The success case replication (SCR) methodology evolved from FAO's work with small rubber farmers in southern Thailand in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was based on a study by Poor Siri of the Rubber Division of the Thai Government's Department of Agriculture in cooperation with Jan B. Orsini, working for the FAO Regional Office and then for ESCAP. It showed that successful rural micro-entrepreneurs sharing their expertise with others in the village was not only a highly effective extension method, but also reduced reliance on outside experts who often had little practical experience and even lesser knowledge of local needs, customs and traditions.
During 1994-99, FAO and ESCAP initiated a pilot project 'Poverty Alleviation through Market Generated Rural Employment' to thoroughly field test the SCR methodology in eight Asian countries - Bhutan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. This led to the publication of Success case replication, a manual for increasing farmer household income, authored by Mr Orsini with the assistance of FAO Rural Development Officer Wim Polman. The SCR methodology can also be used for persons with disabilities, especially those who have surmounted the psychological trauma of their disability and wish to become successful micro-entrepreneurs.
The following section reviews the SCR methodology and its application in situations involving persons with disabilities. All direct quotes or paraphrases from the SCR manual are in italics.
Case study: Pioneering mushroom enterprise training for disabled farmers
A small-scale enterprise development project for farmers with disabilities initiated by FAO in Thailand's Ubon Ratchathani province in the country's poorest northeast region, has helped provide economic self-reliance, self-confidence and social respect for disabled farmers and has become a model for developing countries within the region and across the world.
Started by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific jointly with the Thai Government's Department of Public Welfare, an innovative pilot project successfully trained farmers with physical and mental disabilities to make a living by producing and marketing mushrooms. A full commercial mushroom farm was set up on the premises of the Northeastern Training Center for People with Disabilities in Ubon Ratchathani as a training centre. A first group of 28 people and a second batch of 19 people with a range of physical and mental disabilities successfully participated in this FAO pilot project on mushroom enterprise development training.
The training included all stages of a mushroom enterprise, starting from the purchase of raw material, spawning, bagging, pasteurization, inoculation of bags, fruiting, and marketing and management. Each group was trained for only two months, while traditional vocational training activities have a duration ranging from six months to two years. Seventy percent of the trainees were able to set up profitable mushroom farms. Many of them on returning home also shared their know-how with their family members. Five trainees of the first group and two from the second group became trainers themselves on mushroom production at the centre. They managed to establish a unique self-sufficient mushroom farm enterprise within the centre itself.
Although the main income for most trainees came from rice farming, several have now made mushroom cultivation their main livelihood. Mushroom production is easier and can provide a regular and improved income to the disabled farmers who mainly depend on a single annual harvest of rice in this poorest part of Thailand. With proper planning, mushroom cultivation can provide income throughout the year with slight fluctuations in prices depending on the season.
Some of the ex-trainees are now planning to train other disabled farmers outside the centre. A small group of 20 ex-trainees have developed a joint mushroom enterprise on land donated by the mother of one of the ex-trainees. With this, a promising group-based, community-level private enterprise development has taken place.
The SCR methodology uses traditional learning methods. It follows a simple and direct approach, using the imitation of peers as the basis for understanding.
Traditionally, people learned from "hands-on" experience, by working with individuals to develop special skills in specific areas. Girls would learn to sew and cook with their mothers while boys learnt bread making, blacksmithing or carpentry from their fathers, uncles or neighbours. Through trial and error, trades were learnt and transmitted from one generation to another. These methods have been replaced by schools that offer broader knowledge.
However, a trainer sent from the city and sometimes from another country, cannot always communicate easily with the local people because of language and cultural differences. The SCR methodology identifies and mobilizes successful local micro-entrepreneurs who are ready to share their experience and know-how by training their peers.
Apprenticeship is still the easiest and most common way of learning, whether for cooking, shoe-making or television repair. The International Labour Organization of the United Nations (ILO) has been promoting on-the-job training for several years and is encouraging the hiring of persons with disabilities for such training.
Because of traditional beliefs and ignorance, persons with disabilities have often been considered incapable of learning. Yet, over the years, when given the opportunity, they have successfully imitated their peers. Nevertheless, strategies for accomplishing the same task must often be developed according to individual capabilities. Persons with disabilities are now encouraged to use their own personal ways of doing what they need and want to do.
The methodology follows nine distinct steps:
1. Locate success cases
By following the nine steps in terms of their content and implications, the methodology provides a simple and efficient way of training large numbers of persons with disabilities even in the most remote areas.
Some of the advantages of using the SCR methodology include the following:
1. Trainees can relate to the successful entrepreneur
The SCR methodology uses locally successful entrepreneurs as trainers. It can use persons who have overcome a disability to become successful micro-entrepreneurs. Trainees can relate to such persons since they come from the same background and the same culture. These micro-entrepreneurs have already found ways of overcoming their disabilities by using new or different ways to accomplish certain tasks. For example, persons who have lost the use of their arms have learned to use their feet instead.
The use of SCR methodology ensures that the trainers, being persons with disabilities who have achieved success in their respective fields, have a better understanding of local needs and customs. Alternatively, non-disabled successful entrepreneurs can train persons with disabilities earn income in order to improve their quality of life and take full part in community life.
While considering market demand, a grassroots survey of what is socially acceptable will ensure that the project caters to local needs and does not become just a 'theoretical project'.
2. All participants come from the same background
Outside experts are usually seen as privileged people who had an easy life because of high income, and education facilities inaccessible to local poor community members. Local populations often consider that the new technology or project is only efficient for wealthy people and will not personally relate to it. They cannot consider replication because their background cannot be compared.
With the SCR methodology, trainers start from the same level as the trainees: they are farmers training farmers. They can therefore show their success, and explain how they managed to achieve their goal. Trainees can relate to the fact that if they understand the theory well and have the courage and perseverance to pursue the project, they can also be successful. Persons with disabilities can further evaluate their potential and see how they can emulate the successful micro-entrepreneur.
