Taking a closer look at six Baan Mankong housing projects in six very different contexts
In this part of the CODI website, we’d like to take a look in more detail at six housing projects, at different scales, that are being implemented by communities around Thailand, with CODI support.
|Citywide housing for the poor in the town of Chum Phae|
Chum Phae is a small trading and manufacturing town in the fertile rice-growing region of Khon Kaen Province, in northeastern Thailand. In the last few decades, the town has attracted increasing numbers of poor migrants from rural areas, who come looking for work in the town’s tapioca and gunny-sack factories, or in its sweat shops making shoes and clothing. Like bigger cities, Chum Phae has all the usual urbanization problems, though on a much smaller scale: rising land prices and housing costs and increasing commercial pressure on urban land – all leading to problems of eviction and a shortage of affordable housing. As Mae Sanong, the chairperson of Chum Phae’s community network says, “Chum Phae used to be full of slums, where living conditions were bad. And people had no pride, no courage, no togetherness, no idea what to do.”
Savings, network and upgrading starts in 2004: The city’s upgrading process started from scratch just six years ago. The first community savings groups were set up in 2004, and shortly afterwards, community leaders carried out the first detailed city-wide survey of the town’s poor communities. Besides some 25 established slum communities, the survey also covered scattered squatters and room renters living in isolated situations around Chum Phae. All together, they found that precisely 3,704 families at that time had serious problems with land and housing. With support from Baan Mankong, the national community upgrading program of the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), and in close collaboration with the municipal government and a supportive mayor, they used this information to begin setting plans to develop secure housing for all those families.
The advantages of taking a citywide perspective: The network’s constantly evolving citywide upgrading plans included a variety of strategies such as on-site upgrading (2 projects) and nearby relocation (6 projects), a variety of land tenure options such as collective purchase of cheap private land (4 projects) and collective lease of public land (4 projects), and a variety of house designs and plot sizes to suit different needs and budgets. The Chum Phae community network’s first housing project began in 2005, at Sawang Sang See, a nearby relocation of 65 squatter households to public land they negotiated to lease collectively. Projects in seven other communities followed – each one different. Through the course of all those upgrading projects, the network never lost track of their city-wide perspective, in which they continuously sought to provide as many options as possible so everyone could be included.
Secure land and housing for less than the cost of renting a single room: All of these different kinds of projects provide long-term, secure land and housing to even the poorest families in Chum Phae. In these eight projects, the better off could get houses that are a little bigger and buy their land cooperatively, while the poorer could get houses that are a little smaller and lease public land at nominal rents – but nobody was left out of the city-wide upgrading process. The cost of the loan repayments in these projects, which range from $18 to $45 per month, are affordable to just about everyone, and are in fact considerably less than the cost of renting a small room in Chum Phae ($60 – $90 per month).
11 “pre-approved” house designs: As the upgrading process continued, the Chum Phae network has developed 11 basic house plan models, which people in these upgrading projects can choose from. There are row-houses, semi-detached and single houses, one-story and two-story houses. The houses offer a range of different budgets and different uses of construction materials (the cheapest even re-using old doors and windows), to meet different needs and different levels of affordability. Since these 11 designs were all developed by the people, with assistance from municipal engineers, the house plans all come “pre-approved” by the city’s Engineering Department. That means people save time and money obtaining permits, and community members only have to pay 150 Baht ($5) to get their house registration, which takes only two weeks. Other municipalities have begun to ask for these plans. As Mae Sanong says, “It helps when the city is on your side! In some projects, the municipality even provided electricity and access roads.”
A city with secure housing for all: By 2018, the community network in Chum Phae had come close to solving the housing problems of almost all the poor in the city, with 13 completed Baan Mankong housing projects, which provide secure land and houses to 1,052 poor families. Eight of those projects are on private land the communities found and purchased themselves, and five projects are on land leased cheaply from the Treasury Department. Since each project is different, each is used as a “learning center” and is much visited by communities from other cities. The collaboration between the communities and the municipal government and other local stakeholders has worked “like a single working team.” Chum Phae may be Thailand’s first city to have achieved 100% secure housing for all.
