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.
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.