by H.E. Mr. Suchart Liengsaengthong
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to Pakistan

Sufficiency economy can be applied to all levels, branches and sectors of the economy. It is not necessarily limited to the agricultural or rural sectors. Even the financial, the real estate, and the international trade and investment sectors can apply this concept by using similar principles of emphasizing moderation in performance, reasonableness, and creating immunity for oneself and society.

For individuals, sufficiency economy can be applied as a guideline for daily conduct because it is a philosophy that promotes the principle of moderation or the Middle Path. The guidance for leading one’s life is, for example, cutting down expenses in all aspects and avoiding luxuriant spending, pursuing one’s occupation with proper behaviour and honesty, attempting to gain the knowledge in order to escape hardship and achieve sufficiency, and following the good path, avoiding the bad and adhering to religious principles. An individual should not be unnecessarily extravagant and should not be materialistic. One should lead a life depending on one’s own resources or status, and should not be exposed to any risks, e.g.: incurring debts in hope of becoming rich in a short term, or investing in a gambling-like activities, which can result in bankruptcy. Instead, one should value the principle of “knowing, cherishing and uniting”, and use intelligence to protect oneself from extremely indulging in the globalisation trends. One should be capable of distinguishing good deeds from bad deeds, sharing love and generosity among one another, as well as assisting one another and uniting in an attempt to turn conflicts into compromise and with a view to promote the mutual benefits. Sufficiency economy does not mean that one has to be overly stingy. A person can lead a luxurious life once in a while, provided that it is within his capacity to do so or within the limit of the existing income or resources first.

For farmers, a well-known and practical example of the application of the Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy is “integrated farming practice according to the New Theory”, which promotes step-by-step development, starting from building a good basis for the people at the family level to enable them to become self-reliant to a certain extent without taking advantages of others. Then, the people can join hands in various activities in the form of groups, communities, or even community enterprises. The aim is to enhance creative force among them, which in turn helps strengthen the community, reduce the risks of impact from external factors and build connections with large-scale businesses, government agencies as well as organizations. The end result will then be the expansion of various forms of the cooperation scope at the national level.

For businessmen, sufficiency economy emphasises that the producers try to produce within the limit of existing income or resources first. This is the principle of decreasing the dependence and increasing the ability to control the production themselves, thus decreasing the risk of not being able to efficiently control the market system. The practice for businesses include the use of appropriate technology that is inexpensive but suitable for production, distributing risks by producing a variety of products, low risk management, particularly by not over-borrowing, and not emphasizing short-term profit. Importantly, the businesses should adhere to moral values, such as not being overly greedy, not taking advantage of consumers and suppliers, and having corporate social responsibility.

“…Any venture one must consider the size that is suitable to the characteristics or the environment of the venture. Any venture must be done with circumspection and one must not be too over-enthusiastic… If we carry out an adequate project of a moderate size, it would perhaps not be so showy, but it would not fail, or even if it fails, the loss will not be so great...”

The Tool to Achieve Sufficiency Economy for Farmers

From his frequent visits to the people in the rural areas throughout the country, His Majesty found that the majority of his subjects who are engaged in agriculture and produce foods to feed the people all over the country and the world are still in poverty. It is owing to the problem regarding their occupations, as a result of unproductiveness of their lands or water shortage. His Majesty then granted a royal initiative concerning the “New Theory” on 4thDecember, 1994. The New Theory is a set of systematic guidelines for proper management of land and water resources which ensures sufficiency economy for the farmers in order to enable them to become self-reliant, to have security in their occupations and to strengthen their families and communities.

The Complete New Theory Agriculture had three Stages:

First stage: Sufficiency at the household level or the state of self-reliance

In order for the farmers and their families, each of whom holds an average of 1.6 – 2.4 hectares (10 – 15 rai) of land for marking a living, to become self-reliant, the land should be divided into 4 parts:

Part 1: 30% is designated for pond, which is used to store excessive rainwater. The water will be used to supplement rainwater during the unusual drought periods and to grow dry season cash crops if the stored water is sufficient. The size of the pond, which includes width, length and depth, could be adjusted. In the relatively high precipitation zones and the areas where the irrigation water can be filled, the pond size might be less than 30%. Furthermore, the pond can also be used for raising fish.

Part 2: 30% is set aside for rice cultivation in the rainy season, which will provide sufficient yield for daily consumption of the whole family all year round. The production surplus can be sold. The family will then be self-reliant and have food security.

Part 3: 30% will be used to grow multiple cropping for general purposes, i.e. food, daily income, medicinal plants and fuel. The kinds and patterns of cropping will be varied from place to place, season to season, according to different environments and factors. The pioneer crops should be banana and followed by fruit trees or other trees. While the trees are small, the annual crops such as pepper and eggplant would be suggested as intercrops.

Part 4: The remaining 10% will be allocated to residential area, home garden, raising animals and other farm buildings.

The first stage of the New Theory enables the farmers to live happily with moderation, reasonableness and self-immunity or risk management.