Addressing other non-housing needs: Now that the network in Chum Phae has largely solved its present housing problems, they are concentrating more on other activities which address other needs of the city’s poor communities. Savings groups and the network’s community welfare program are active in every community. The network organizes skills training courses and the city fund they set up in 2009 gives loans for income generation and community enterprises, to boost incomes. This focus on occupation and income has helped to ensure that loan repayment rates are almost 100%. There are also active youth groups, elderly groups, children’s savings groups, and several community libraries. The network has set up its own community enterprise to produce purified water in one community, which sells clean drinking water at cost to network members.
Collective rice farm: Several years back, the network purchased a 38-rai rice farm on the outskirts of town, which has now become a collectively owned community garden and rice production farm, where network members can grow their own vegetables and rice, or buy them at a cheap price from others who farm. The rule is that whatever vegetables or rice a family grows here, two-thirds goes to the family and one-third goes to the network. As Mae Sanong puts it, “People can also come here when their spirits are low – it makes them feel better to stay here or do a little work in the garden for a while.” If in the future more land is needed for housing poor families that come to the city later, this rice farm acts as a land-bank for future needs.
|Citywide housing in the city of Nakhon Sawan|
The city of Nakhon Sawan has always been an important junction, first as the confluence of four rivers and port-of-call for barges and steamboats going downriver to Bangkok, and more recently as the junction of several major highways. Nowadays, poor migrants coming into the city to fill the increasing demand for labor can’t find affordable land or housing, even though the city is filled with vacant public land, most under central government control, and find themselves trapped in the old cycle of squatting and eviction.
In the past three years, the community network in Nakhon Sawan has mushroomed from eight savings groups to over 50, most of them in squatter settlements and all strongly women-led. With support from the Municipality’s Social Welfare Department, these women have plunged into a variety of activities in environmental improvement, health and credit. It was the constant threat of evictions which eventually brought the network and the city to seriously examine the particular land-use problems behind those evictions. In early 1999, along with municipality, NHA and UCDO, the network embarked on a collaborative process in Nakhon Sawan to provide healthy, secure housing for all the city’s urban poor at at one go. Here’s what they did:
Surveyed: The network first surveyed and mapped the city’s slums, in collaboration with the municipality, identifed tenure conditions for each and inventoried open land in the city. At that time, the municipality officially recognized only 19 of the 53 slums, and the idea was to create a common understanding about the slum situation. With 47 slums being on public land, there was good scope for planning at a city-wide level.
Prepared city-wide strategy: A big workshop was held in August involving all the community people and the spectrum of local development actors. The task was to find ways of using information from the survey and land inventory to draw up a city-wide plan for providing secure housing for all the poor in Nakhon Sawan, so there would be no more squatting in insecure and squalid conditions. For almost everyone involved, this was a new thing: looking at all the communities in the city as a whole, rather than individual projects.
Decided who stays, who relocates: It was agreed that people in settlements with no land problems would get secure tenure and redevelop in-situ, and people in settlements on flood-land, facing eviction from private land or in the path of development plans would relocate to a “People’s Town” which they’d design and develop themselves, on land they chose. For both in-situ and relocated development, the NHA will provide infrastructure, the UCDO will provide housing loans, the central government will provide land, the city will provide secure tenure and trunk infrastructure, and communities will build houses and manage the process.
Found land: For the new People’s Town, the network and municipality identified 16 hectares of open land in the middle of town, under Finance Ministry ownership, reserved in the development plan for a prison. They took advantage of a regulation which opens for other uses public land left unused for 20 years.
Developed their plan: The network women invited two young Bangkok architects to help them sketch out their dream community, to include schools, market, playgrounds and room to expand. Once everyone agreed to the plan, the work of filling in details and getting permissions began. All this required lots of co-ordinating between countless central, provincial and municipal offices to keep things moving, each step invol-ving careful political timing. The whole process was kept open, marked at frequent intervals with meetings.
