Bamboo provides food, income for struggling father and son

World Food Day, October 16, reminds us of the 925 million people who are hungry around the world. Programs like this bamboo cultivation project in Thailand have helped create a livelihood and provide a consistent food source for people in need like Krai and his family.

Story and photos by Somluck Khamsaen, World Vision Thailand. Edited by Shawna Templeton.
Published October 12, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

Krai, 10, lives with his father in Ban Raktinthai, Thailand, a small village surrounded by mountains and hills. He and his father have spent many hungry nights in their small one-room house.

Foraging for a meal

Krai’s father, Potthakiat, worked as a day laborer, earning less than $4 per day. Since there was usually not enough money to buy food, he often scavenged in a grove near the village.

“Sometimes, he brought bamboo shoots, mushrooms, or bamboo caterpillars home to us,” says Krai. “When that happened, we had meals for the next few days.”

Many times Potthakiat had to leave the village for work and stay the night elsewhere. Krai missed his father when he wasn’t home.

Harvesting for income and sustenance

World Vision worked with local villagers to create a bamboo project to establish a new food source for the community, and ensure that struggling families have access to produce to feed themselves, share with neighbors, and sell for income.

Potthakiat no longer goes into the woods to find food. This project helped Krai’s father plant a type of bamboo called “bambusa beecheyana.”

Krai’s father received five seedlings and planted them in his backyard garden. When the bamboo is prolific, he sells some of the shoots and also propagates new plants and sells the seedlings.

When there are more than enough shoots for sale, Kria and Potthakiat cook them in their meals. “I like stir-fried bamboo shoots with eggs,” says Krai. “Bamboo shoots are sweet, crunchy, and tasty.”

Krai's father, Potthakiat, is happy with the positive change his family has seen from their participation in the bamboo project.The last time the bamboos produced a lot of shoots, Krai’s father sold them and bought mackerels. “That was the first time I have ever eaten a mackerel,” exclaims Krai. “It was so delicious.”

Krai continues, “Now, my dad gives me some money before I go to school every day. I can buy some snacks. Some days, I even have some money left to be put in a piggy bank.”

Potthakiat confirms the benefits he has seen from participating in this project. “Growing bamboos has helped my family a lot. We have had continuous income, which is enough for us to repay our debts.”

Cooperation in community

The yield over the past two years has been so plentiful that the villagers formed a group, consisting of 42 families, to grow bamboos together. They started demonstration plantations using public land in the village, and have sold more than 300 seedlings so far.

The group uses this income to provide low-interest loans to group members. Some of the recipients use the loans for household spending, while others use it to repay their debts. Any interest received becomes the group’s working capital.

This achievement has become an inspiration for the group to start growing other plants, such as macadamia.

Sponsorship contributes to all facets of life

With support from generous sponsors, World Vision is still working in the area to improve the agricultural food industry, ensure clean water in both schools and homes, and increase access to basic health services and education.

Krai is a sponsored child. Among other things, sponsorship provides him with school uniforms, shoes, notebooks, sweaters, and blankets.

“We’re all happy,” Potthakiat says. “Now, we have more money to use in household spending…I intend to open a savings account at a bank for use as my kid’s educational fund until he graduates from a university.”

Four ways you can help

Pray for the children and families around the world who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Pray that they would gain access to sustainable sources of nutritional food.

Sponsor a child today. For about $1 a day, you’ll help provide children in need with access to life-saving basics like clean water, nutritious food, healthcare, education, and more.

Make a one-time gift to support agricultural programs. Your gift, combined with government grants and donated goods, multiplies five times to help bring vital agricultural programs and other essential care to the world’s hungriest children and families.

Contact your lawmakers today. Ask them to protect funding for programs that fight hunger, disease, and extreme poverty.