Fellow Since 1990
The Federation of Northeastern Cooperatives
This profile was prepared when Sun Rupsung was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
The New Idea
Sun does not want to see rural Thailand disintegrate. In the face of all the new information, market, and expectation pressures that have come to bear in barely a generation, however, he feels that village communities must adapt very quickly to be able to survive. Using his own community and its neighbors as a testing ground, Sun is working out and demonstrating several ideas that, especially together, should help.First he's trying to diversify and increase the productivity of the local economy, which rests too narrowly on a few crops, notably rice. He is specifically focusing first on encouraging animal husbandry. Towards this end he has been organizing small holder's clubs to share learning and services. Now he is taking the next step by creating the first de-facto corporation of one village's small cattle-holders. This simple legal innovation gives these small farmers joint access to credit and market advantages previously beyond reach, without becoming enmeshed in the government problems often associated with co-operatives.Second, he is setting to work to provide continuing education and a role for the flood of elementary school graduates hanging around with little to engage them in the face of all the temptations of Bangkok. His three year program is open to all thirteen year olds. It includes a half day class every Sunday but focusses on integrating these young people with the local social and economy -- very much in contrast to the formal school curriculum dictated in Bangkok. They may collect family income data or help analyze market opportunities for their village. They work with family businesses. The program tries especially to have them help introduce newer elements in the economy. Through the week these youngsters help one another in learning groups.Sun hopes to spread his model from village to village using a network of teachers, another underemployed resource in most communities. The government which is just now trying to find ways of fitting education to local needs, could also become a channel that actively spreads his ideas.