Farmers ditch rubber for goats
Pattani locals make money sustainably using royal techniques
Modern goat-farming techniques introduced by the Pid Thong Lang Phra Foundation -- a royally sponsored initiative which applies the sufficiency economy philosophy of King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great -- have allowed Muslim residents of Ban Surao in Pattani's Yanare district to weather the rubber glut and improve their quality of life.
The foundation, which is keen to uphold the late king's legacy of caring for rural communities, has been advising residents on how to run and manage commercial goat farms since 2006, after it came to their attention that many commercial goat farms in the area weren't run and managed properly.
That year, foundation representatives -- along with its secretary-general MR Disnadda Diskul -- visited the area. They started off by teaching interested residents about new farming and animal-rearing methods that could increase their yields and profits.
To get them started, the foundation donated 25 Black Bengal goats, along with some money to construct standard livestock fences and shelter.
Black Bengals were chosen because they reach sexual maturity faster than most other breeds, and each doe can give birth to a litter of one to three kids each year.
The breed, which is commonly found throughout Bangladesh, is also known to be highly adaptable and has strong disease resistance.
Since then, the farm has turned into a profitable business -- and the number of goat farmers in the area is rapidly increasing, locals said. There are currently about 100 families in the area who are making a living from raising goats.
These families are also members of a local community enterprise, which takes in their products to be sold at target markets.
Sunee Chumnopparat, 46, chairwoman of the Ban Surao goat farming community enterprise, said the community enterprise was first established in 2000.
At that time, it had only 10 members, and the Pattani Provincial Livestock Office donated eight goats to each member to raise, she said.
Ever since the foundation came to the area, it has been working closely with the community enterprise to promote proper goat-farming techniques, she said.
"Now, goat farming is popular here and the number of farmers registering is increasing every year," Ms Sunee told the Bangkok Post.
Ms Sunee believed more and more people in the area are turning to goat farming because of the sharp drop in rubber prices.
She said the community enterprise has about 100 goats from its members which are ready to be sold to consumers.
Goats which are less than 2 years old and weigh about 15 kilogrammes are sold for between 3,000-5,000 baht, while older, goats which weigh more than 30kg are sold at 170 baht per kg, she explained.
"Goats from our community are popular because we raise them in accordance with halal customs and practices," she said.
"We don't let them roam around and eat what they can find. Instead, the goats here are fed and housed in a secured enclosure."
According to Ms Sunee, each member can get around 20,000 baht every six months from raising and selling their goats.
"In the past, they could expect to earn just 7,000-8,000 baht every six months," she said.
She also said local goat-farming community members are earning more money than before, because they started growing napier grass for the goats to graze on instead of buying commercial feed.
Ms Sunee said the community has also set up a "goat-raising fund". Each member is required to deposit 50 baht each month into the fund, which is to be used in emergencies. The fund is also used to fund the community's learning centre, where farmers from the deep South can go to learn new, more efficient animal rearing techniques.
"I used the money I earned from raising and selling goats to send my three children to school," she said, adding that her eldest has a degree in English literature and is now working as a teacher.
Her second child has just finished vocational studies, while her youngest is in Grade 6, she went on.
Losia Doloh, another farmer, said she has turned to goat farming after suffering heavy losses due to the falling prices of latex and rubber.
"I'm so happy. I also used all the money I earned to send my children to school," she said.
"My eldest daughter is a nurse, my second is a teacher, while my youngest is now studying at Prince of Songkla University."