Written by Mekong Institute  

The Mekong Institute was commissioned by New Zealand Aid Programme to conduct a four-week annual GMS Youth Camp on “Modern Farming Systems” from 1 to 27 July 2013 for 34 students and 4 teachers from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV). The program aimed to establish knowledge and skills sharing networks among selected agriculture universities in CLMV countries. It also aimed to improve the knowledge and skills of regional cooperation and integration to support the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.  

Specifically, the Youth Camp aims to: (a) provide students of the CLMV countries with experiential learning opportunities in the whole supply chain; (b) promote modern farming systems for universities which can be adapted to the specific country’s conditions and can be used for agricultural curriculum improvement and design of internship program; (c) provide the students opportunities to learn about new technologies, products, and know-how in agribusiness management; (d) and foster relationships and develop regional network among CLMV youths for enhanced regional cooperation, integration, and future collaboration.

There were four host companies contributed to the design and delivery of the practicum from 4 to 23 July 2013, namely: Betagro Group, Mitr Phol Group, SF Khon Kaen, and Swift Company.

The program was designed and delivered by using modular training approach where participants went through three progressive stages: a) “Learn to do” – the participants were provided knowledge on the basic concepts of modern farming systems via the introductory session at the MI Residential Training Center in Khon Kaen province as well as exposure to KKU’s modern technology agriculture demonstration farm; b) “Do to learn” – Participants were provided practical learning experiences with their respective host companies related to poultry in Khon Kaen province, sugarcane in Chaiyaphum province and vegetable in Nakhon Pathom, Petchaboon and Rajchaburi provinces, with the company’s supervisors; and c) “Share to learn” – participants got an opportunity to present their group works/findings and share their learning experiences and lessons learned during the reflection and way forward session from 26 to 27 July 2013. Additionally, they also shared their gained knowledge and experiences to other students and teachers at their respective universities upon their return.

The results of the evaluation showed that the Youth Camp on “Modern Farming Systems” was successful both in terms of program design and content, and overall organization and management. Students and teachers found that all knowledge and skills were useful to them. Mekong Institute staff, host company supervisors, and farm owners were very friendly and supportive during their stay.

However, there were some rooms for improvement. Language barrier remained the key challenge for their learning. Some of students have limited English skills to communicate effectively as well as some of the company staff and farmers. Hence, the recruitment process should be strengthened to ensure student’s qualification especially on English and Thai language skills. Secondly, large number of students recommended to extend the period of internship from 3 weeks to 1 to 2 months.

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