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Living With Family in An Avocado Farming Village アボカドの村で家族と暮らす日

Updated: Jul 27

A cooperative farm to become a new income source

共同農園で新たな収入源を

Lime, shamrock, and emerald --- the fields in different shades of green colors cover the gently sloping hills on both sides of the road. It looks just like a patchwork. Rice fields are beautifully trimmed and corns are growing higher than people’s height in the field. We get the feeling that this is a fertile land.

The avocado farm of Naung Kone Village is located in the middle of such a picturesque landscape. Approximately 200 avocado trees are planted at equal intervals there. They grow twice as high as a person’s height and are lush with green and thick leaves. Last year, 15 trees among them started to bear fruits. This farm is expected to be a new income source for the village when it produces enough amount of crops to sell in the market. It was the villagers themselves who discussed this project together and built the cooperative farm in 2013. Naturally, they take pride in it.

"This avocado farm is expected to be a new income source of the village"

Acquiring the land, purchasing the seedlings and fertilizer, and building the farm cost the village 1,244,740 Khat (approx. 87,000 yen). This money was covered by the profit raised in the micro-finance project that the village runs since 2010. In this scheme, the village provides loans to the villagers for a period of half a year at a much lower interest rate (2~3 %) compared with the brokers and moneylenders that used to ask for 6~12 %, and the interest collected at the time of repayment is used for the village’s common expense. The avocado farm was constructed using this fund, and the money is also used to repair the windows and doors of the school, as well as to build accommodation for the teachers. “Before, the entire money we got from a year’s labor was taken as the interest payment. Now it is much easier to repay loans.” “I am saving money little by little.” The villagers look quite satisfied with this scheme.

 黄緑色、緑色、そして、濃い緑色――。パッチワークのようにさまざまなニュアンスの緑色に染まったなだらかな丘陵が、道の両脇に広がる。綺麗に草が刈られた田んぼや、人の背丈より高く育ったトウモロコシ畑から、豊饒な土地柄が伝わってくる。

 ナウンコン村のアボカド園は、そんな美しい絵画のような風景の中にあった。等間隔に植えられたアボカドの木が約200本、人の背丈の倍ほどに育ち、青々とした肉厚の葉を茂らせている。15本が昨年から実を付け始めた。市場で売れるぐらい収穫できるようになれば、村の新たな収入源になるだろう。みんなで話し合い、2013年に始めた自慢の共同農園だ。

 土地を確保し、苗木や肥料を購入して農園を整備するのにかかった124万4,740チャット(約8万7,000円)は、2010年から村で運営しているマイクロファイナンスの収益から支出した。高利貸しやブローカーから要求される利子(6~12%)よりも安い金利(2~3%)で村が半年ずつ融資を行い、人々が返済金と一緒に支払う利子を、村のいわば「共益費」として活用する仕組みだ。このお金を使ってアボカド園を始めたほか、学校の窓やドアを修繕したり、教員住宅を建設したりしているという。「以前は、1年働いて稼いでも利子を支払うだけでお金がなくなった。今は返済が楽になった」「手元に残ったお金は少しずつ貯めている」と、村人たちからも好評だ。


The village school recognized as a formal middle school

運営努力で実現した中学校

It was an NGO named Saetanar that introduced the micro-finance project to the village where people’s life depended on growing beans, corns and rice.

Saetanar has a unique way of promoting community development through supporting school building construction. Instead of constructing the building and donating it to the village, the NGO demands the village to bear a part of the construction cost as well as ask village people to participate in the actual construction work; this way, Saetanar makes it a village-led project. It also sets up a micro-finance project to generate income for the village so that the village will be able to operate the school independently and sustain-ably.

The original building of Naung Kone School was more than 20 years old and badly damaged when the village decided to construct a new building. At that time, Saetanar urged the village to take initiative and the villagers put their efforts together to answer this demand. The micro-finance project that started in 2010 has been going well; it entered the 14th period in July this year. It has been established that the villagers manage the village’s fund and decide on how to spend it on their own.

