Written by Mekong Institute

The Mekong Institute was commissioned by Thailand International Development Agency to conduct a four-week annual international training course on Sustainable Rural Development for twenty five government officials from eighteen developing countries in Africa and Asia. The course aims at developing the participants professional capacity to assist rural development and improve living standards in rural communities. It provided a venue for senior and medium government officials from developing countries who are involved in rural development to share experiences and best practices on interventions that create lasting impacts and advance disadvantaged peoples quality of life.

The training course was designed and deliver using modular training approach, of which, all participants went through three progressive stages: a) Learn to do training on concepts, techniques and tools to be employed; b) Do to learn the participants are required to apply what they learn to their work assignment with proper coaching from assigned advisors; and c) Share to learn participants will have an opportunity to present their group works/findings and share their learning experience and lessons learned.

There were nine resource persons/subject experts who contributed to the design and delivery of the lectures, workshops and structured learning visits namely: Mr Erhard Floether, a freelance consultant, Mr Anthony M. Zola of Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage, Mr Krailert Taweekul of Khon Kaen University, Dr Suchat Katima, Ms Maria Theresa S. Medialdia, Ms Sanda Thant, Ms Rowena M. Hidalgo, Ms Deborah Ling and Mr Marat Yu of the Mekong Institute.

The training course is comprised of three inter-related modules. Module 1 Rural Development: Issues and Problems aimed to draw attention to the crucial issues of rural development and to learn about the dramatic changes of the past and dramatic challenges in future for the rural sector. Module 2 Rural Development: Methods and Tools introduced participants to several important methodologies and toolkits used in formulating strategies and identifying, designing and evaluating programs and projects of rural development to improve their strategic planning capacity and project level capacity. Sessions were conducted both in classroom-setting and through site visits of related field sites in Thailand. Module 3 Sustaining Rural Development provided participants with opportunities to understand problems and opportunities of small-holder farming system, economic alternative, human resource development, and environmental issues. Sufficiency economy principal was also introduced as the rural development initiatives of Thailand.  

Three structured learning visits were organized for the participants to enhance the participants understanding of the programs contents through observation and interaction with the villagers in Dong Bung villagers. The trips to Royal Chitralada Agricultural Projects and Bangsai Arts and Crafts Center were also organized for participants in order for them to appreciate the complexities and successes and challenges of the projects.

The evaluations conducted throughout the course showed that the learning program was successful. However, there were suggestions for improvements: more field visits, more practical exercises and providing case studies of Africa.

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