3. Follow-up readily available
Foreign trainers need to return to their home base or work on another project, sometimes in another country, following training. Follow-up and support is often not available for the trainees. It is when the trainees are beginning to set up their own enterprise that specific local problems arise, be they technical or financial. By using local people as trainers, SCR methodology ensures that ex-trainees have continuous support. Disabled and non-disabled trainers remain and continue to work within the community, which should be a short distance from the ex-trainee's new enterprise. Moreover, trainees with disabilities are almost certain to encounter unexpected problems requiring specific attention and advice.
4. Regaining self-reliance
The main objective of employment generation for rural persons with disabilities is to make them self-reliant. Dependence on peers or government funding has to be phased out as the majority of persons with disabilities are capable of becoming self-dependent. Persons with disabilities are able to do many things. They should not feel inferior or less capable, must be convinced of their capabilities and be active members of their community.
The SCR methodology promotes self-reliance by making the successful person a trainer and by involving the local community. It is not only the trainees who have disabilities but a number of successful micro-entrepreneurs have disabilities. By proving that a person with a disability can become economically self-reliant, the SCR approach not only benefits the disabled person but also has a positive impact on the community. The community should offer full support and encouragement. This will promote self-esteem among the trainees.
5. Rapid replication rate
With SCR methodology, replication can be exponential thus creating several levels of successful enterprises, provided there are no market limitations, whether from private enterprise or from institutions. The SCR methodology can offer cost-efficient, appropriate training for feasible and sustainable enterprise development and replication.
Although the methodology offers a wide range of advantages, certain limitations should not be ignored.
This methodology is not expected to replace the methodologies already used by various agencies. It should be used as a complementary methodology. SCR has been used successfully in several countries allowing increased income generation for rural poor people. It can also be used with persons with disabilities as trainers and trainees.
1. Few cases of successful entrepreneur with a disability
It is quite difficult to find successful micro-entrepreneurs with disabilities within the community. Several studies have shown that data regarding disabled persons is scarce. Indeed, many persons with disabilities who are successful entrepreneurs are considered as "successful people" rather than "successful disabled persons". It may therefore be necessary to seek successful micro-entrepreneurs outside the community, which implies outside interference and trainers from a different background. Moreover, the criteria for success for persons with disabilities may not always be seen as equal to that used for persons without a disability. It is necessary to be careful in verifying successful cases. Some may be considered successful because they are making a lot of money while others may be viewed as successful simply because they are making a decent living for themselves and their families.
2. Replication in other communities or countries
The SCR methodology needs to use already tested and proven successful cases. These success cases should preferably be selected from within the local or a nearby community. Know-how can be transferred from a non-disabled successful person to other non-disabled persons as was demonstrated during the field testing of the SCR methodology. However, it can also be transferred from a non-disabled person to a person with a disability, and from a person with a disability to others with disabilities and even to those without a disability. Nevertheless, the successful farmer needs to be accepted by the trainees and by the field worker. If either of them does not accept this farmer as an expert in his own field, the SCR methodology cannot be successful.
3. Full commitment of trainees
Careful selection of trainees is crucial for the success of the training. Unless people are fully committed, the training will only be a temporary exercise with no continuation. Family and community certainly contribute to the micro-entrepreneur's success. When the micro-entrepreneur's physical or mental capabilities are affected, he or she needs some help or support in accomplishing certain tasks. This is especially true if construction work is needed to start the enterprise. Talking to family and community members is the best way of verifying how the potential micro-entrepreneur trainee with a disability is perceived in his or her own family and community. It also shows what kind of support can be expected, where the trainee with a disability expects to replicate the enterprise as well as the source of financing. All aspects of the micro-enterprise must be fully understood by participants so that they are fully aware of present and future commitments in order to ensure replication and its successful continuation.
4. The importance of the field worker
This methodology can be implemented in any country. However, the importance of a good field worker cannot be emphasized enough. One person needs to locate the success case, make a careful evaluation and see how this case can be replicated with persons with disabilities. Furthermore, restrictions and contingencies have to be identified to prepare an adapted training programme for the transfer of know-how to targeted participants. If the field worker is totally convinced that the group of participants with disabilities is capable, the group then feels obligated to succeed and generally achieves everything that is required, sometimes to the trainees' own surprise.
5. Market constraints
Although replication appears to be totally positive, market constraints must be carefully considered. A market can easily become saturated when the number of people manufacturing the same product increases within a small community. This could also lead to trainers withholding precious information especially in their marketing strategies. Once persons with disabilities show they can earn substantial income, other people, whether disabled or not, will want to enter into the same business thus lowering market prices. Marketing strategies and the opening of new markets become essential to protect the new micro-entrepreneurs
Each step is explained and the problems that may be encountered are discussed.
1. Locate success cases
1. Consult those who should know
A successful entrepreneur is relatively easy to locate in small communities since everybody knows the successful members of their community. Identifying a person with a disability in a village is also quite easy. Everybody knows the "disabled person". Identifying successful persons with disabilities is certainly much more difficult. In some cases, therefore, it may be necessary to select a successful micro-entrepreneur who is willing to train disabled persons. Extra effort is needed to identify successful, disabled person micro-entrepreneurs. However, they are there, they can be found, even it they are lesser in number. Depending on the country, the Public Welfare Department and non-governmental organizations may know of persons with disabilities who are successful micro-entrepreneurs. Family and community members are usually fully aware of the struggle and difficulties faced by the successful micro-entrepreneur with a disability and are proud to introduce such a person among them.
The successful micro-entrepreneur trainers may be chosen from different fields. Nevertheless, different groups of people may have different views on who is or is not successful. Making a living by repairing television sets may be seen as successful for some while for others, growing speciality fruit would seem better because it makes good use of the land. The number of persons with disabilities who are successful micro-entrepreneurs may be so limited that any pre-conceived ideas may hinder their involvement as trainers. It is necessary to keep an open mind, see what is being done by the disabled person and whether it is an answer to the needs of many in an identified community.
