Fellow Since 1999
This profile was prepared when Kumrab Phanthong was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Kumrab is attacking the problems of environmental degradation and deforestation resulting from modern farming methods. He realizes that there is no one simple solution to this problem and therefore has developed several key innovative methodologies to accomplish his goals, most importantly: "Grassroots Universities", "Fruit Fairs", and a chain of "Green Market" shops. Most recently, he has put all these ideas together in his "Green Road" project, which combines all the individual pieces of his methodology in a concerted effort to achieve broader effectiveness and a more comprehensive approach to the issues facing rural communities in Thailand. This initiative is strategically located to market Kumrab's approach both in the consumer and political arenas. Through his "Grassroots University," Kumrab is facilitating a peer-to-peer transfer of knowledge. Sessions are held in local community centers where local community members learn and exchange local farming knowledge with and from other communities. Kumrab has also implemented "Fruit Fair" competitions to recognize, document, and increase the marketability of local fruits that are currently not widely marketed. These competitions encourage farmers within the local communities to become aware of the diversity of locally produced crops, ensure the mapping and recording of the diversity, and to appreciate the market value of many of the products. Through the fairs, Kumrab is working to persuade the local farmers to choose the poly-crop farming method in preference to the discredited mono-crop by showing what can be grown in the region and showing that these products can be sold at very good prices if identified properly. In addition, Kumrab has introduced a "Green Market" chain of shops for chemical-free produce. While individual natural produce markets exists in scattered locations throughout Thailand, Kumrab is systematically setting up a chain of "Green Markets" with recognizable branding and quality control. Finally, Kumrab is campaigning to affect public policy change through the strategically positioned "Green Road", a heavily industrialized area, where he is beginning to showcase all elements of his project and emphasizing the need to work towards to a sustainable natural alternative agricultural system. His long term vision involves the replication of his Green Road model along with government policy change that is accepting of his model.