Coconuts are considered as a kind of plants that are important for the way of life of Thai people. Currently, coconuts are utilized in producing food and processing as several utensils. In addition, they are also exported to other countries. In Thailand, the sources of coconuts growing are in central part and southern part of Thailand as well as Pan Sub-District, Sai Buri District in Pattani Province that is the traditional source of coconuts growing of lower south. During the past years, the occupation of coconut gardeners had been disappeared due to lack of knowledge and understanding on maintenance of coconut trees of farmers leading to reduction of productivity per rai due to longer age of coconuts. Currently, they recover the occupation of coconut gardeners as the major occupation of this area with capability to generate good income for local people by using New Theory Agricultural Principles.
Sai Buri coconuts are preferred by sellers who sell coconut milk because of their sweet taste and smell. Sai Buri District is an eastern coastal area of Pattani Province and local people mainly grow rice and fruits. In every garden, there is a large number of coconuts and the average age of coconuts in traditional gardens of this area is ranged from 40-60 years. Coconut growing in the area of Pan Sub-District, Sai Buri District, has been performed since grandfather and grandmother period but it was in natural way, i.e., no regular fertilizer, nourishing with burned coconut leaves. Most people grew coconuts for household consumption with processing as roasted coconuts for producing oil. There was a period of time that coconuts were in short supply helping to increase coconut price to be 3 baht per coconut therefore villagers changed to sell coconuts with their shells. Middlemen purchased coconuts from their gardens and most of gardeners were unable to negotiate on price with those middlemen. Moreover, most coconut products lacked of quality because gardeners paid no attention to nourishing.
Subsequently, when the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, by Sai Buri District Agricultural Extension Office, established Farm Extension System Project, 30 gardeners in the area of Village No. 6, Ban Pan Sub-District, Sai Buri District, assembled. Subsequently, this group was interested by gardeners from other villages, Ban Pan Coconut Community Enterprise was established under the support of Langphra Foundation and application of Understanding-Connecting-Developing process has been applied to develop the group. Langphra Foundation helped to seek for the goals of assembly, analyze on weaknesses and strength of the group, and provide some study trips to group members to study on production process from ecotypes to maintenance, collection, processing, and distribution. This group has been interested by many villagers. Currently, the number of members increases to be 121 members and it has been supported by various agencies, for example, Community Development Office, Land Development Office, and local administration organizations.
Although Ban Pan Coconut Community Enterprise has mutual sources to collect coconut products by purchasing coconuts from members with fair price for strengthening and improving security of gardeners as the controller of market force, there is still a problem on speculation caused by some middlemen. To solve this problem, they avoid conflicts and consider that it may need a period of time to make their members confident and motivate them through selling coconuts with market price, i.e., from 3-4 baht per coconut to be 13-14 baht per coconut. Moreover, an amount of profit is also set aside as the dividend for members and enhancement of local production. When they gain sponsorship from other agencies, they will choose to support members who follow with conditions of the group first.
Although Ban Pan Coconut Community Enterprise has just been established for two years, their operations have been developed by leaps and bounds with performance that is better than expected. Currently, coconut products have certain market with average quantity of 1,000 coconuts per week and more orders can be obtained from private network. However, there is a problem on inability to supply their products to the market sufficiently but they have an idea to increase coconut plantation areas while seeking for the method to increase productivity on their former lands including development of traditional coconuts or seeking for new ecotypes.
Ban Pan Coconut Community Enterprise that has been growing does not aim to sell a large quantity of coconut products only but it also remains the areas of integrated farming system with rice fields for household consumption, some growing areas of herbs, fruit gardens for distributing seasonal crops, and growing areas of coconuts in every garden. They have strived to find the way to generate other incomes besides distributing coconuts, i.e., other parts of coconuts are processed to add value of distribution including coconut coir that is highly demanded by orchid industry. The group also processes coconuts in the form of coconut coir dust for mixing with soil and adds value of such coconut coir dust by cutting it dice shape.
Coconut gardeners in Pan Sub-District, Sai Buri District, Pattani Province, have good natural fund with integrated farming, i.e., having fruit gardens along with rice fields plus with coconuts growing in the same area. When new theory agriculture is promoted with correct preparation of seeds and soil, coconut nourishing and pest elimination, assembly, accounting system, and production planning under academic principles, they are able to recover their household economy to be sufficient for their living again. In the future, they will be able to reach the stage of investment for developing their quality of life continuously and sustainably.