2. Socially acceptable models
The success case trainer should be selected according to the group of people to be trained within the same social, religious or ethnic group. If the successful micro-entrepreneur selected as trainer is too young and has to train older people, or is a man/woman and has to train women/men, the trainees may not accept him or her because of age or sex.
The fact that the selected trainer has a disability may be an advantage or a disadvantage. Depending on the way he or she is introduced, this person may not be accepted as a trainer by people who are not disabled. However, the fact that such a person has surmounted the additional difficulty associated with the disability and become successful, can be emphasized as showing strength, perseverance and often ingenuity in accomplishing certain tasks.
Social differences sometimes create awkwardness in a relationship, whether purposely or not. A non-disabled person feels awkward when meeting a person with a disability, often not knowing how to behave with the other. It is necessary to reduce difference factors such as a wide age gap, sex and social strata in order to create the best learning environment.
3. Extension worker age and status
In some cases, age or youth may be a problem for the extension worker. When a very young extension worker tries to teach older people who have been working in this field or a selected field for more than 20 years, he or she needs to gain their respect. In addition, because of cultural influences and language barriers, it takes time to create a relationship and generate trust, if at all. It may be easier to convince one person rather than a whole group and therefore, using the leader of a group to teach others may help convince other farmers of the benefits of the new approach.
4. Review successful organizations
When an organization is selected as a success case, it is important to understand the dynamics of the group and to assess the whole organization. Who is the leader? How much are other participants involved in the organization? One powerful individual can sometimes make a major difference in the working of a group whereas without this person, the organization would certainly fail. It is also important to see how the leader interacts with other members of the group and the reasons, both technical and social, for the success of the organization. It is necessary to take into account the administration and decision-making process of the organization. Within a group, the person actually doing things may not necessarily be the real entrepreneur. The whole organization with its strengths and weaknesses needs to be assessed.
Although a person may have a physical disability, his or her mind remains clear and alert. In some cases, a disabled person may be more creative or have other abilities that are more developed in compensation for the disability, such as increased sensory awareness.
5. Duration of the success
It is important to evaluate the stability of the success case. An overnight success may be due to temporary shortage of a product. On the contrary, if there is over supply, prices drop and production costs may become higher than the sales price. This has been the case with mushroom cultivation in Thailand where high sales prices encouraged many people to cultivate mushrooms. However, mushrooms tend to bloom all at the same time. With the over supply, prices plummeted, and many farms had to shut down.
A good success case should already know or have undergone the "ups and downs" of the market, and should well understand the stability of this market. The person with a disability should not count on the fact that he or she is disabled as a guarantee for sale. Proper marketing strategies are part of the success and remain of key importance.
6. Variety of success cases
Because of market limitations, of physical and mental capabilities, and of personal interest, a variety of success cases is preferable. The market can only absorb a certain quantity of a certain product. Furthermore, persons with disabilities have certain physical or mental limitations. It might be better to rely on activities that, while using the disabled person's fullest potential, are less competitive and, therefore, more gratifying and rewarding, both emotionally and financially.
A small community, especially in a remote area, is engaged in a wide range of activities in order to be self-sustainable; one or a few specialists in each activity are necessary for meeting daily needs. Existing successes in the locality will ensure interest and replicability.
Case study: Polio-stricken farmer becomes a successful entrepreneur and trainer of asparagus cultivation
His right leg afflicted by polio since childhood, 43-year-old Charai Thanyarakdechow barely earned 15 000 baht a year from his small farm in Nakhon Pathon province near Bangkok. His income has now grown to more than ten times as much and he is a recognized business leader in the village.
Seeking to increase his income to support a wife and four children and inspired by the success of his neighbour, he decided to take up asparagus farming. Mr Charai had experience in growing vegetables but had never cultivated asparagus. He learnt about growing and marketing asparagus from his neighbour and started his enterprise in 1996 with an interest-free loan from the Disability Fund of the Thai Government's Department of Public Welfare. The market was ready to absorb a larger production and his venture was profitable from the beginning, enabling him to expand his farm during the second year itself. He now earns 200 000 baht a year, has repaid the loan as well as a 300 000-baht debt. He was able to provide a good education to his children and buy a motorcycle.
He now offers training and advice to other villagers on asparagus farming and marketing and continuously exchanges business ideas with his neighbour. Mr Charai has set up the Kaset Pattana Group made up of neighbours in the same business in his village. The Group now has 250 members and two among them are persons with disabilities. By coming together, the farmers can save money on their purchase of raw material and have easier access to loans. Collective bargaining also ensures them better prices for their produce, including from a Japanese buyer. The Group offers advice to members and encourages diligence and continuous improvement by all its members.
2. Assess if success can be replicated (profit and marketability)
Many persons with disabilities who have become successful are willing to help others who are disabled and need to earn a regular income for their survival. Nevertheless, care must be taken not to saturate the market, thus destroying both the successful entrepreneur and the new trainee.
Assessment of replicability does not require extensive training. It can be conducted by specific verifications. Because the selected success cases are income-generating enterprises, the following elements need to be evaluated:
1. Overcoming the successful person's fear
Most villagers are reluctant to discuss financial matters. Persons with disabilities often have an additional inhibition; many are still unsure of themselves even once they are successful. The idea of training others is both challenging and frightening.
Then there is concern about the competition, which needs to be addressed. Assurances must given that this will not create competition since it will serve other communities, or that the market has plenty of room to absorb additional production. The market must be carefully assessed.
2. Assessing market capacity
Marketing is the main issue in business. Although it is often considered in the last stage of setting up a micro-enterprise, it should be part of the initial stage, before even thinking of entering a business.
When starting a new micro-enterprise, the disabled person must take time to observe people who are selling the same or equivalent product and see how they are doing it. Careful study of market demand and capacity are necessary for successful replication.
Good understanding of the targeted market is necessary. The following questions must be answered:
How long has the successful micro-enterprise been in operation?
