The problems of inequality and poverty in Thai society are intensifying as the COVID-19 epidemic continues to escalate, impacting the occupation and livelihood of many people. This is exacerbated by lack of knowledge and opportunity, coupled with the fact that farmers, a large subset of the country’s population, are experiencing natural disasters such as drought and flood.
SCG considers it the company’s responsibility to advance its business in conjunction with social and environmental development according to sustainable development guidelines. As such, it has sought to drive the business with ESG by developing the ESG 4 Plus Guidelines “Achieve Net Zero – Go Green – Reduce Inequality – Embrace Collaboration” plus fairness and transparency, placing emphasis on addressing problems that affect livelihoods and quality of life by helping to enhance occupational skills that can lead to income generation and, thus, sustainably alleviate the critical social problem of inequality.
A Path to Empowerment
“As farmers, we were a casualty of drought, and we could not see a way out of the problem, but after we became involved in SCG’s Power of Community project, our lives have changed. We have goals, hope, and happiness, as well as the opportunity to develop our skills, from goods processing to expanding our market and linking raw materials upstream to the production process midstream as well as to downstream marketing, all the way to delivering our products directly to consumers. Learning has become sharing, as our community now serves as a role model of sufficiency economy and unity for other communities by creating a sense of local pride, reminding people to take care of themselves, offering advice to those who want to develop their own communities, and inspiring other communities through social media.”
Fahseri Prapanta, a resident of Ubon Ratchathani and participant in the Power of Community project, reflects on her feelings about the program, which became the turning point in her life that freed her from poverty.
“Power of Community” is both the name of the project and its goal of empowering the community to be self-reliant, create jobs, increase income, reduce inequality, and also build a network to expand results and inspire other communities to rise up and adapt themselves for sustainable growth.
Lack of Knowledge and Opportunity: The Cause of Poverty and Inequality
SCG is working towards reducing inequality and strengthening communities through the Power of Community project, which provides training to enhance knowledge alongside virtue and inspire communities to rise up and develop themselves by maximizing the value of their products with unique local identities, learning the principles of marketing and branding, expanding sales channels through e-commerce, and creating a life plan for sustainability.
At the heart of the Power of Community training is human capital development because products may fall out of demand, but with knowledge and innovation, along with the ability to create value out of existing resources and understanding of consumers and the market, the community will be able to create new products.
The training program draws from three sets of Sufficiency Economy Principle: The King’s Philosophy, which espouses knowledge and virtue, moderation, rationality, and immunization; the international principle of product development for international markets; and the local principle of folk wisdom—through sharing experiences, assigning tasks for problem-solving or practical application, and learning from role models who have successfully turned crises into opportunities.
The participants of this program have not only learn new things but also learned to ask themselves what resources around them can be made useful and what can be improved to add value. This leads to self-growth and empowerment, which are the foundation of sustainable self-reliance and the confidence to persevere despite changes in circumstances.
A Role Model of Perseverance
Saichol Rakkamnerd is a rubber planter from Nakhon Si Thammarat province who also makes a living selling chili paste and local seasonal fruit on the side. Having accrued a three million baht debt from a failed rotating savings scheme, she felt hopeless to the point of having suicidal thoughts. However, she decided to persevere and find a way to improve her life, which led her to participate in the Power of Community project.
“When I attended the community enterprise training program in 2019, I gained knowledge about self-development and self-sufficient products for sustainability, and I realized that everything around me has value and can be used to increase income. The most important thing is the community network, which can help to increase sales of community products,” Saichol Rakkamnerd recounts her path towards financial recovery.
The testimony to the success of the project is that 4-5 months after the training, during mangosteen season in Nakhon Si Thammarat, rather than selling the fruit locally as is typically done by the majority of farmers, Saichol expanded her sales channels to online markets through community networks until she was able to pay off her debts and release the mortgage on her land within a short period of time. Her next goal is to build a facility for food production and processing to increase income and strengthen her family as well as help create jobs for the community.
Saichol is one example of the phenomenon wherein “when people adapt, the community advances.” This echoes the story of Kesirin Klinfoong, or Mae Ning, the owner of the brand “Perfect Bite by Mae Ning Phu Doi” from Chae Hom District, Lampang Province.
Knowledge gained from the Power of Community Project led Mae Ning to transform a common local dessert like pineapple cookies shaped like cocoon worms into “Pineapple Chicks,” pineapple cookies shaped like a chicken, which is the symbol of Lampang. “The challenge I received during the training was to develop a product with a unique identity and set production and distribution goals.”
After establishing the identity of the product, she addressed the issue of production and distribution by selling her products on consignment at cafes and noodle stalls in Chae Hom District as well as during special occasions and festivals. However, when COVID-19 broke out, stores were closed, affecting sales. Mae Ning moved her sales channels to Line, direct message, and telephone. She also added new products, such as the “Bald Head Bean Pastry,” which enabled her revenue to recover.
“Once we have a clear goal, we need to execute right away. No matter how formidable the obstacles are, we will find a way to overcome them.”