Original story by Kanyapan Chamchuen, intern for Heifer Thailand from Naresuan University. Photos by Kanyapan Chamchuen and Heifer Thailand staff.

Mr. Suraphol Takham, Heifer Thailand program
officer (second from left) and Kae Noy villagers
built a check-dam to store water for the dry season.
The sunset was almost gone, and the weather was getting cooler as we ascended to a higher altitude. It was hard to drive in the dark with no traffic lights, and we had to be careful not to hit the cows relaxing in the middle of the road. I learned that these animals love to lie on the asphalt road after dusk because it is nice and warm from the heat stored during the day. The program officer from Heifer Thailand explained that the cows live as a herd in the forest, eating wild grass, during the cool season. During the rainy season, when grass may be easily grown, they will live in a corral. 

Life is more laid-back in the rural area than in the city. Everything seems to be slow and relaxed. It was nice to open the car windows and feel the breeze, but the smell of rotten fish in the back of the truck interrupted us occasionally. When cars passed us on our journey, I found myself worrying about the safety of the cattle on the road. It even felt a bit like we were trespassing as we drove past them.

A community facilitator accepts
the gift of rotten fish to distribute
to Kae Noy villagers.
The purpose of our trip was to visit the self-help groups at Kae Noy community in Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai province, to follow up on the project’s progress and give them the rotten fish. We reached our destination quite late in the evening, and we stayed at Community Facilitator Sakdawut Jasae’s house. Jasae greeted us with a sincere smile. Before we could rest, we had to carry the rotten fish from the truck. “This is a special gift for the villagers,” said Program Officer Suraphol Takham. I was thinking, “What? This is stinky, rotten fish, so who would want to have it?!” Takham continued, “This is very good organic fertilizer, and the villagers will learn to use any leftovers from their cooking to make the compost for their farms. This will help them be safe by not using chemical fertilizers and will improve the quality of the soil.” Then it made sense. Rotten fish is good for farmers, as well as the environment.

Kae Noy villagers plant
trees during a
reforestation activity.
During our stay at Sakdawut’s house, he shared with us that few families did farming before, since most of the villagers migrating from Burma had no farmland. While in Burma, many villagers were involved with drug trafficking, while some sold forest products. The lack of water during the dry season also made farming a challenge. “When Heifer implemented the project here in late 2009, the trainings were on the values of one’s life, as well as other trainings to enhance our capacities, especially on animal management and environmental preservation. We also organized environmental preservation tasks regularly, such as reforestation and check-dam building to slow down water flow during rainy season and to store the water for the dry season,” said Sakdawut, with smiling eyes. 

Suraphol, the program officer, said that the life has gradually improved for the villagers since implementation of the Heifer project and they are no longer involved with drugs or illegal labor.

Joining this field trip has been a good learning experience for me. With results like friendship, happiness, cohesiveness and security, the success is immeasurable. I also realized the benefit of rotten fish. I hope that, after I graduate from the university, I will have a chance to do something good for our people and society.

Author

Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She has a master's in social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is married, a mother of two, and a wannabe urban farmer, raising her own chickens and killing most of her vegetable crops.