The “Growing Banana Plants with SCG” Project began in Nikhom Phatthana sub-district in Rayong, on a land so arid that even weeds could not grow but has now been transformed into a banana plantation that bears fruits and brings hope to the locals, thanks to the concerted efforts of the local residents with disabilities who seek to develop themselves and earn a livelihood, and SCG’s volunteers.
Somchai Hongsuvarn, CSR Manager of Chemicals Business, SCG, told us about SCG’s determination to help create a livelihood and improve the quality of life in the area since the company’s very first day in Rayong.
“Because our plants are in Rayong, it is our mission to take care of the communities around us and ensure that they have a good quality of life. We focus our efforts on educating them first in order to create sustainable livelihoods and encourage them to establish community enterprises. In addition, we help them elevate their work standards, take them on educational field trips, and connect them to other communities so that they have partners to grow their business with.”
The “Growing Banana Plants with SCG” Project was conceived during SCG’s involvement with a community enterprise in Map Cha Lut in Huay Pong sub-district, Rayong that produced processed banana products. As their products were so popular that the local banana growers could not keep up with the demand, SCG started distributing young banana shoots to communities in the vicinity in the hope of increasing the banana supplies and, during that process, stumbled upon a 10 rai plot of unused land belonging to an organization for local farmers with disabilities. While it was not readily arable, SCG and the farmers firmly believed in the potential and knew that with knowledge and appropriate technology they could develop the land.
“The land was abandoned because it was parched and we could not grow grass or raise goats here. They would all die. You could not do anything on this land,” Sakorn Aemsomboon, Chairman of the Disabled Farmer Group of Nikhom Phatthana, Rayong, said of the piece of land that has been transformed into a banana plantation with over 4,000 plants.
In the first phase of the project, SCG invited experts to serve as mentors and teach the farmers how to properly care for young banana plants, and later helped them with the irrigation system, bringing in pipe technicians to plan water management in the plantation with them and design the system to ensure that it was user-friendly to people with disabilities.
As bananas are water-intensive crops and the farmers had limited water supplies, they initially had to inspect the entire farmland by themselves to see whether the banana plants were all adequately watered. Recognizing that this presented a challenge for the banana growers, SCG introduced sensors developed by Agcura, one of SCG’s startups, which were installed along the perimeter and in the middle of the plantation. These devices could accurately informed the user of the moisture level in each part of the plantation through the notification system as well as calculate and suggest the appropriate amount of water for each area, which could save both water ,time, and energy of the farmers tremendously.
“Because we are working with people with disabilities, we need to come up with the most efficient and labor-saving method. At the moment, we are discussing the possibility of incorporating solar cells and achieving total irrigation management through a mobile application to increase convenience and productivity,” said Somchai, affirming SCG’s intention to introduce further development to the project.
“We have been able to make possible the impossible and transformed arid land into a piece of land where disabled farmers could earn their livelihood. We are glad to have helped them become more self-reliant, and we are ready to continue to provide assistance and solve any problems they may encounter with them.”
Sakorn said that they were in the process of improving production plans, which would enable them to grow bananas all year round. “We cannot expect them to give us everything. We need to take an active role and pull our weight.”
Today, the project has progressed into its third year, in which clean energy technology is being introduced for the benefit of both the communities and the environment, and all this is possible thanks to the determination, initiative, and cooperation of all parties involved in the effort to create a sustainable livelihood for people with disabilities and communities in Rayong.