaken investor confidence. Some sold shares and brought money to invest in other instruments, particularly in bonds.

She said the baht is now considered volatile by itself and in tandem with the global situation, but its volatility is not heavier than that of other regional currencies.

Currency is still moving at an acceptable level. Although foreign investors sold the baht and purchased dollars to remit money home, earners of incomes in foreign currencies are waiting for the perfect timing to sell the dollar, resulting in a balancing of the currency movement.

On a comment by a top economist that the baht was very likely to touch 31.5 to the dollar at year-end, Suchada said the currency had both strengthened and weakened.

Although Thailand has experienced internal and external difficulties, the economy continues growing partly because of the global economic recovery.

She revealed the BoT’s Monetary Policy Committee earlier wanted to see the policy interest rate return to a normal level, its hopes were dashed by the current political crisis. (TNA)