Written by Mekong Institute  

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Mekong Institute (MI) agreed to collaborate on a specific project to develop partnership and promote cooperation between the two parties. The six-day Structured Learning Visit (SLV) on “Agricultural Planning and Investments in Thailand” was conducted from 3 to 8 February 2014 for 18 government officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Planning and Investment from Attapeu, Luang Nam Tha and Sayabouli provinces, as well as GIZ Local and International Advisors. The Structured Learning Visit aimed to provide participants with first-hand information and expose them to new ideas on planning and investment in agriculture sector in Thailand.

Two MI facilitators were involved in organizing the program, translating, facilitating discussions, and sharing experiences with the participants. The participants visited five places in two provinces of Northeastern Thailand, namely; Khon Kaen Governor’s Office, Sum Sung Safe and Chemical Free Vegetable Growers Cooperatives, Betagro Group, and Mitr Phu Viang Sugar Mill in Khon Kaen province, as well as Roi-et Agricultural Cooperatives in Roi-et province. At the end of the SLV, the participants presented their reflections on what they learned and which practices can be applied upon their return. The participants appreciated most the knowledge gained on participatory strategic planning system at different levels, which involved many organizations and the use of several analytical tools. They also learned about different approaches in agricultural promotion such as 1) public-private partnership (PPP) at Sum Sung Cooperatives, and 2) contract farming system, which allowed a win-win situation for both the farmers and the companies.

The results of the evaluation conducted throughout the program showed that this SLV was successful both in attaining the program objectives and meeting the participants’ expectations. Most of the participants were fully satisfied with the program, in terms of program design and contents, as well as the overall organization and management of the program, as shown in the average rating of 4.50 on the overall satisfaction to the program, using a scale of 1 to 5. However, there were some suggestions for improvement such as visiting some companies which have potential to invest in Lao PDR, and shortening presentation to allocate more time for discussion.

The participants also indicated their needs for similar activities that will enhance knowledge on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), agricultural extension system, decentralization, and PPP tools.

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