Market access is also crucial, especially for perishable agricultural produce such as fruit and vegetables. The distance to the market and the quality of roads will determine the time taken to reach there as well as the damage that can be caused to the produce during transportation.
Processing and packaging are other important factors in marketing since buyers are unlikely to buy a product that they will have to process themselves. There is generally very little packaging in the fresh food market. Yet, in some cases, the product needs to be packed in bags or baskets. The potential of the market should be checked, first with the successful micro-entrepreneur and independently by the field worker.
Successful micro-entrepreneurs should already know everything about the market. Since they have been successful for a certain period of time, they have learned about the market. The successful micro-entrepreneur must fully understand that training others will create increased competition in the market.
If the successful micro-entrepreneur is willing to train others and is not worried about market saturation, it should mean that there is still room in the market. Trainees must fully understand the implications of future replication. Flooding the market with the same or similar product will result in falling prices and failed businesses. The importance of marketing can never be stressed enough since it is the basis of any successful business.
3. Assessing net income
An economic assessment of the micro-enterprise must then be conducted. Profitability and sustainability of a micro-enterprise are directly related to the basic elements involved in the business. These elements can be summarized as follows:
1. Cost of raw material and equipment
2. Production and associated costs
3. Marketing and sales price
As explained in section II 'Check Profit and Loss' (Feasibility checklist), the net income can be calculated by adding all incomes from the sale of the product and subtracting all cash costs (raw material, labour, etc.) for the production.
Gross income - (Minus) Total cost = (Equals) Net income
4. Appropriate net income
Is this a reasonable income? The appropriate net income varies from one country to another. Unfortunately, a person with a disability is often paid a lower salary than a non-disabled person for the same work. It is necessary to determine the local minimum survival income and to use this figure to evaluate whether it is appropriate or not.
5. Incorporating depreciation
For a more accurate yet complex economic analysis, depreciation of equipment should be calculated. This can be done by dividing the cost of purchase of a new tool or equipment by the number of days, months or years it can be used as shown in Section II 'Check Profit and Loss'. This is called depreciation. Depreciation costs should be considered although these may be very low. Profit margins are sometimes very low and therefore depreciation can make a difference.
6. Deductions for family labour
Personal and family members' participation is generally not counted when calculating labour costs. Because micro-entrepreneurs receive money that can then be spent, they consider this as their profit, which is partially true. Persons with disabilities often have few opportunities to work for other people and therefore their income is their salary. They often do not have the choice of going to work for others. Family members are also happy to help disabled kin become successful in their new venture and therefore, may not request any remuneration. Profits are often shared at the end of the day. Unless cash has been paid to family members for wages, unpaid labour need not be included in the costs.
7. Raw material supply
Although an enterprise appears feasible, problems of raw material may occur because of seasonability or distant market purchases. A good understanding and review of raw material supplies is necessary. The following questions arise:
Can it be easily handled by persons with disabilities taking into account size, weight, health hazard, specific skills required...?
It is important to know if the raw material used can be found locally. Dependence on out-sourced material may create problems in future. Furthermore, accessibility to the raw material is important for persons with disabilities. Transportation, especially in remote areas is sometimes very difficult and even more so for persons with disabilities.
Supply of raw material is crucial for village micro-enterprises. When training persons with disabilities, it is necessary to know if the trainees are capable of handling the raw material, the finished product and finally, to sell it at a profit. The objective is not just to keep the disabled person occupied but also to generate income. Therefore, selection of the venue of a new micro-enterprise must take into account the availability and proximity of the raw material.
Certain products used as raw material may be seasonal. For many countries, water is also seasonal because of heavy flooding and drought during the year. These factors must be considered when selecting the type of micro-enterprise.
Supply of raw material is crucial for the operation of any enterprise. It is necessary to have proper knowledge of purchasing and to identify more than one supplier. Several suppliers should be contacted to ensure steady availability of the raw material and prevent a single supplier from monopolizing the supply. A supplier close to the micro-enterprise is easier to contact. It is very difficult, especially for persons with physical disabilities, to directly contact a supplier located far from the micro-enterprise.
Before starting a new small-scale venture, it is necessary to fully review initial costs for set-up, production, availability and price of raw material, as explained in Section III 'Enterprise Development'.
8. Evaluating production
After an overall review of the production process, the specific requirements must be revised to ensure that the trainees are capable of performing the tasks.
The following questions need to be addressed:
Can the production be easily explained?
Is any special education or skills required?
Can the success case micro-entrepreneur easily train other people?
How many follow-ups after training should be foreseen?
What are the physical requirements?
What are the psychological requirements?
Are there any social or cultural beliefs that could keep a person with a disability from accomplishing a certain task or making a specific product?
Is there any family and/or community support?
The process itself must be clearly understood for evaluating the physical tasks involved. For example, how physically demanding are the actions involved in the production process? Does a person need two hands or two legs? Are there alternatives? Is there a lot of walking and handling? Are visual assessments necessary when accomplishing certain steps of the production?
Problems during production may lower product quality, making it impossible to sell them. Product quality encourages clients to return again and again.
9. Review of the evaluation process
The evaluation process will become easier after reviewing several cases. In the case of small-scale enterprise development, one can easily assume that a certain amount of intelligence is required.
Persons with mental disabilities may be able to work and to accomplish some tasks very well. However, to develop a work plan and marketing strategies is often beyond their intellectual capabilities. Family or community support may be needed. The problems have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for persons with physical disabilities.
The degree of the disability must always be taken into account. Personal capabilities must also be assessed since some people are more capable and resourceful than others. It is not possible to generalize about the capabilities of individuals by knowing about their disability. Each person is different and must be allowed to show his or her capabilities.
After evaluating several types of micro-enterprises, it is easier to understand the constant need for review of marketing and other types of problems that may arise during the start-up of the new business.