Seizing opportunities: This model for citywide low-income housing planning in Nakhon Sawan can be adapted and used in other cities, but the convergence of people and events which ignited the process is not so easy to duplicate. There are opportunities to be found in every situation, but they take many different forms, and when they come, you’ve got to be ready to recognize them as opportunities, grab them and run.
In Nakhon Sawan, it was evictions which opened up the land issue and set things rolling. The city’s small size meant there were fewer groups to complicate things and everybody knew each other, so it was easier to do things. (In Bangkok, where everything is so big, and there are so many players too close to the central government, things quickly get stuck and are slow to change.) In Nakhon Sawan, there was also a solid community network in place, with strong women’s leadership and very good savings. There was a good governor, an enlightened mayor, a good social development officer in the municipality, good provincial officials.
Slums in Nakhon Sawan (October 2000 figures)
|Bor Farang Housing Development Project|
Background on the area: For many years, the Siam Cement Group Company (SCG) had been manufacturing cement and excavating soil on this sprawling 10-hectare site in Bangkok’s Chatuchak District. By the time production stopped in 1927, the land had been reduced to about 1-hectare, around a 9-hectare pit, which eventually filled with water and became Bor Farang (“Foreigner’s Pond”). Later, poor families began squatting on the deserted land around the lake. Eventually their settlement grew to include 340 households of vendors, laborers and garbage recyclers. Since the community wasn’t recognized by the authorities, the people were unable to access municipal electricity, water supply, waste collection or drainage,and the lake became increasingly polluted. Plus, without any access road, the people had to pass through State Railway land, adding isolation to poverty.
The Bor Farang land-sharing project is born: Fast forward to recent years, when the area is rapidly transforming into Bangkok’s new rail transport hub, and the SCG Company expresses willingness to redevelop the site, with part of the land being used to provide decent, secure housing and employment opportunities for the 340 poor families who live there, and the pond and surrounding area being cleaned up and turned into a public park. That’s how the land sharing project at Bor Farang was born, and it is an interesting one: a model housing project in which a private-sector land-owner proactively participates in a housing and economic development process for the poor, in close collaboration with several government agencies and with the community, which plays a key role in all the planning and decision-making.
How the land-sharing agreement works: The part of site that to be used for housing the community people will be turned over to the Treasury Department and become public land, and will be then leased (30 years, renewable) to the community cooperative, which has already been registered. CODI has given loans to the cooperative to develop the first 60 houses, with support of the Baan Mankong program. Housing for the other families will take the form of four-story blocks of flats, which will be jointly developed by the community, the SCG Company, the government and CODI. The pond and area around it will be redeveloped as a public park and green space in area that is rapidly becoming a concrete jungle. Besides full infrastructure facilities, the project will also include public market areas where community members can sell community products to park visitors, to boost their incomes. Access to the housing area will be facilitated by a new access road, on State Railways land, which is being leased for the purpose by SCG, as part of the agreement.
Three types of housing: Community members have taken part in design workshops to develop their ideas about what kind of houses they’d like to live in and how they’d like their new community to be laid out. Three housing types have been agreed upon: 2-story row-houses (60 units), four-story blocks of flats (133 units) and a special building for elderly community members (4 units).
Progress so far: The 60 townhouse units have been completed and construction work on the four-story apartment blocks is underway. Most community members are taking active part in the savings group – saving for their housing and also for their community welfare fund. Young community members have organized their own saving group, and use their collective resources to fund a variety of youth activities in the community. Several community enterprises have been set up, to boost incomes and strengthen collaboration and self-reliance within the community.
Who pays for what? The housing project at Bor Farang will cost about US$ 13 million, which will come from four sources. The SCG Company will provide the land (for free) and contribute about 40% of the project cost. The government will provide about 37% of the cost for the construction of housing and infrastructure. The community will contribute 20% of the cost, and the rest will come from CODI.
