Posted September 2000
Conclusions and recommendations
Annex 1: Layout of mushroom cultivation center
Annex 2: Buildings and equipment
Annex 3: Main steps in mushroom cultivation
Annex 4: Contributors to the project's success
The FAO-initiated mushroom production training program confirms that physically and mentally disabled people CAN DO as successful entrepreneurs. Since the start of the project, in February 1999, 47 trainees underwent two months of intensive learning at the center. Trainees from the first group of 28 returned home in October 1999 to set-up their mushroom enterprise while those from the second group of 19 returned in March 2000.
Most of the trainees have already set-up their mushroom houses with the minimum viable 1 000 mushroom bags that were acquired from the center as interest free loan and lower than market price to facilitate their start-up. Several trainees of the first group already reimbursed the loan for their mushroom bags to the center, and made profit from the sales. Sixteen received a loan from the disability fund for the start-up of their new enterprise while others are in the process. Five trainees returned to the center to become trainers and to convert the mushroom production training center into a self-help enterprise. Ex-trainees continue to work together and help each other in sales and processing activities. The center can become a supply center for raw materials. It can sell already made mushroom bags, and can supply the various ingredients and material needed in mushroom cultivation. The center can also become a sales point for fresh and processed mushrooms to help those new entrepreneurs who have difficulties marketing their product.
This initial project is the first involving vocational training in commercial horticultural activities for people with disabilities. Although mushrooms were initially selected, other produce may be used in the future using the same approach and methodology. The center now has gained capacity for a wider outreach to rural disabled as farmers and entrepreneurs. FAO offers a wide range of retooling opportunities especially for institutional capacitating, combining rural development and agro-industry in support of people with disabilities in their will to become independent and self-sufficient. This project can be expanded, replicated and serve as reference around Thailand and in neighboring countries. Similar guidelines can be followed in other countries as to help people with disabilities regain a normal way of life through income generation and re-integration into society as active and productive members of their community. The center in Ubon Ratchathani could well become a national or regional training center for people with disabilities and for trainers that can return to their province or country to train their own disabled community.
Families and communities have seen their disabled members become proud and independent, and recognize the contribution of rural disabled to community development. Yet, this project is only the seed towards future projects that will be replicated and become sustainable. In order to maintain sustainability and prepare replication, several factors are required. It is necessary that the Thai Government allocate annual budget for the continuation of the mushroom cultivation center as to further train groups of people with disabilities to become entrepreneurs. The government has indicated the intent of replicating the project in other centers around the country. Nong Khai has already been identified as a potential location. Because Nong Khai is a border province with Lao PDR and Cambodia, this center could also serve as a regional training center.
Continued commitment by FAO to monitor and evaluate future developments of the project is necessary to understand the basis for feasibility, sustainability and requirements for successful replication. Other tools such as training manuals are in the process and will be used as guidelines to replicate the mushroom cultivation project for disabled people in other provinces or in neighboring countries, either as local or regional projects. Integrated production - processing and marketing systems under organization of mushroom growers within various communities could further be established, allowing several trainees within a same community to join forces and share market, facilities and sales strategies.
Joint efforts and collaboration between FAO, Department of Public Welfare, consultants, Ubon Ratchathani officers and trainers resulted in a well developed training program and a successful training center. All parties involved showed complete dedication to the project and towards its success and sustainability. The names of people who contributed to the success of the project can be found in Annex 4. All people concerned for the well being of people with disabilities must continue to support projects and give the opportunity for disabled people to show that they CAN DO. Commitments by central governments are necessary as to ensure sufficient allocation of funds for future project development and continuation of existing programs. In Thailand, not only is there commitment from the government but there is also continuous concern by the Royal Family over the wellbeing of the people of Thailand. This is certainly the most precious gift ever offered to a country and will ensure future opportunities for self-reliance of dis"ABLED" people.