Evaluation review can be summarized as follows:
Net profit to be expected
3. Assess successful farmer's willingness to become a trainer
It is imperative for the successful micro-entrepreneur to be fully committed to training other people and transferring his or her know-how acquired over the years. Helping people, especially disabled persons, has always been praised in all societies. However, it is important that successful micro-entrepreneurs realize the extent of their responsibility in transferring their know-how. Certain secrets or "tricks of the trade" may be the reason for their success. Are they ready to divulge these? Because they will become the highlight of a project, they may be inclined to accept their position as trainer, but they must be aware of all that it implies.
1. Three types of success case persons
Experience shows that successful micro-entrepreneurs generally fall into three categories:
Those that know that competition is fierce and therefore are unwilling to share personal experiences.
Those who are proud (of their achievement) and generous with information and strategies to help guarantee replication of success cases because the trainees will sell their product in another market and, therefore, will not have any detrimental effect on their market.
There is a third category, which is the most difficult one to identify. Successful micro-entrepreneurs who appear to be generous but are, in fact quite selfish and not ready to really help.
Persons with disabilities are no different and can fall into any of the above three categories. There are good and not-so-good people. The same care must be taken in selecting trainers if they are to be chosen form among successful disabled person micro-entrepreneurs. A good way to find out about a successful disabled person micro-entrepreneur is to meet family and community members. They should be able to tell what kind of help and support he or she has already given to the community.
Marketing and sales remain the main components in a successful micro-enterprise. Marketing strategies are often necessary. Successful micro-entrepreneurs must be made aware of both the positive and negative aspects of training other people, especially in highly competitive markets.
Case study: Visually impaired, yet earning and teaching livelihood to other disabled
Visually impaired and 49 years old, Kampan Homrat is the eldest of six brothers and sisters who live with their ageing parents as a low-income paddy farming household in Thailand's northeast Roi-et province. Her parents and siblings once thought that she could not learn anything useful. Today, Ms Kampan has a regular monthly income and is giving livelihood training to other persons with disabilities.
Her first exposure to vocational training was during a family workshop on cloth weaving in 1990. Her sister was certain Ms Kampan could not learn by herself. But when the sister noticed that Ms Kampan was trying really hard to learn by herself, she decided to teach her. After two years, Ms Kampan was able to weave cloth and then learnt water hyacinth weaving. She also learned how to sell the woven products and began to earn for the first time in her life. She then joined a special community-based rehabilitation project to teach visually impaired people how to use natural dyes instead of chemicals in order to reduce production costs and obtain a higher market price.
Ms Kampan has been weaving native cloth and water hyacinths for over a decade now, selling most of her production within the community and the remainder to the Roi-et Education and Rehabilitation Center for the Blind. Eight years after starting her business, she had a regular income of 1 500 baht per month. Ms Kampan is now a trainer at the Rehabilitation Center where she teaches a variety of weaving techniques. She is an inspiration for other people with disabilities who are learning a livelihood at the Center.
2. Compensation for trainers
Many successful micro-entrepreneurs started their business because of the necessity to feed their family. Now that they are successful, these individuals are often more than willing to help other people in need. This may be especially true when it comes to helping persons with disabilities. This is probably the main reason why some people would be ready to help and train others, without expecting anything other than the personal satisfaction of having done so. Enhanced respect within the community will be a further reward for a micro-entrepreneur who shares his expertise with a person in need.
Nevertheless, there should be limits to using one specific successful micro-entrepreneur for training others. This entrepreneur needs time to take care of his or her enterprise. It is therefore important to use several trainers and not to focus on only one. The idea of replication through training by trainees ensures that all individuals train a certain number of people who in turn train another certain number.
Some successful micro-entrepreneurs may also consider that it is perfectly normal for them to receive financial compensation for their training other people; they can also make good trainers and should not be ruled out.
4. Establish a practical hands-on training programme
A good training system is one that has been tailor made for a specific activity and a specific target group. The duration of training must also be carefully established according to the level of skill needed, the preparedness of the future micro-entrepreneur to receive the training and the type and extent of the trainees' disabilities.
Training must check the availability of raw material and market opportunity. It must also take into consideration, the seasonability of the raw material and availability of people to take part in the training. In rural areas, farmers work hard during the rice planting and harvesting periods. Many rural people with disabilities also join in the planting and harvesting activity and therefore cannot participate in training sessions during that period.
Agriculture is seasonal; a lot of work is required during some periods of the year, such as in the preparation of soil, sowing, applying fertilizer and so on. The amount of work is less during maturation. Application of fertilizer, weeding, pest and disease control, and watering are needed until the harvesting period.
Training in mushroom cultivation is one example. First, there is intensive training in tasks such as the multiplication of sorghum seeds, production of substrate bags, pasteurization and inoculation of bags with sorghum seeds. Then, during incubation and maturation, maintenance is needed to control humidity, temperature, light, pests and diseases. Mushrooms, like any other agricultural produce, need time to grow. Special training is needed for coping with diseases and pest infestation such as mites and termites. Precautions must be taken because no chemicals can be used during the cultivation of mushrooms. Marketing strategies are needed and can be acquired through special training. Post-training follow-up is always required in case of specific problems.
1. Training schedules
The training schedule must take into consideration those moments of waiting, in-depth or technical training and harvesting. The trainees must be instructed how to spend productively the period of waiting for the completion of a business activity.
Furthermore, a complete training programme must include all aspects of the needed skill, including all tricks and strategies especially developed for marketing purposes. Special strategies, techniques and secrets of the trade may mean the difference between being capable of accomplishing a task and marketing a product with profitable income and not being able to do so. A training schedule and outline is best developed by an expert in a specific field. The successful micro-entrepreneur is certainly to be considered as an expert although he or she may not have a formal degree.
The training programme must provide flexibility for courses that include persons with disabilities. Specific disabilities may need special solutions. This means more time may be needed to learn and accomplish certain tasks, depending on the type of disability.
