Department of Agricultural Extension assigns officers in the
highlands to work with ethnic minorities in promoting proven rural
poverty alleviation practices. The temperate climate in these areas
favours the production of strawberries, a lucrative crop, because
demand is high and profit margins are large.
In one valley, an
extension officer profiled 26 families growing strawberries on
adjacent plots. While most growers obtained a net profit of
US$190-245 per rai (one acre = 2.5 rai), one grower consistently
achieved a net profit of US$542 per rai, more than double the
average net return. The officers approached the successful farmer
with the request to train his neighbours on his methods. Interest
among his neighbours was high. The training was offered at no
charge, on condition that the neighbours contributed labour at each
step of the process. In this way, the successful farmer obtained
free labour for the entire season.
One trainee was
selected from each of the 25 neighbouring family farms and given
hands-on training on each step of the procedure. After they returned
to their own farms, most trainees were able to double their income
that year. The enhanced cooperation also encouraged families to sell
their produce as a group, furthering their bargaining power.
Market potential was
excellent. Demand for strawberries far exceeded production-yields.
Attractive berries were sold at premium prices to the national
airline flight kitchen, while lower quality berries were sold to
agribusinesses to produce strawberry jam.