Bor Farang Project Details:
|Canal Housing Projects on 2 canals in Bangkok|
Bangkok’s beleaguered canal-side communities: Bangkok is built on low-lying, swampy land. The city is crisscrossed with canals (“klongs” in the Thai language), which have not only helped drain and control all the water, but have traditionally provided conduits for commerce, transportation, irrigation and development. But as cars have replaced boats, the klongs have fallen into disrepair: used for dumping sewage and solid waste, or concreted over to make way for buildings and roads. At the same time worsening problems of flooding and pollution are blamed on the informal communities which line many of Bangkok’s klongs, when the real culprit is unchecked urbanization and poor planning.
|There are 1,161 canals in Bangkok, and 23,500 households live in informal settlements on the narrow strips of public land along those canals.|
Canal-side communities show a new way: For decades, the government’s only idea was to evict these settlements, but beleaguered klong-side communities in many Thai cities began using their common predicament to form networks, improve their klongs and their settlements and negotiate to stay put, by demonstrating that they can be the city’s best partner in taking care of these crucial water management systems. Canal-side communities in many cities have initiated regular canal-cleaning events, developed simple technologies (like EM and grease traps) to lesson pollution in the canals. A growing number of canal settlements have also negotiated long-term leases to the public land they occupy and used the Baan Mankong Program to finance projects to rebuild their houses and redevelop their settlements with canal-side walkways, gardens and public spaces.
The pioneering project on Klong Bang Bua: One of the most visited of all the Baan Mankong housing projects in Bangkok is the one along the Bang Bua Canal, where a network of 13 canal-side squatter settlements have been implementing a large project to pull back from the canal edge and redevelop their houses in the narrow strip of public land along the canal, with canal-side walkways and easy access to the canal for the city’s flood-control and dredging equipment. It is a win-win solution in which the canal-side squatters get secure housing in-situ, on long term collective land lease, and the city gets improved flood control and improved canals.
A canal community policy breakthrough: upgrade them instead of evicting them. In 2015, faced with increasing flooding problems, and inspired by the success of the housing upgrading project along Klong Bang Bua, the national government announced an important policy to upgrade the informal settlements along Bangkok’s canals and build concrete embankments to improve flood management in the city. To do this, they asked CODI for help. For the government, this was a chance to upgrade the city’s drainage network, and for CODI, it was a chance to boost the community-driven upgrading of more canal-side communities.
Now upgrading 51 communities along Klong Ladprao: In 2016, the government asked CODI to work with the 7,000 poor families who live in 51 canal-side squatter communities along the 31-km length of the Klong Ladprao, another of the city’s principal canals. Besides improving drainage, the community-driven housing process on Klong Ladprao is providing people with secure housing, better environment and infrastructure, and stronger social and economic opportunities, and involves an extraordinary collaboration between various municipal and national government agencies, the canal-side communities, CODI, universities, architects and other local stakeholders.
Mostly on-site upgrading, with very little displacement: Most of the communities are reconstructing their housing on the same site, with housing loans from CODI’s Baan Mankong Program, which are made in bulk to the housing cooperatives the communities must all set up to access CODI finance. Since all the land along the canal is public land, the government grants long-term collective land leases (30 years), to the community cooperatives, at rental rates of US$ 1 – 4 per m2 per year. In cases where there is not enough land for on-site reconstruction, some households have to relocate to other areas nearby. Some of the Klong Ladprao communities have included partial on-site reconstruction and partial relocation. Seven housing projects (1,080 families) out of total 36 projects (3,741 families) have involved some relocation to other areas.
Tight layouts with row-houses: Two standard house types have been adopted in the Ladprao canal housing projects, to make new housing affordable to everyone: a one-story house (24 m2) for poorer or smaller families, and a two-story row-house (56 m2). The houses cost between 200,000-500,000 baht ($6,250 – $15,625) per unit, which is about 25% of existing market prices.
