We were up early to film an interview with Ajarn Yak, who had to leave ahead of us for a meeting in Sa Kaew Province. Ajarn Yak originally worked for the office of the King of Thailand. His work was focused on the King’s thinking for the development of a Sufficiency Economy in Thailand. Frustrated by farmers who didn’t believe the ideas that he presented to them based on this thinking, Ajarn Yak resigned his job to develop a working model. He chose a piece of land owned by his sister-in-law’s family near Chonburi, an area that is heavily industrialized and where water is very short. He began with soil that was as hard as rock from years of misuse. From this beginning he created the Agri-Nature Foundation and a learning centre that has now evolved to a network of organisations and learning centres around Thailand. These centres have collectively hosted about 300,000 people from all walks of life.
The foundation of the Sufficiency Economy is established by working with the land to ensure:
- Food to eat
- Materials for simple housing (e.g. bamboo and timber trees)
- Plants for household uses such as natural medicines, cleaning and toiletry products
- Enhancement and protection of the local ecology
From this foundation the “Our Loss is Our Gain” philosophy is implemented. Any surplus above and beyond the basic needs above is gifted to those in need (as offerings to monks, teachers and others), and preserved for future use. If there is still a surplus it is sold. Meeting basic needs and gifting to others are put ahead of economic gain.
Ajarn Yak is deeply dedicated to transforming Thailand, and addressing the effects of very heavy chemical use, erosion of genetic diversity, rapid deforestation, pollution of water, and other related issues that have arisen with rapid development over the last 50 years. This work is very mindful of global changes such as climate change, in terms of creating resilient local systems that have lower carbon emissions and can buffer against the effects of changing climate conditions. It implicitly involves people working together for a greater good rather than individual greed.
The day was hectic, on the move following Ajarn Yak’s trail and eventually catching up with him near Sa Kaew, in an area of degraded land with a thunderstorm overhead.