"Better education will broaden our children's horizon"

People felt their efforts were repaid when the government recognized Naung Kone School as a formal middle school in June this year. This recognition made it possible for Naung Kone children to continue attending school up to 8th grade at this location. This is a step forward compared to the past when the education was limited to the primary level (6th grade). The parents are happy. “Better education will broaden our children’s horizon.”

 大豆やトウモロコシ、コメを作りながら細々と暮らしていた村人たちにマイクロファイナンスを教えたのは、NGOのセダナーだ。

 学校支援を通じて地域の開発を目指すセダナーの支援はユニークだ。校舎を丸抱えで建設し寄贈するのではなく、村に工事費を一部負担してもらい、作業にも参加してもらいつつ建設を進めることで主体的な関与をうながす。村が今後、自立して持続的に学校を運営していけるように、収益事業としてマイクロファイナンスも立ち上げる。

 築20年が経過して老朽化が進んでいたナウンコン学校に新校舎を建設した時も、セダナーは村に主体性を求め、村人は一丸となってこれに応えた。2010年にスタートしたマイクロファイナンスも順調で、融資は今年7月に14期目に入った。村人自身で資金を管理し、収益の使い道を決めるのもすっかり定着した。

 努力が報われ、ナウンコン学校は今年6月、国の認定を受けて中学校に格上げされた。これまで6年生までしか学べなかったこの学校で、8年生まで学べるようになり、親たちは「より良い教育を受ければ、視野も一層広がる」と喜んでいる。


One person out of two households works away from home

2世帯に1人が出稼ぎへ

Naung Kone Village has surely taken a step forward, however, a new phenomenon is overshadowing its future. An increasing number of people go out of the village to work. More than 100 persons out of the total population of 1,279 go to Thailand and other neighboring countries to work as housemaids and construction workers. Rough calculation tells us that one person out of two households work away from home. For example, in one family, two brothers are both gone. In another family, the son went away, got married in a foreign country and has never come back; the old parents raise their grandchild in the village.

It is easy to say that this cannot be helped. Many villagers say, “If you work in the village, you can only get 3,000 Khat (approx. 210 yen) a day, but if you go to a big city, the daily wage is more than 6,000 Khat (approx. 420 yen).” “It is a global trend that labor moves for better jobs.”

On the other hand, some young men are determined to develop this village to make it a place for the whole family to live together. For example, they aim to promote Naung Kone School to a recognized, formal high school, as well as to install electricity in the village. ”Better education will increase the number of people who can take initiative in the community development, and if we have industries here, no one will need to go out of the village to look for work.” He speaks passionately about his ideas.

When I saw his big black eyes shining with hope, I was convinced that this village has a bright future.

 新たな一歩を歩み始めたナウンコン村だが、ここ数年、ある現象が影を落としている。村を離れ、出稼ぎに行く者が急増しているのだ。人口1,279人のナウンコン村を出て、タイや周辺国で日雇い労働やメイドとして働く人が100人以上いるということは、2世帯に1人が出稼ぎに出ている計算だ。中には、兄弟が2人とも出稼ぎに行っている家や、息子が出稼ぎ先で結婚して3年以上帰らず、生まれた孫だけこの村で祖父母が育てている家もある。

こうした状況を「仕方ない」で片づけることは簡単だ。実際、「村で1日働いても3,000チャット(約210円)がやっとだが、都会に出れば1日6,000チャット(約420円)以上もらえる」「より良い仕事を求めて人が移動するのはグローバルな流れだ」と言う村人も少なくない。

 だが、家族が再び一緒に暮らせる村づくりを胸に誓う青年もいる。アウンマンゲーさんの目標は、ナウンコン学校を10年生まで勉強できる高校にすることと、村に電気を引くことだ。「教育を受け、自ら考える人が増えれば、村に産業が興こり、出稼ぎに行く必要がなくなるでしょう」。

 黒目がちの大きな瞳を輝かせながら、アウンマンゲーさんが熱く語る。その姿を眺めながら、この村の未来はきっと明るいに違いないと確信した。 

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