Financing: Housing loans from CODI are made in bulk to the community cooperatives, at 4% annual interest, repayable over 20 years. Monthly loan repayments will be 1,500 – 3,000 baht ($46 – $93), which is affordable to most urban poor households. The government also provides four kinds of subsidies to the projects (and to all Baan Mankong projects also), through CODI:
- Housing subsidy: 25,000 baht ($760) per household
- Infrastructure subsidy: 50,000 baht ($1,520) per household (combined and managed collectively in one fund)
- shelter subsidy: 18,000 baht ($545) per household
- Moving subsidy: 54,000 baht ($1,635) per household
- TOTAL subsidy: 147,000 baht ($4,455) per household
Klong Ladprao Details:
LINKS TO DOCUMENTS ON CANAL COMMUNITIES UPGRADING:
- Baan Mankong on Bangkok’s Canals June 2011.pdf
- Bang Bua Canal Upgrading Guidebook Sept 2013.pdf
- Canal community notes 1997 – 2004.pdf
- Canal Settlements in ACHR Newsletter April 1999.pdf
- CODI Update 4 June 2004 Baan Mankong.pdf
- CODI Update 5 March 2008 Baan Mankong.pdf
- Eviction in Thailand from ACHR Newsletter Oct 2003.pdf
- Klong Pai Singto in Bangkok in ACHR Newsletter April 1998.pdf
- A conversation about upgrading at Bang Bua Sept 2008.pdf
- A new approach to sustainable cities for Our Planet June 2005.pdf
|Homeless Center in Chiang Mai|
On June 28, 2018, a big crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of the new Chiang Mai Homeless Center, including the Minister of Social Development and Human Security and ministry staff, the vice mayor of Chiang Mai and city council members, the CODI director and staff, support NGOs, community network leaders from other cities, homeless network members from Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and a big group of homeless people from Chiang Mai. After the visiting dignitaries are taken on a tour of the new center, everyone gathers down in the courtyard, where marquees have been set up, for the speeches and awards. These are Tom’s rough notes from the inauguration ceremony:
The new center building: The 2-story C-shaped building is arranged round a big courtyard which is shaded by a great big centuries-old rain tree (ton kampoo) that has been carefully preserved in the design. The main block on each floor is divided up into partitions for homeless singles, couples and families to stay, with bathrooms, meeting rooms and generous balconies on each floor. Lots of windows and good cross ventilation everywhere.
- Building process used to improve building skills: For the heavy excavation and concrete structure of the building, a local contractor was hired, but to bring down construction costs, a lot of the labor and finishing work was done by homeless people themselves. The building’s design, which was developed by homeless network members themselves, with help from CODI’s community architects, included a patchwork of wall construction systems, so the homeless people could learn how to build with different materials (brick masonry, plastering, wood, bamboo and recycled bits and pieces), so they could get construction work jobs later. This construction training was conducted by community builders (chang chumchon) teams from sister networks in Chiang Mai.
- Spaces for singles and families, partitioned and not-partitioned: The spacious living areas on two floors have some areas that are left open, without partitions (separate areas for men and women) and some areas that are partitioned-off, for families, singles or couples. That way, the center can provide a variety of shelter options for people, according to what they are comfortable with.
- Roof garden: On the third floor, a big roof terrace is being used for raising vegetables, in a project they are calling “Finding Green.”
- Cafe and bakery: The network wanted their center to be a place that is open and welcoming to everyone – not just the people who live there. So when they were planning the new center, they decided to include a cafe and bakery on the ground floor. The cafe will generate income for the center and also function as a place to train bakers and baristas.
- Spaces for income-generation activities, like making tie-dyed clothing, community enterprises to make organic fertilizer, soap and washing-up liquid.
Homeless leader, Khun Narin, speaks: We homeless people have gathered together as a network for 11 years now in Chiang Mai. We also link with homeless networks in Khon Kaen and Bangkok. We hope to make an MOU with the Minister to support us and carry on this good effort to help other homeless people in Thailand. We appreciate that all of you have come to celebrate with us this important milestone in our development, as we open this new homeless center in Chiang Mai.
