Eight months ago, Rojana Boonpetch or Jeed was deep in debt and struggling to find a way out, much like the other sugarcane farmers in Amphoe Si Thep, Phetchabun Province, Thailand.
Jeed is proud to be one of 625 female sugarcane growers from Phetchabun and Uthai Thani Provinces who were invited by Thai Rung Ruang Sugar Group (TRR) to attend the Sustainable Business with Coca-Cola for Female Sugarcane Growers Project, part of Coca-Cola’s global 5by20 initiative to empower five million women across the company’s value chain by 2020.
In September last year, Jeed was presented with the opportunity to attend the project’s financial literacy training for female sugarcane farmers, run by Kenan Foundation Asia. She had attended other personal financial management training, but this time she felt the exercises were relevant to her life. The day-long training provided Jeed with knowledge in five areas: Financial Planning, Spending, Debt Management, Saving, and Investment and Entrepreneurship Finance. Kenan adapted its very successful financial curriculum to meet the specific needs of female sugarcane farmers, based on an assessment it conducted in 2016.
Kenan has been conducting successful financial literacy training for students, farmers, teachers, at-risk women, and other community members for well over a decade, and has worked for years to improve public policy related to financial literacy. Central to Kenan’s successful efforts is a highly targeted, gamified training that is light on theory, but heavy on specific life examples that participants can relate to, as well as on-going follow-up to remind the participants of the importance of saving and paying down debt.
After attending financial literacy training, Jeed has started developing clear financial goals by implementing the plan. She has begun to reduce her debt and is able to efficiently manage her agricultural operations to generate more income. Jeed was a big fan of Kenan's experiential learning concept, which emphasizes "learning-by-doing", through fun and informative activities that directly related to her financial circumstances. She felt the training was full of useful life examples that she could easily adapt to her daily life.
As a result of the training, Jeed discovered that the root cause of the family's financial problem was poor financial management and, moreover, she begun to understand how to address her problems. She reflected that the high cost of sugarcane farming requires careful planning. She realized that if she continued to live the same way, she would never get out of debt. She begun setting life and financial goals to cut down expenses, reduce debt, and save more to start investing in land. One of the most important things Jeed learned from the training was household bookkeeping. This has helped her budget more effectively. When she took the above steps, she began to reduce unnecessary expenses in the family by adopting the sufficiency economy philosophy of His Majesty the Late King Rama IX.
In addition, the training increased Jeed's knowledge in managing the production costs of her sugarcane farm. She has continued to seek innovative ways to reduce operation overheads from local farmer groups and digital media, for example by trialing new sustainable farming techniques such as soil improvement and drip irrigation to maximize her 130 Rai (1,600 sq.m.) of sugarcane farm. These have the potential to make her operation more cost effective.
Today, Jeed demonstrates real purpose in achieving her goals. She has plans to expand her farmland to increase productivity. After her debt issue is fully resolved, she will have enough funds to invest in new agricultural equipment. Jeed has also taken on the position of Assistant Village Headman, and uses this platform to spread her new found financial management knowledge to community members, with the desire to inspire others to also "find a new way to survive".