Sustainable Irrigation Management Project of Huay Klai Reservoir Under Royal Initiative
Kok Lam and Saeng A-ram Villages, Kut Mak Fire Subdistrict, Nong Wua Sor District, Udon Thani Province
January 2011 – Present
The Project was initiated under the cooperation amongst organizations established under royal initiative, central-local government and local people. At the start, the Chaipattana Foundation selected the Huay Klai reservoir out of approximately 1,000 underutilised reservoirs throughout the country. The Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage was subsequently entrusted by the Royal Initiative Discovery Institute (RIDI) to integrate its irrigation best practices and “Understand, Reach Out and Develop” concept with the farming best practices of the Model Farm at Her Majesty the Queen’s Initiative of Northeast Region. The Ministry of Interior provides financial support whereas Udon Thani Provincial Administration Organization actively involves itself in all activities.
Why Huay Klai Reservoir?
Thailand’s rainfall is more than abundant. Still, many parts of the country are persistently affected by drought due to the lack of irrigation management. Huay Klai reservoir was an example of this. In January 2011, the geographical survey revealed that the reservoir was in perfect condition, yet villagers in the catchment area could not fully benefit from it since there was no proper water distribution system. It is only in the rain season that the water level rises high enough to flow over the spillway into small creeks. From these creeks which are lower than their agricultural land, the villagers had to pump the water up to their plots. Some even constructed small waterways with weirs to raise the water level. When the dry season arrives, all of these methods prove useless, leave the villagers with their empty barren land which could hardly grow anything.
What Has Been Done?
In March 2011, when the villagers became aware of their own problems and felt the need to act, all partners started passing on knowledge by working closely with the villagers in every step. The core concept mainly focuses on empowering people and maximizing the existing resources.
- Irrigation System Improvement
After the geographical survey had been carried out together by the project staff and the villagers, the capacity of the reservoir was enhanced in accordance with its structure. Small foundation posts built on its spillway allowed more 30,000 cubic metres of storage capacity. A 1,520-metre pipeline was built along and the existing weirs were repaired and improved its capacity to contain and control water. The Project has also incorporated the improvement of Huay Karn Lueng and Huay Kham Kae reservoirs located in the nearby area, which helped increase the catchment area from 128 to 286 hectares.
- Agricultural Knowledge Enhancement
While the irrigation system was on the way, the villagers were gradually equipped with knowledge of the Model Farm. At first, two plots of one hectare and three hectares, owned by two hard-working villagers, were selected as pilot plots. The owners were guided through multi-storey cropping and livestock techniques that maximize the capacity of their land. The owners learned to grow what they eat and sell what is left in less than 2-month time. Like a chain reaction, an immediate success attracted other villagers to learn from them. As of June 2012, the best practices of the 2 pilot plots have already been replicated on agricultural land of 152 out of the total 196 families.
- Management Skills Strengthening
As more people started to do farming, greater number of seeds became necessary. If each farmer buys seeds and sells produce on his own, the cost could be too high, the bargaining power and the product competitiveness could be limited. The villagers were therefore encouraged to establish revolving funds for the management of production and sale. As of now, the villagers are operating 6 revolving funds in total: paddy seeds, vegetable seeds, livestock, medication, marketing and cooking for study visitors.
What Do The People Get?
With an abundant amount of water, the villagers, once dependent on food from local markets, have become self-reliant farmers who consume and earn a living from their own agricultural produce. As of June 2012 or within a year and a half, the preceding crops alone have generated an average income of 500 baht per plot per month. The livestock revolving fund has earned 96,400 baht from the sale of 70 piglets. The rice production increased from 2200-2800 kgs to 3800 kgs per hectar. Also, it is expected that the income from rice will increase from 3,920,000 baht to 13,868,400 baht, or increase by 9,651,200 baht.
Besides an increase in their income, the villagers have been firmly instilled with the concept of irrigation, farming and revolving fund management through their participation in every step of the project. With better living condition, many labors working abroad are returning home. Yet the hard-working villagers never stop, they keep coming up with new ideas to improve their hometown. Parts of the profit from study visits were paid to construct the community rice mill. They also arranged a study visit to another province for themselves to learn how to make organic fertilizer. Most important of all, they now have confidence to stand on their own feet, no need to wait for help from outside.
After a group of villagers fell ill and their medical check-up indicated an extremely high level of toxics in their bodies, caused by prolonged use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the Saeng A-ram community all agreed that synthetic chemicals were not only higher in cost, but also hazardous to each individual and the environment. The use of organic fertilizer made of local animal waste has then been strongly encouraged in their farming.
Nowadays the villages of Kok Lam and Saeng A-ram have become a real-life classroom of our Living University. As of June 2012, 42 groups of 7,523 study visitors from government and private sectors have been witness to the Project – the rural development that the locals take full ownership.