Tantalizing Organic Food
Name of village: Bung Cham Or
Location:

Partner: Duy Tan University

When I first signed up, my thoughts were having the intentions of completing the module in a short amount of time so that there’s more time for me to focus on other modules. There was also a want to have the exposure of the lives of those that were not as urbanised as Singapore. I wanted to reach out to them first-hand instead of just being in my own country, writing down my solutions in black and white. By seeing with my own eyes, by going through what they go through, I can put myself in their shoes and think of solutions that will help improve their current situation with the experience I have gained.

Despite the fact that I wanted to help them out first-hand, I was afraid that I might not be able to live in their environment. Afraid of forgetting to bring something important over. Afraid that my team mates would not do their part of their work. I hoped that I would be able to handle these things like I usually do, to have a group of people I can work well with, and have things run smoothly.

Albeit, it seemed like I would be going through a heavy storm before anything started because when I first saw my team, they looked like they would not be able to get anything done. However, things changed when we flew over to Bangkok.

Our bond that we had forged and gradually grew started from the 4 days and 3 nights in one of the farms in Bung Cham Or. Initially, there were a few worries like not being able to sleep properly at night or many mosquito bites appearing all over the arms and legs. It didn’t seem comfortable and enjoyable there. However, the place had proved me wrong.

Figure 1: One of the farms in Bung Cham Or

Figure 2: The boat to transport us around the farm

The homestay, an organic farm, as seen in Figure 1, which best sells guavas and dried bananas was a tranquil place moving at its own pace. The people who hosted us were kind and generous, giving us the freedom to explore their place, serving us spectacular vegetarian food, letting us engage in making a native dessert, feeding the fishes and planting seeds in an area of the farm. We also rode a boat around the farm section as one means of transportation and it felt like we were in the wild; with many trees and the land stretching for miles. and miles, as seen in Figure 2.

Originally, we had the idea in mind to make the farm’s water source purer than the existing one according to the pre-brief we had. The reason for creating this solution was due to the regulation that pesticides are not to be around within a certain distance from the organic farm.

Figure 3: Interview with the farmer

However, after doing an interview with the farmer (Figure 3), we realised that it wasn’t what he needed. What he really needed was more manpower. As he mostly grows and harvest the crops, all the burden would be heavily laid on him. One person can only do so much. Since there were a lack of workers, lesser crops would be harvested and sold to the market. So, if there were more people helping out, the quantity of crops harvested will increase and there will be more profits for the farmer. Another thing that the farmer needed was having more people to be aware of organic vegetables so more of them would buy organic food, which in turn leads to a higher profit for him.

To back up the fact that not many know about the benefits of organic vegetables and the difference between organically-grown food and not organically-grown, we had interviewed customers from Thammasat Market, the market the farmer sells his crops at. As seen in Figure 4 and 5. Most of the customers there were from around the neighbourhood. Some were students from the university, some were nurses from the hospitals and others from residences.

Figure 4: Customers buying organic food in Thammasat market

Figure 5: In the midst of interviewing a customer

For the other farmers we had interviewed, they needed different things. For example, some do not have enough fertiliser and do not have enough money to buy them. Others needed seeds to grow more crops. This information caught us off guard because not one person has the same problem and it was a challenge to think of a solution to make sure the whole community benefits and not just one individual.

So, after compiling and categorising our insights, we brainstormed for ideas. After hours of thinking, one of my team members had wrote a statement that encompassed everything. The need statement: “I need support to grow and promote organic vegetables to the public.”

To support would mean manpower and to grow would mean growing more crops. After brainstorming for days, we decided that an exchange system was the best solution to fit the need statement. How it works is that everyone in the village would tell the village chief whatever they have and whatever they need. The village chief would then write down in a chart. So, if Farm A needs manpower but have seeds to give, and Farm B needs seeds but has manpower to give, they could do an exchange. So, the village chief would contact Farm A and B and the two will meet to exchange.

This can be seen in Figure 6. To enhance communication, a broadcasting system was suggested to be used. The layout and content of the charts can be seen in Figure 7. The resource management chart is to input all the farmers’ names and what they need and have at the point of time. For the other chart, it is the item exchange table to record the exchanges. If there are any updates, the village chief would be the one to update it.

The strategy for promoting of organic vegetables would be doing a live cooking demonstration at the market. It would attract customers by the smell and the big gestures done during the demonstration. As seen in Figure 8. While doing the demonstration, the person would talk about the benefits of organic vegetables to the public. By generating interest, the public would etch it in their mind. The people would then start telling their friends if it had a really good impression on them. The public would then be helping to promote to other people by word of mouth.

Figure 6: A visual representation of the exchange system

Figure 7: The prototypes for the exchange system

Figure 8: The cooking live demonstration prototype

All in all, the people in the community were very willing to share, very grateful, and had very close bonds with each other. This trip had heavily impacted all of us, including the facilitators, in some way or another. It was a journey of self-discovery for each and every one of us. We learned more about ourselves, about others and about values that will stick with us throughout our lives. Although my team didn’t get along so well at first, eventually we did by spending time with each other for the two weeks of fun and meaningfulness. We talked, played, worked and found out all the little facts about each other. Every single one of us had got something out of this trip, whether it was good, great or amazing.