Except for persons with mental disabilities, training schedules can be almost identical for both non-disabled and trainees with disabilities. Being physically disabled does not make a person a slow learner. Nevertheless, special strategies may need to be developed according to the type and extent of the disability.
Moreover, when training persons with disabilities, more time may or may not be required, depending not only on the type of disability but also on their experience in the field of study. Shorter training periods may be possible in cases where trainees already have experience in a specific area.
The level of skills needed for persons, even with the same disabilities, may vary substantially from one person to another. The combination of skills, physical capabilities and their assessment can only be done on a case-by-case basis in the same way as for non-disabled persons.
No generalization of the ability of a disabled person to do a task should ever be based on a specific disability.
Successful entrepreneurs sometimes underestimate their own knowledge and know-how, which has been slowly perfected over the years. They will generally assume that the skills they have acquired over several years of trial and error can easily be learned during training. This is not always the case. Additional training may be required when quality is not acceptable or when production know-how has not been fully acquired.
Example of a training programme for persons with disabilities
Trainees must be convinced they can do it.
· Successful micro-entrepreneurs share their difficulties and personal experience.
· Trainees and invited guests discuss daily difficulties and ways to surmount these.
· Persons with disabilities must learn to recognize their disability and accept their differences from others.
Hands-on experience for tasks and manipulation
Full and specific description of tasks involved in the production process (this is especially important to determine the physical capabilities required to accomplish a specific task, and to evaluate whether a person with a certain disability is capable or not of accomplishing the required task)
· Basic explanation of the task
· Hands-on experience
· Repetition of tasks
· Close supervision by trainer
· Trainees with previous experience can help others with greater difficulties and those who are slower to learn.
How to estimate sufficient amount manageable by the person.
· The amount is different for each person
· The amount must be determined by each person himself or herself
· Close observation is crucial for success.
Overview of basic theory
· Origin of product
· Developments over the years
· Potential for development
Existing methods and tactics in management.
· Learning about various techniques
· Running a business
· Managing personnel
· Time management
· Quality control
Problems and remedies
Troubleshooting advice and procedures
· Pest control
· Special care
· Alternative products
· Maintenance tips
Selection of raw material
Choosing the right material at the right price
· Where to buy
· When to buy
· How to select the appropriate raw material
· What price is acceptable
· How to negotiate the price
· Verify reliability
How to manage waste produced
· Dispose of generated waste properly
Strategies for marketing in remote communities.
· Where to sell
· When to sell
· How to sell
· How to negotiate the price
· At what price to sell
· How to deal with the competition
How to keep accounting books and monitor profitability
· Basic accounting
· Verifying profitability
Storage and preservation
Methods of storing and preserving products
· Protecting against natural elements
· Processing methods and techniques
· Higher value production
Hands-on experience is the only way to i) ensure that each step of the process is well understood and ii) verify that all participants are capable of every needed step. Some persons with disabilities may not be able to accomplish a certain task because of a specific disability; this does not mean that the person cannot be successful in setting up his or her own business after training. It simply means that support is needed either from family or community members, or through a partnership.
Checking the raw material for quality by actually touching and choosing cannot be replaced by a theoretical explanation of the "where and how" to buy this material. Many factors such as packaging can influence purchase by making some products more attractive. This is why it is highly recommended to visit the raw material suppliers and go to markets or buyers to sell the product.
Troubleshooting advice can also help foresee and avoid future problems. Every new enterprise, whether large or small, will encounter some problem at some stage, whether it was set up by a person with a disability or not. The successful micro-entrepreneur can certainly try to minimize these problems by reviewing his or her experience and by explaining what went wrong, why, and how the problem could be solved.
Problems will be different for different persons and will certainly be different depending on the person's specific disability. Training must prepare for unforeseen problems, whether during production, purchase of raw material or sales of finished products.
5. Select the trainees carefully
Well-established training guidelines increase the percentage of successful trainees. Motivation is the most difficult part to determine.
It is important that the target group be interested in replicating the project. Motivation is necessary for trainees to pursue the training and to establish a micro-enterprise after the training. Difficulties during training can usually be controlled by peer support and help from the trainer.
However, once training has been completed and the trainees return home to apply what they have learnt, unexpected problems may and probably will occur. Unless trainees are fully motivated and interested in the work, they will simply quit. Motivation and interest further ensures that the target group continues to learn for the duration of the training and supports trainees once they have set up their own business. It is necessary for the field worker to feel the commitment and dedication of the participants.
A visit to the successful entrepreneur's location is probably the best way of showing what can be expected after training. It allows disabled person trainees to evaluate and select activities that are more relevant to the needs of their own community and to determine whether they will be able to accomplish the required tasks.
If a visit is not possible, the successful micro-entrepreneur should present his or her personal case history as an illustration of all developmental stages and the trials and errors associated with the project. It is then possible for future micro-entrepreneurs to evaluate their own interest and capability for accomplishing the required tasks. It also gives a good idea of the trainer's generosity with his or her information and of his or her willingness to give specific advice.
If all parties involved seem keen and capable, then the micro-enterprise is worth pursuing. If the future micro-entrepreneur does not feel capable or fully committed, then the enterprise will surely fail before it is even set up.
Choosing the proper success case is crucial for successful replication. However, location and target populations must be carefully studied to allow the target population to choose the type of activities rather than letting outside people decide on the new venture.
Personal preference is also a key factor in the success of a micro-enterprise. When people truly enjoy what they are doing, they increase their chances of success. Trainees who become especially interested in their work and its purpose have greater chances of becoming successful micro-entrepreneurs.
The selection criteria must be clearly established before meeting with potential trainees. It is extremely difficult to tell a disabled person that he or she cannot participate in the project when the person looks at the field officer with hopeful eyes. Selection criteria should include the following:
Age group should be homogenous
Trainees should come from various locations to protect the market
Support from family and community
Commitment from family and trainees to setting up the enterprise following training
Land or space must be available to set up the new business
The disabled person should have a minimum level of self-reliance. In special cases, a family member must accompany the disabled person to the training and assist in setting up the enterprise after the training
Trainees must be ready to leave the family for the duration of the training.
