(I wanted to give you a good summary of what’s going on with Project WIN and how your gifts are being used, so I asked project advisor Dr. David McPhee to translate my message into very clear English.)
First, many thanks. Your generous gifts go a long way and we do everything we can to stretch them by using only volunteer labour and getting free or discounted materials whenever we can. Thank you so much. You have really made a difference. I want to update you on our demonstration sustainability project at Mae Vak.
- CHICKENS. We placed 50 baby chicks, 7 days old in the refurbished chicken coop weeks ago and I am happy to report that under the care of the villagers and children 46 have survived. They weigh about 1.5 kilos already.
- FROGS. We re-started the frog colony with 300 tadpoles about a month ago. They have turned into real frogs, lively and healthy, about 2 inches each. We want them to breed before any harvesting and hope we succeed. We are all learning about frogs and are doing a lot better this time than last time, in part because we are habituating them to the cooler temperatures in the mountains.
- MUSHROOMS. At this point we are buying the packets for growing, approximately 8-10 baht per pack. We don’t yet have the skill to pack them ourselves with the proper nutrients and culture, but we are learning. We had a problem with some bacteria, which killed about 20% of our cultures. The villagers have learned how carefully the “mushroom motel” must be cleaned before the cultures are placed there. We are getting better at this skill.
- FISH. The fish are doing well, but we need to improve our methods. Normally tilapia mature in 9-10 months in a village pond: ours are 13 months and while a good number are close to maturity, many are still fairly small.
We will harvest the largest fish to create more room for the smaller ones and we have begun consulting with a government agency conducting research on growing fish and also frogs in these settings. As you can see we are having many successes, but we are also in a learning mode.
The villagers are developing lasting skills as they face and resolve problems. This is the heart of our 100% grassroots approach. We help and we consult, but they are fully in charge of the projects and make all their own decisions. This may result in slower progress initially, but it will pay off in the development of lasting skills and a sense of pride in ownership long term.
We have begun work in another mountain village called Khunlao and several projects are already underway there. We will be having the annual Children’s Day celebration there on January 9. It is a beautiful village, very hilly and quite different from Mae Vak.
They grow fine coffee there and are attempting to sell to a wider market. It is also close to Chiang Mai, only an hour and 15 minutes away. We are applying a lot of what we are learning in Mae Vak to the new projects at Khunlao.
A little help from the BWG has been a big help to Project WIN.