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5. Conclusions

This study found that 50 percent of small farmers groups formed under the SFDP are still active three years after the project has terminated. Small farmers activities included savings groups, rice banks, livestock funds, village shops, sericulture, and joint irrigation. Small farmers groups are self-sustained, create their own rules, and select their own leaders. Factors that improved group formation included: sub-district extension workers who are enthusiastic and understand the participatory approach, savings activities.

Thailand has gone a long way towards institutionalizing the PPP approach in the Department of Agricultural Extension. Aside from training a core of agricultural extension workers in a participatory approach, the DOAE has committed itself to implementing a SFDP type program (the PFPDP) nation-wide. Reasons the Thai government has been willing to adopt a PPP approach include: 1) a genuine desire to help the small farmer and a recognition that past approaches do not reach the poorest farmers, 2) a desire to prevent rising social tension due to uneven economic development between urban and rural areas, 3) the adoption of the SFDP by ambitious administrators, and 4) donor support at the appropriate time.

While people may disagree about the effectiveness of the SFDP as a project in and of itself, it is clear that the SFDP provided a model for future programs. These programs include the Small Farmer Participation Program (SFPP), the Planning and Farmers Participation Development Program (PFPDP), and the Farmers Farm Plan (FFP). The SFDP provided practical experience which allowed the Thai government to improve the PPP approach and adapt it to conditions in Thailand.

The main lessons learned from the SFDP include:

1) inclusion of savings/credit facilities in PPP programs,

2) more emphasis on the problems and concerns of women,

3) designation of a coordinator in the regional office to oversee the PPP,

4) careful screening and more on-going training for group organizers,

5) a project that lasts for more than four years, preferably six to eighth,

6) streamlining of the baseline survey along the lines of rapid rural appraisal (RRA),

7) slower replication of the PPP approach nation-wide,

8) more funds to support group activities, either in the form of funds for groups organizers to support group activities or credit for small farmers groups.

Finally, in spite of recent political unrest in June 192 and a change of government, it is expected that the new government will continue to emphasize rural development as well as continue to decentralize budgets for agricultural extension work to the provinces. Thus, the trend towards more rural development and a participatory approach developed in the Fifth and Sixth National Economic and Development Plans is likely to continue in the future.

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