- We started 11 years ago by gathering in public areas, in parks and along the street, and began discussing with each other our ideas about how to have a better life. We made a trip to Bangkok to see the homeless network’s center in Taling Chan, and came back determined to work hard to build our network in Chiang Mai. When I saw that homeless center in Bangkok, it changed my thinking totally: it’s not possible to live alone in the street as homeless people any more – we need to find a way to work together and live together and support each other.
- “Walking with coffee” After the Bangkok trip, we began organizing an activity where we would go around at night to talk with homeless people in the places they tended to sleep or gather, and invite them to a nightly meeting, with coffee, at 6 PM, outside the city’s Tha Phae Gate. This was our chance to hear each other’s stories, share information about what kind of services are available and find ways to support each other.
- Started to plan our own center in Chiang Mai. Ever since that trip to Bangkok, we have wanted to make our own homeless center here in Chiang Mai. We started to look for possible land and to negotiate with the local government, but land in this city is very expensive. We did find a small house to rent and set up a temporary shelter there, but the people in that neighborhood didn’t like having us there and we didn’t feel secure. And because the place was so small, most homeless people continued to sleep on the street, not in the shelter. We needed a more proper and more permanent shelter. We demonstrated for government support during the Abhisit government, and the prime minister agreed to support our shelter plans, but the money never came. So we demonstrated again, and a few years ago, the current government allotted a budget of 180 million baht (US$ 5.5 million) for homeless centers in 3 cities. So we could finally buy this land and start planning our center.
- This was private land, and it cost 26 million baht (US$ 797,900). The land is owned by the homeless network.
- The building cost 5 million baht (US$ 152,000), and we are very proud of it because we all helped with all the planning and worked on the construction every single day, making progress little by little, until the building is now 90% finished. We will keep working on it.
- Today we are proud to show show you what we can do, and to give our big thanks to the Ministry and CODI and our friends in the Human Settlements Foundation for supporting us, and for all of you coming to celebrate with us today. We hope the center will help solve the problems of the homeless in Chiang Mai and will help give a better future to people who live in the streets.
We have decided to name our new center Baan Tuem Faan (“House of Fulfilled Dreams”)
Another homeless leader speaks: This new center is not just a place to sleep, but a place where all the homeless people in Chiang Mai can gather and support each other to find their way to a better life. As we’ve seen in the Bangkok shelter, we hope that after staying in this shelter for a while, our homeless people can also build up their strength and be able to go out and have a normal life and make their own housing some day.
- Rules and regulations in the new center: In the Bangkok shelter in Taling Chan, their rule is that people can stay up to six months, and after that they have to stand up by themselves. We decided we don’t want to have that rule here, and people can stay as long as they need to. But when newcomers come to the shelter, they can stay in the area on the ground floor with no partitions. After they stay a while, learn to live here with the others and commit to the process of supporting each other, they can move upstairs, to a partitioned space.
- Savings: We also have our own savings program, for people who live in the center and those who still live in the streets.
- Waste recycling: A lot of the homeless people in Chiang Mai earn a little income by collecting, sorting and selling recyclable waste. The new homeless center has a waste-sorting area on the side of the building and on the 25th of every month, all the materials are sorted and sold. Part of the profit goes into the member’s savings, and part is used to support the center.
- Welfare fund: Homeless people have lots of health problems, many are elderly and crippled, and so one of the important things the homeless network does is manage its own welfare fund, to help with clinic visits and medicines, to which every member contributes 3 baht a day, or 150 baht ($5) per month.
Giving of House Registration papers: One of the big problems of having no legal address is that homeless people cannot get house registration papers. These documents are like a citizenship document and enable people to access the Thai government social programs like public health care, schools, access to public amenities like metered water and electricity. After the speeches by the two homeless leaders, officials from the local government formally grant house registration documents to the residents of the new center.
