Very recently, Sen. Grace Poe made a speech in the Senate batting for an intensified school feeding program. She stressed the need for a sustained program that will address the nutritional requirements of school children.
We agree that a physically and mentally healthy young generation will surely ensure a population that will be more productive, leading to a more prosperous and, hopefully, a more peaceful citizenry.
This reminds us of a practical school feeding program undertaken as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) of Thailand’s biggest conglomerate – Charoen Pokphand. The company is big in agricultural projects such as poultry and livestock, aquaculture (particularly shrimps), feed mills and seeds. We have been fortunate to observe the program first hand.
Instead of the usual noodles being given to the school children, CP as the conglomerate is called for short, established a poultry project in each of the schools under its program. The company provided the initial layers and feeds as well as the technical guidance so that the project became sustainable.
About 500 or more layers are kept in cages in a very small portion of the school compound. These are fed with feeds initially supplied by CP. Eggs are prepared for lunch by students in the higher grades.
Some of the eggs collected daily are sold in the market. And the income is used to pay for subsequent feeds needed by the birds and other expenses such as replacement of old layers. The scheme is sustainable. Surely, fresh eggs plus vegetables are more nutritious than noodles.
THAI KING, FARMERS’ FRIEND – The other day, we got an invitation from the Thai Ambassador Prasas Prasasvinitchai, inviting us to a reception in a Makati hotel on the occasion of the 87th birth anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The invitation reminded us about the Thai King as a true friend of farmers. One proof is his Chitralada project that he set up right inside the 100-hectare compound of the Royal Palace in the heart of Bangkok. We have visited the project two times in the past few years. Another proof is his all-out support for the biggest dairy cooperative in Thailand, the Nong Pho Dairy.
At the Chitralada project, the king wanted to develop practical farming techniques that could be adopted by ordinary farmers. Thus, today one can find a wide variety of projects that include dairy farming, rice, fruits, vegetables, aquaculture, processing plants for fruits and vegetables, medicinal plants and more.
Because the projects are designed to be doable by the ordinary farmers, they are relatively small ‘non-profit’ projects. But there are also what they call the ‘semi-profit’ projects that are operated on a commercial basis. Just like the milk processing plant which is supplied with fresh milk by the farmers. The plant serves as a market for the dairy farmers. This encourages them to go into dairying because it is a good source of income.
The Royal Project has also a showcase of a biogas system where the animal manure is used to generate gas for cooking or for lighting.
At the time of our last visit, the dairy processing plant processed about 50 tons of milk every day into various products like pasteurized homogenized milk for sale to wholesalers who are members and to various schools at a specially-low price to improve the health of young people, and acquaint them with the value of fresh milk. Yoghurt, ice cream and milk tablets are other products.
Aside from cow’s milk, the Chitralada project processes juices that include pasteurized natural sugarcane juice, roselle drink, ginger beverage, Bael fruit drink, chrysanthemum tea, lime juice and others.
The Royal Project also cultures a lot of mushrooms, including those with medicinal attributes. One such mushroom is the Ganoderma which is claimed to be useful in treating or preventing cancer.
Medicinal herbs are also popularized at the Chitralada project. It is maintaining a medicinal plant garden which boasts more than 200 species known to have medicinal value.
Another important advocacy is the conservation of plant genetic resources. The objective is to conserve endangered indigenous plants of agricultural importance by setting up a genebank to provide a database and genetic material for the improvement of crops.