Huai Nai Roi Community Coffee Farmer Group from La-un District, Ranong province is a group that likes to gather and its members are interested in and actively cooperate in group activities. While in the past, the group has had access to different kind of activities supported by both the public and private sectors, there has been a lack of continuity in terms of group development. Within the framework of the Coffee+ project, facilitating group development and strengthening farmer groups are part of the project’s key interventions and aimed at enhancing sustainability for farmers both as individuals and communities.
Coffee+ contributes to the development and strengthening of the farmer groups through training on Farmer Business School (FBS) that allows farmers and farmer groups to learn about production planning, record-keeping of costs, revenue, profit and loss, diversification through the coffee intercropping model, and how to increase yields and reduce production costs. The project team has regularly conducted follow up and coaching to ensure the adoption of key FBS practices. In order to better understand and design activities that fit the needs of farmer groups, the project conducted one workshop on identifying problems and obstacles related to farming in general and coffee farming in particular, as well as the needs for further development. The results showed that in addition to the growing of coffee and other crops, this group has other sub-group activities such as raising cows and broom making.
With regard to growing coffee, the group was trained by an agronomist from Nestle (Thai) Ltd. on mixed fertilizers to reduce the cost of farming (by mixing the three primary types of fertilizers in the specified ratio). The group indicated that the main problem they faced was the price of supplies, especially fertilizer costs that constantly increase. This has significant impact on production costs. The group demonstrated a high level of interest in learning from other successful farmer groups. Therefore, a study trip activity was organized at the Community Fertilizer Soil Management Centre. The group’s leader, Mr. Samruay Khunthongnoi, shared the background and success of the group, whose members are mostly coffee growers in Moo 3, Bangmud Village, Kraburi District, Ranong Province.
The Community Fertilizer Soil Management Center is a learning center on how to make compost from coffee husks. The compost has received a high-quality organic fertilizer certificate from the Department of Land Development. The group activity started with how to make the best use out of agricultural wastes from the farm and how to utilize them. The group then started meeting regularly and has now been active for more than 20 years. Currently there are 30 members.
The success factors of this group are a shared vision, the same objectives, the unity of group members, the way they manage within the group, respect for each other and respect for the group’s agreements. An example of this is that when the date for making compost from the coffee husks is agreed, all members must participate. In case any member is absent, he or she will not have any share of the compost made in that year at all. Making compost cannot be finished in one session. The mulch needs to remain in a compost pile for a certain period and be turned from time to time until the compost is ready to be used. During these processes, group members need to be involved. In case some of the members are not able to take part, they have to send a representative to join the activity. The rules and penalties for not participating and the respect of the members for these allows the group to operate successfully.
Besides making compost from coffee husks, which is the key activity and key product of this group, they also make bio-fermented water from fish, Trichodema fungi, and provide a soil analysis service. The primary intention in making the compost is that all members can save costs by applying this compost to their field. However, any compost left over can be sold to generate income for the group. The amount of compost sold externally each year varies depending on the inputs for compost making and the needs for compost of its members. Farmers from Huai Nai Roi group had the opportunity to learn step by step and in great detail how to make compost from the coffee husks. They also had chance to visit a plot on which coffee, durian, and other fruit trees are cultivated that is well-nourished by the compost from coffee husks made by the group.
The farmers then proceeded to visit 2 demonstration plots that have been using an integrated coffee farming system for more than 3 years. The 2 plots are located in Chai Rat, Bang Saphan Noi District, Prachuap Khiri Khan province. The first plot belongs to Khun Kan Raksanit and features a combination of more than 11 robusta coffee varieties. Coffee as the key crop is grown with other crops such as papaya, rice, betel nut, and pumpkins which are rotated during the year. The second plot belongs to Khun Pichet Niambandit. The visiting farmers learned about the integrated farming system of coffee growing with papaya, betel nut, coconut, pumpkin and other crops that generate revenue all year round. In addition, they learned how to improve soil nutrition by growing Arachis Pintoi as a cover crop. This will allow soil to maintain moisture as well as create a favourable condition of soil microorganisms.
Ms. Chanidapa Wiramonphon, a representative from Huai Nai Roi coffee farmer group said: “My thanks go to the Project for organizing this good activity, it made me realize the importance of doing group activities. I gained very useful information. I learned how to convert agricultural wastes to compost from coffee husks which can be applied to the farm as well as generate additional income. Personally, my farm has very bad soil. The soil has degraded because I have grown coffee for a long time. Learning how to make compost from the Bangmud group has encouraged me to try to make it myself and apply it to my farm. We might upscale it to a group activity.”
After visiting the demonstration plot with the integrated farming system of Khun Pichet, Mr. Sakol Piewkham, who owns a demonstration plot with an integrated coffee farming system similar to that of Khun Pichet said: “The weather in Ranong Province and Prachuap Khiri Khan Province may not be all that different. The yield of the coffee plots indicates that the farm owner takes very good care of his plot. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to exchange ideas and approaches on farm management. I will apply new ideas and the methods learned to both my garden and support other farmer members.”
Such study visits allow for the exchange of ideas and learning among farmers, inspiring them to take best practices on farms/plots and apply the knowledge gained to their own plots. Moreover, it can further promote group activities that can be done together such as making compost from coffee husks. In addition, it creates a good opportunity for farmers to get to know each other and create a network among farmers who live in different areas.