Award-giving: Awards are then given by the Minister for the network with the best saving, and three people get brand new electric fans as awards for “best participation in savings and participation”
The Minister for Social Development and Human Security speaks: I have heard that the project of making this new center has been a very long and difficult one, and I am happy to be here to appreciate what you have done. The homeless are our most vulnerable citizens. Like all of us, they have needs and they need a home. It is important that you have come together and found the way to meet those basic human needs using your own strength and your own togetherness. I can feel your commitment and your strength today, and it shows others that the homeless want to develop themselves and make a better life. Our ministry is happy to have the opportunity to support your work.
- It’s good that your center is open to everyone in the area, and good that you are helping to open up the issue of homelessness to our society.
- It is also very important that you have your own committee and have set your own systems to govern yourselves and to set your own voluntary rules for the center, so you can live well together. That is something that is very important for our society, to live together happily – that is what I think of as being a real community, and ideal for Thailand. Our government keeps writing more and more laws, but I don’t know why? I feel we should reduce the laws and support the people to set up their own rules and regulations, as you have done. I know your center here will inspire others. And if your rules and regulations don’t work, you can adjust them. This center has no fences around it, and it allows freedom to people who live here – but with that freedom comes responsibilities to share, to participate, to follow the agreed-upon rules.
- I appreciate so much how you have used recycled materials and your own labor and participation to keep the cost of the building very low. And I appreciate the roof garden – I am a village boy and I like this idea of growing your own vegetables up on the roof very much.
- I know that the homeless network in Khon Kaen has gotten the land, but not yet started building their center.
- Keep going. The more you work together, the more CODI and the Ministry will help and keep listening to you. Now we know that 5.7 million people are still homeless or living in squatter settlements in Thailand. So we still have a lot of work to do together to make sure these people have secure homes too. Thank you and happiness to all of you. (The minister and his entourage are accompanied to their vans by a group of young men in traditional Lanna dress beating drums)
LINKS TO DOCUMENTS ON THE HOMELESS HOUSING:
|Rural Baan Mankong in Pak Chong District|
Ban Man Khong Project in rural area is an extension of Ban Man Khong or The Secure Land Tenure Project which began initially in urban areas. In the rural areas, the project’s purposes are to create security for housing and farmland for the rural poor and to develop the infrastructure more relevant to the people’s livelihood such as systems of irrigation and farming.
Likewise, the projects in rural region emphasize participation of community members in activities such as saving with the community cooperative representing the people in project management. The development of Ban Man Khong Project operates in partnership between community, local authority and concerned agencies. As a result, the community receives the right to live and farm the land collectively, securely and sustainably. Ban Man Khong Project has become an important mechanism for moulding new leaders and networking the people organization.
Following the government policy to resolve illegal occupation of the land reformed for agricultural purpose, the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) reclaimed the land in 28 areas in 8 provinces covering the area of 28,512 rai in total. All of the land is to be developed and divided into housing and farming zones before being allocated to farmers. In the process the ALRO cooperated with CODI for the development of housing.
One good example is the Ban Man Khong Project on ALRO land at Pakchong District, Nakon-Ratchasima Province. In this project the reformed land was allocated to the projects run by the Young Farmers Group and the Agricultural Cooperative at Pakchong District. Permission to settle and farm the land was given to these farmers collectively by the National Land Policy Committee without any kind of legal document of ownership. However, these farmers will have secure housing and farmland to make their living.
The members of the Agricultural Cooperatives of 85 families were allocated at Ban Nuer. Each family received 5 rai of land for farming and 1 rai for housing. Chaiyakarn Bangbai one of the farmers who settled in the reformed land at Pakchong talked of her background and how her livelihood has been improved after settling in the reformed land, “I was living on the land belonging to the Crown Property Bureau. Then, the Police Department wanted to expropriate the land to build a training center. I was one among other farmers who were affected by this project. We are dairy farmers. The police Department sent our names to the Land Reform Department to consider if our cases were qualified for the right to resettle in the reformed land and our cases were approved. On the farmland, we divided 2 rai for keeping cows and on the other 3 rai we grow maze to feed them. The other plot is spacious enough to grow some trees including fruit tree. We grew 30 Durian trees and grew chillis, tomatoes and other crops for family consumption.