Access to fund for start-up.
A new technology or know-how can never be forced on anyone, even if proven profitable. Trainees must feel secure and reassured that they can be successful in their new venture. Trainees should know about the activity and its benefits for themselves and their community.
6. Supervise the training
It is necessary to ensure that the three main components of any enterprise are covered during training. These are raw material supply, production process and its problems, and marketing. Good understanding of the market is necessary to know what is expected and what is required to compete in existing markets.
Training must carefully review quality control. Even if a product is made under the label "made by disabled persons", quality must be ensured in order to secure sales and develop a regular clientele. The objective is to supply a good quality product that happens to have been made by a person with a disability and not a product made by a disabled person but of questionable quality. Persons with disabilities may need to prove their capability by offering a similar if not better quality product. Regular supply brings regular income, thus making the disabled person micro-entrepreneur self-reliant.
7. Arrange follow-up support services for trainees
Follow-up after training will most likely be required, especially in the early stages of the business. Although the process itself is very important and must be well mastered, what often makes the difference between success and failure is the presence or absence of marketing and sales strategies, which have been developed by successful micro-entrepreneurs over the years; they have found ways of entering and taking hold of a share in a competitive market.
Most, if not all of the newly established business ventures will certainly run into some initial problems. Follow-up after training is therefore compulsory and must be well prepared. The best person to do the follow-up is always the successful entrepreneur (trainer). This person must be available to go on site where the problems are and to assist in finding the solution most appropriate for the new entrepreneur on location.
In cases of uncertainty or problems, it is important that trainees call upon the successful entrepreneur to ask for advice before the situation becomes irreversible. Furthermore, facilities and installations should be verified by the successful entrepreneur to make sure that everything is working properly.
The number of visits and follow-up meetings is difficult to predict. It depends on several factors. However, the successful micro-entrepreneur can foresee some regular if not frequent difficulties.
Immediate support must be available from the successful micro-entrepreneur trainer or the project field worker in case of urgent needs. Production would be halted if a required raw material is not available, resulting in major financial losses.
Communication between the trainer and trainee therefore, needs to be available, or a messaging system needs to be set up within the community. In the case of persons with disabilities, additional problems of other types will be encountered. For example, the help of family or community members may be needed during the construction period when physical strength is required. Closer supervision of the installation by the micro-entrepreneur may be required sometimes.
It is especially crucial for disabled persons setting up a micro-enterprise to avoid failure because they have to prove themselves to their family and community. This is why Emergency Response is necessary so that the new micro-entrepreneur is not discouraged and abandons the venture.
Systematic visits should be scheduled during different strategic stages of setting up the micro-enterprise. For example, visits could take place during the construction and during production and sale of the final product. The first sale is always the most difficult and sensitive. This may determine the success of the newly established micro-enterprise.
The main stages where special assistance may be required can be summarized as follows:
1. Construction and set-up of the new micro-enterprise
2. Selection of suppliers for raw material
3. Sensitive periods when pests or diseases are more likely to attack the product (such as during the rainy season or a drought)
4. Storage or processing arrangements
5. Final negotiations of sales prices before entering the existing market (review pricing, transportation and special transportation facilities, consideration of other sales points...)
6. Quality control at the moment of sale (lower quality products must be separated because prices will take into consideration the lowest quality)
7. When a group of people decide to lay out the principles for their new joint operation
8. Achieve secondary multiplication after first level success
The objective in success replication is not to have one replication but to have successful trainees become successful entrepreneurs, and train other people who will in turn, give training to other people in other locations and for other groups.
Location must be considered carefully so that the market does not become saturated. This is also necessary to ensure that the new micro-enterprise does not compete with the successful micro-entrepreneur's existing market. In most villages, there is limited room for market competition. Therefore, new micro-entrepreneurs could train some people in other nearby villages. This would multiply the number of similar business, generate income, cater to the needs of the villages, and maximize the positive impact of the training.
Because persons with disabilities are generally scattered across several villages and often live in remote areas, replication is the most feasible way of enabling disabled persons to improve their livelihoods while remaining in their community.
When well applied, the successful replication programme can be increased ten-fold within a few years. The capability of the market to absorb a product can never be stressed enough. Oversupply may saturate the market and create a disaster rather than a success story. If prices drop, everybody loses. Storage is sometimes a short-term solution, allowing prices to stabilize rather than flooding the market with the same product. Processing is another option.
Both the successful micro-entrepreneur trainer and the field worker must always consider market saturation. They must set limits and prepare training programmes accordingly. Training persons with disabilities is no exception to the rule. Although people tend to allow special privileges for persons with disabilities, this is not so when the time comes for sustainability and competitive marketing. Family and survival then take priority and competition is fierce for everyone.
Case study: Integrated agriculture gives higher income and confidence to visually impaired farmer
Rehabilitation training, support from the family and community, together with hard work enabled 54-year-old and visually impaired Thongsai Paksainathe to successfully introduce innovative farming practices to his village in Thailand's Mahasarakham province. Born blind, the former low-income paddy farmer now has a regular monthly earning of about 3 000 baht and is encouraging others to follow his example.
After attending an orientation and mobility training course in a community-based rehabilitation project in 1992 and learning traditional Thai massage till 1996, he came to know about an integrated agriculture project set up by the agriculture office in the province. He joined the four-day training programme at the project and then visited another integrated agriculture project in the province of Roi-et. Wanting to start integrated farming himself, he borrowed 7 000 baht from the Roi-et Education and Rehabilitation Center for the Blind.
He divided his land into four parts, digging a pond in one portion to raise fish and store water for crop cultivation. On another part of his land, he planted trees of fruit species maturing at different times such as jack fruit, banana, coconut and guava. The fruit is sold according to the season. The third part of the land is used to grow vegetables that can be sold daily. The remaining land is for cultivating sticky rice for the family's consumption.
