Bangkok, Thailand, 15 Oct 2012 -- Today Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presented FAO awards to four Asian farmers from Malaysia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Thailand for their outstanding achievements in agriculture and food production.
A model poultry farmer from Mongolia, Mr Bold Jigjid
Growing up in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Baataar, Bold Jigjid never dreamed of becoming a farmer. His parents were workers in a garment factory, and as a boy he imagined piloting aircraft or competing as a professional swimmer. When he came of age, his parents sent him to university to study economics and business administration. After he graduated, he landed a job as a loan officer in a local bank.
It was good work. Bold Jigjid extended loans to people wanting to start or expand small businesses. “I liked helping people succeed,’’ he says.
Although he grew up in a city, Bold married a girl from a farming family. This proved to be a perfect match, both in love and, surprisingly, in business.
In the early 1990s, Mongolia began a difficult transition from a command to a market economy. One sector that suffered was farming. All farms had been cooperatives. Now, in this new era of competition, the cooperatives were all bankrupt. Consequently, food security was weak and many basic food items had to be imported.
One of those items was eggs, and that gave Bold Jigjid an idea. With his business savvy and the knowledge his wife and her parents possessed about farming, he decided to buy part of bankrupt poultry cooperative on the outskirts of the capital in 2004. “I saw an opportunity,’’ says Bold, who was still working at the bank at the time, and so he took it.
They used their savings to invest in 20 000 laying hens, and began producing 17 000 eggs a day. But, there was one problem: because of the high price of feed and other supplies, their eggs were still more expensive than the imported eggs from China. Fate, however, intervened.
Not long after Bold and his family founded their farm, an epidemic of Avian Influenza swept across China, and so the government of Mongolia banned imported eggs. The epidemic was eventually brought under control, but not before the Mongolian government realized it would better serve the interests of the country’s economy and food security if the ban was maintained and local farmers were allowed to grow their businesses.
Bold and his family did exactly that. With greater opportunity, they expanded to 80 employees and now produce 130 000 fresh eggs every day – a full 20 percent of the eggs produced in Mongolia. With help from FAO and other UN agencies, Bold says, he learned how to improve production methods and maintain food safety standards. Within the next three years, he believes his company, named Tumen Shuvuut, will be producing 50 million eggs a year.
Although Mongolia’s cooperatives may not have survived, the spirit behind cooperatives lives on. Bold is now selling chicks to other farmers, essentially at cost, so that they too can thrive and help feed the country. You might say it’s a bold endeavour from a man who likes helping others succeed.
The award ceremony was part of today’s Asia-Pacific observance of World Food Day - the 67th anniversary of FAO’s foundation in Quebec, Canada on 16 October 1945.
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the ceremony. The Thai minister of agriculture and cooperatives, other senior Thai government officials, Bangkok-based members of the diplomatic corps, UN organizations and civil society were in attendance.
The observance also included a welcome statement by Mr Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific and a keynote address on Agriculture in a growing economy and the role of agricultural cooperatives: Focusing on Japan’s case, by Dr Hisao Azuma, former Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Japan and the former Senior Vice President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and now Senior Advisor, Japan Association for International Collaboration of Agriculture and Forestry (JAICAF).