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ICT helps farmer sow seeds of hope in rural Thailand


“Before I learned ICT skills, I felt like I was living my life stuck in a box,” says Sarit “Na Noy” Tipnangrongn, referring to the confines of her circumstances growing up poor in Buriram, one of Thailand’s most impoverished and drought-plagued provinces. “Now I can help people and learn about those who live outside the village and communicate with them without seeing their faces.”

Na Noy’s ability to break out of her “box” and help people who feel similarly trapped – in her province and others – came only after many years of struggling.

Na Noy, now 54, grew up in a small, poor farming family in a small Buriram village. Her parents, like many in the area, could only afford to pay for her to attend their small village school up until Grade 4. Then it was time to help the family by working on the farm. Attempting to eke out a subsistence living as a farmer was the prospect that stretched ahead of her for the rest of her life.

That changed some 20 years ago when Na Noy’s interest was piqued by an organization offering an IT course that specifically targeted farmers.

The training was offered by CCDKM, a Thai non-profit organization that has been working to improve ICT accessibility for marginalized people. Na Noy heard about the organization’s Smart Farmers program (which has since grown into a regionwide platform whereby farmers throughout ASEAN share sustainable farming technologies and practices online).

Na Noy took the course and immediately saw the potential connection between the world of information that IT was opening up and her life as a farmer. “I saw that communication and hands-on experience could be connected and that it could change our lives as farmers,” she says.

The ICT skills she learned then marked a turning point in Na Noy’s life.

“Since I’ve began using ICTs, my life has become completely different,” she says.

About 10 years ago, Na Noy decided to use her ICT skills to help her community as it went through a difficult period of drought.

Na Noy became a community leader in the Ministry of Science and Technology-led “Water-We” programme, which aims to simplify technology and sciences for the benefit of grassroots people.  

In this case, Na Noy used her IT know-how to research and promote technologies and techniques to help farmers irrigate their fields more efficiently with an eye to become self-sustainable. Once the programme proved a success in her village, she shared her knowledge more widely via online platforms to encourage farmers in other drought-hit areas to adopt similar methods.

Na Noy’s efforts resulted in the proudest accomplishment of her life: an award from Thailand’s King.

Her pride and love for her country are clear when she speaks of the accomplishment. “I received this award because I have been working for the community, for the survival of others. I wanted more than anything for this to benefit the maximum number of people and cannot express my satisfaction when I see the project going from one village, to two, to three and then from one sub-district, to another,” she said.

“Like the King in his work, I don’t want to stop in one place, but to continue this work nationwide.”

UNESCO and ICT for empowerment

UNESCO's “Mobile Literacy for Out-of-School Children Project“ and the “ICT for Education Project“ in Myanmar are but two programmes that exemplify our organization's commitment to harnessing the potential of IT to change learners' lives and create opportunities, especially for the region's most marginalized learners. The recently held “Changwon/UNESCO Regional Education Conference 2016: Exploring The New Paradigm of Community Learning Centres through On-line Lifelong Learning“ also focused on this important aspect of ensuring “equitable and quality lifelong education for all”. 

By Rachèle Fhal