Similarly, Thanongsak Konpoklang, another farmer who received the right to settle and farm in the reformed land described how the livelihood of his family has become more secure, “After I was allocated here I started to grow crops. Moreover, on the 1 rai plot for housing, we also grow vegetables for sale, the types that last several years, such as Kui-Chai. We cut and sell them to the middle person about 5 kilograms a day which earns us 150 baht per day. We make money from vegetables growing on three quarters of the plot for housing. We have earned about 12,000 baht approximately in a year after we settling here. I think it is a secure life and income.”
Niran Somphong is the chairperson of the Pakchong Agricultural Cooperative Limited, what he said corresponding with what the others had said, “Some farmers never possess a house although we all dream of having one. We saved money to build a house but we do not have the land to build it. We had a very good opportunity with supports from CODI, the Land Reform Department, the Cooperative Promotion Department and other concerned agencies. A house is a social thing—it’s our livelihood, our life. A house improves our livelihood. It’s the life and a social group we have developed. We feel happier. Our family is together. When we were renters, each family member had to go his own way to make a living as soon as we got up. Now we have our own land we help one another plant and work on the same piece of land and the family has a sense of togetherness.”
The plot for the second project at Ban-Gok is not far from the first project. It is called the Young Farmers Project which has 40 families as members. In this project 2 rai of farmland and half a rai for housing was allocated to each family. Supak Pornpisarn, one of the people who had received the ‘Young Farmers’ training organized by The Land Reform Department said that, “After the training I was then qualified for choosing the plot of land at Pakchong District to make my living. We started off on the land so bare. We gradually developed it, beginning from growing Dao-Ruang Flowers for sale. After that we tried to grow salad vegetables. We experimented and tried out to find what kind of plants suit us, suit the land and we possibly can make money from. We have a limited area for housing, half a rai, therefore we need to look for the kind of plants that do not need much space that we can make money from.
Additionally, according to Wasana Suksan, “housing is one of the basic needs. If we don’t have any farmland we will have to look for work. I like farming and love doing it. I don’t give up trying, as it is a way of life. So far we earn enough for a living but not for saving. Although we do not earn a lot we at least have sufficient food to consume.”
To be eligible for the right for an allocation on the reformed land, as determined by The Land Reform Department, poor farmers must register and submit their request at relevant government agencies. The Sub-Committee of the Provincial Land Policy is in charge of the selection process which is based on standard criteria and the criteria established by each province. The provincial criteria can respond to the specific problems in each provincial context such as displacement of people from the government land or reserved areas, people effected by government projects or landless farmers who have registered their cases with the authority.
CODI’s support for rural housing is regulated by a budgeting frame the same as those in the urban areas: providing a loan and subsidizing a small fund for housing development for the community members to repair or build a new house; support for the poorest members who are unable to take a loan to have a secure house to live in; and support for a budget for developing basic services which covers the physical environment of the community such as an irrigation system; lastly, to support a budget for development of the people process such as developing a group process, a visit and exchange programme, and a budget necessary for organizing meetings, etc.
The problems regarding farm land and housing can be resolved alongside each other by having the people as the key actor. The problems confronting the people in the two projects have been resolved with tangible solutions. The farmers in the two projects can gradually increase their income and their capability to depend on themselves.
Ban Man Khong in the rural area at Pak Chong District, Nakonratchasima Province, is not an aid programme which intends to give the people an already-made house, but it is a mechanism employed to develop and organize the people. It is also a project carried out in partnership to create a model of community participation process with physical, economic and social aspects. The experiences gained will be a real life example reflecting how communities of the people who have low income, who are deprived of opportunities and who are very poor develop strength and who one day will have secure land to live on and farmland to make their living in a sustainable way.