Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

BAAC and FAO cooperating in building rural self-help groups

Thailand, 09 Sep 2004 -- Bangkok – Part of a far-reaching strategy to address poverty and food security in Thailand, cooperation with BAAC focuses on building rural self-help groups, an FAO statement said today.

Thai farmers have to respond to emerging challenges posed by the globalized market and the impact of free trade agreements in terms of productivity, and quality and food safety standards of their produce. They need to invest in new production technologies and tools as well as equipment for processing, packaging, storage and transport.

“Small farmers are unable to successfully respond to such enormous challenges unless they are organized into producer groups or agricultural cooperatives”, stated He Changchui, FAO’s regional chief during a meeting today in Bangkok with Pittayapol Nattaradol, president of the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC).

FAO actively promotes small farmer group associations as a means of delivering services and strengthening rural producers’ capacity to help themselves. Formation of small groups is the first step in a longer process of building more viable and sustainable organizations serving the needs of small-scale rural producers.

“FAO’s cooperation with BAAC addresses key factors in the persistence of poverty, the widening of the gap between the affluent and the poor, the inequality in access to the benefits of economic and technological progress, and the continued risk of disaster-related and complex emergencies,” Mr He added.

BAAC – as a public institution delivering services to farmers and rural private sector organizations such as agricultural producer groups – is striving to respond effectively to actual farmers’ needs, FAO said.

Three FAO publications - drawing on 30 years of pioneering use of the small group approach in Asia – were recently translated by BAAC into Thai language under a co-publishing agreement. These guides and training manuals are distributed to 600 BAAC branches for use by 7 500 of its staff for a programme on participatory approaches for strengthening group-based savings and lending by small farmers, informal savings and credit groups, village funds, community enterprises and cooperatives on a country wide basis.

Pittayapol Nattaradol said that the new mandate of BAAC as a rural development bank gives the bank a wider mandate to support rural business. BAAC is thus better placed than other Thai banks to serve the large numbers of farm families and their enterprises in rural areas. Its country-wide network of branches and high quality staff help to develop rural enterprises and invest in growth. BAAC has taken pro-active steps – such as its cooperation with FAO – to enhance its business advisory services for micro-finance and micro-business.

Pilot testing of development approaches with support from the European Union in nine provinces has proved very successful, BAAC added. The bank is currently expanding its wholesaling strategy in rural development banking to cover the entire country. The FAO publications translated into Thai assist its staff to adopt modern group development skills.

RAP 04/31