Successful within four years, Mr Thongsai attributes this to his diligence, rehabilitation training and encouragement from the family and friends. He is now urging others in his community to follow his success. He says it is important to choose an occupation suitable for one's surroundings and consistent with the needs of one's family.
He also gets support from government agencies and NGOs. He is now self-reliant and happy, and feels a valued member of the community.
9. Monitoring cost effectiveness of the methodology
The effectiveness of a replicated project usually includes two aspects.
The first, and probably the most important for the disabled person trainee, is to reach self-reliance and improve their quality of life by generating income. This will increase their self-confidence and contribute to their full participation and integration in society.
The second is important for donor agencies and for reviewing the feasibility of the training project. It is the cost/benefit analysis of increased income generated for rural people with disabilities. Every field worker should collect information to evaluate the cost/benefit of a project. This data can be acquired in three simple steps.
The field worker must:
1. Keep detailed records of the time spent for every step of the project: locating success cases, evaluating, designing training, selecting trainees, supervising training, follow-up, and collection of data.
The total number of days multiplied by the daily wage of the field worker gives the field worker's cost.
2. Record all training costs: costs for trainer, equipment, assistive devices or adaptation of tools and equipment, food, lodging, transportation.
3. Collect net income data from each successful trainee for the first year of sales of their new businesses.
The following is an easy Cost/Benefit calculation. However, it does not take into consideration market saturation and cost competitiveness. It assumes that the market is ready to absorb the product at a pre-determined cost namely the Sale Price of the Finished Product.
Total income of all successful trainees ÷ (Divided by) Total training costs = (Equals) Cost/benefit ratio
While persons with disabilities can do many things, not all can perform the same tasks. It is, therefore, important to identify what the disabled person trainee can and cannot do. Care must be taken not to put limitations or hastily pass judgments on a disabled person's capabilities. It is generally not easy to see how capable disabled persons can be. Some activities may require the use of eyes and automatically exclude the visually impaired. Others require the use of hands, which may sometimes be performed by use of the feet. Persons with disabilities often show outstanding strength and courage and are capable of surprising ingenuity to accomplish tasks. The more physically demanding activities must be carefully evaluated. Specific physical requirements must also be reviewed.
Case study: Earning income and self-confidence despite blindness and old age
Wapad Khailee, 72 years of age and blind, no longer feels helpless and a burden on her sister's low-income household in northeast Thailand's Roi-et province. Once, she could help the family only by cooking and cleaning. Now, she is a valued contributor to the family income who has found self-confidence and self-respect.
Rehabilitation and livelihood training for the disabled enabled Ms Wapad to boost the family's meagre annual income of between 20 000 and 30 000 baht from cultivating sticky rice on 20 rai (3.2 ha) of land. After three months at a rehabilitation centre in 1996, the visually impaired old woman who had never gone out of the house alone was using a cane to walk to the next village. She joined a village women's group where she learnt native cloth weaving for three months. On the advice of the rehabilitation centre staff, the weaving training was modified for visually impaired people. It gave Ms Wapad an income for the first time in her life.
Four years later, Ms Wapad and her sister and brother-in-law restarted a pig farming venture that had failed because of low prices. The Roi-et Education and Rehabilitation Center for the Blind gave her an interest-free loan of 8 000 baht to start pig breeding, which gave her full-time work. The family was able to make a profit and expand the pig breeding business, which ensured Ms Wapad a regular monthly income of between 1 000 to 2 000 baht. The family then bought a small rice mill from the profit. This made it possible for them to mill their neighbour's rice and use the husk to feed their pigs, thus reducing feeding costs.
Not all training programmes require the same amount of time, which can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on the capabilities of the trainees and the difficulty of the training subject. Training schedules need to be adapted to the complexity of the required tasks, to the fundamental understanding of a business and to the physical and mental capabilities of the trainees. The successful micro-entrepreneur should be in a position to determine the required time.
Training courses can be designed by successful micro-entrepreneurs who, from personal experience, know which steps of the training should need more time; some sectors are more demanding or complex than others. It is necessary for the successful micro-entrepreneur to carefully evaluate the required time, which may be underestimated because knowledge was acquired over several years.
Furthermore, persons with disabilities encounter problems specifically related to their disability, in addition to those encountered during the business development itself.
Special attention should be given to problems encountered in the early stages of establishing the enterprise. Trainees need to be prepared for these problems so that the successful entrepreneur trainer does not have to run to each trainee too often trying to help solve their problems.
Seasonal products must be carefully selected since timing may mean success or failure. Off-season production for certain fruits and vegetables can guarantee good profit with less physically demanding work. It may be an opportunity for persons with disabilities to review products in demand during the off-season. This would allow them to work at a slower pace and make the same amount of profit while avoiding stiff competition.
Relying on success cases may prove to be the best market indicator. If a person has been successful for several years, it means that the market is well understood. The successful entrepreneur should know what to look for in the replication of the project. Marketing often requires ingenuity and creativity. Why do customers choose one product against its competition? Price, quality, reliability of supply, decoration, packaging, presentation and interpersonal skills are only a few of the reasons. Marketing should be part of micro-enterprise development programmes for rural persons with disabilities since it is the perfect preparation for business development.
Market saturation must be avoided and training must, therefore, always give priority to marketing considerations. Moreover, prior to training, trainees should agree to further train a reasonable number of groups or individuals following the set-up of their enterprise to ensure exponential growth. No training will be given to people who are to set up competitive enterprises within the same community unless there is a need for more of the same product. This will ensure exponential replication of the project, while protecting the livelihood of each and every entrepreneur.
Finally, follow-up is just as important as the training itself since it can guarantee success or failure for the new micro-entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, the successful micro-entrepreneur may be located far away and difficult to contact. Consequently, although follow-up is best conducted by the successful micro-entrepreneur trainer, it can also be ensured by the project field worker or by a government extension officer. Communication is ensured when the field worker has an office where he or she can be contacted easily.