  • Moderation is achieved because the size of the farm is not too small or too large for management thus bringing about the balance between one’s capitals and debts if deemed necessary.
  • In terms of reasonableness,the farm management meets the farmers’ needs and is suitable with the local farm ecology. Moreover, the resource land allocation is in balance with water. Basic needs, e.g.: rice, fish, and vegetables, are produced on site. Decision made is based mainly on the farmers’ skills and knowledge, not on commercial promotion or market trends.
  • As forself-immunity,the farmers can achieve self-sufficiency in terms of food and live a healthy life through using less chemical products but relying more on bio-diversity in production. Security from water scarcity problems is created on the farm. The diverse cropping systems help to reduce risks and enable the farmers to generate proportionate income from selling extra crops and products beyond necessary consumption of the household. Explicitly, it offers a solution for both poverty reduction and creation of a healthy community.

Through this stage, the farmers are equipped with the knowledge on the management of the resources available in life.

Second Stage: Sufficiency at the Community Level or Group Forming

The next step, the second stage of the New Theory, aims to create sufficiency at the community or the organisation level. The cooperative activities with members within the community are based on a concept of sharing excess resources of each household and assisting one another, using the local wisdom or locally available materials and building networks. The activities can be different for each community depending on their conditions.

Generally, the activities usually start from community enterprises or co-op based production -for example, rice bank, cow/buffalo bank, bio-fertilizer production group - to marketing,which is to make the necessary preparations to optimize selling of their produce such as provision of a central rice-dying area, a silo for gathering rice yields, a rice mill, as well as grouping to enhance their bargaining power which could ensure that their produce could be sold at a reasonable price;and well-being and welfare which is to equip the famers with the basic needs of life such as food, clothing, education and public health services; for example, the establishment of public health stations, community learning centre, saving groups or funds to provide loans to carry out the community’s activities or funds to support the education for youth.

The second stage of the New Theory addresses the importance of relationship between families and the community. Through this step, the farmers make a firm and step-by-step expansion from production level to the farmers’ groups and cooperatives, which offer crop and price insurance. They learn to live together, binding with unified and cooperative spirits, which helps strengthen the community, while enhancing the capacity of community members in reducing costs of living, increasing income, or creating community social safety net. Likewise, the stage promotes understanding, generosity or sharing, cooperation and unity among the members. People learn to share and learn from each other the knowledge and experiences for their mutual benefits, which will remain in the long run.

Third Stage: Sufficiency at the national level or opening to the outside world

In the third and most advanced stage, the community is encouraged to expand their activities through reaching out to other communities in order to share knowledge and experiences and expand the networks, as well as to co-operative firms, banks, and other outside sources. The expansion across different levels of organisations or activities can be compared to developing a value-chain in production. The expanded activities include; for example, fund raising, creating direct sales channel, seeking fund for establishing a community rice mill or cooperative store.

At this stage, various institutions join hands in a collaborative way to create sufficiency at the provincial or national level. Private firms can initiate corporate social responsibility to reach out to communities. While the public sector is to promote different types of associations, non-governmental organisations can collaborate in various activities they are keen in to strengthen sufficiency at all levels. The stage promotes mobilisation of social and economic capitals for further success of one’s, as well as the community’s, activities.

In summary, all the stages of the New Theory encourage the farmers to treasure ownership, participation and consensus while having a vision. The foremost outcome will not be limited to only the unity within the community and the people’s well-being, but also life security, the conservation of the natural resources and environment, the learning process of the community based on the local wisdom, as well as the preservation of valuable traditions and customs.

The benefit of sufficiency economy is restoring the local economy, starting from the importance of integrated farming and establishing the network. This means developing the capability of production and consumption at a self-sufficient level and stepping up to the level of processing agricultural produce and engaging cottage industry, which in turn helps create jobs and enhance diverse technical skills. The idea is to build up stability based on capitals, markets, resource base and country, complemented with selection of the knowledge arising from contacts with the outside world. In the process, individual potentials of the people will be exposed and utilised to help strengthen the family, followed by the community.

Sufficiency economy makes the people attach more to the spiritual value rather than to the physical value of all things. This way, the people will be able to subdue their unlimited needs, be satisfied with the resources they have and stick to self-dependence. The result is that they can reduce the household expenses, and not think of damaging the natural resources and the environment to reap the benefit, or even taking advantage of others. Sufficiency economy teaches the people to be “smart consumers”, the value which can prevent shortage, although it does not make one become rich at a rapid pace.

At present, thousands of the “New Theory” farming system have been demonstrated and practiced nationwide. Ten thousands of successful farmers have been reported at the present time.

It can be concluded that the main purpose of the “New Theory” is to make farmers more self-reliant in a sustainable fashion through an integrated management of their land, while living harmoniously with nature and within society.

Three Levels of Sufficiency Economy

There are two levels in the implementation of sufficiency economy: basic and progressive implementation.

Sufficiency at the Individual and Family level

This is the basic implementation that will enable farmers to have enough rice and other crops for household consumption. Rice that they do not need for their own use can be sold to generate income to pay for what they cannot produce. This system creates immunity for families. However, farmers may still need appropriate assistance at times from communities, the government, foundations, and the private sector.

Sufficiency at the Community Level

This is the progressive implementation that covers the second stage in the application of the New Theory of agriculture. It encourages farmers to form their own organisations or cooperatives. When members of families or organisations enjoy individual sufficiency, they should group for mutual benefits and assistance.

Sufficiency at the National Level

This is the second part or the progressive implementation, covering the third stage. It encourages communities to join forces with other organisations in the nation. The cooperation will increase the transfer and exchange of wisdom, knowledge, and technology and trigger collective development in line with the principle of sufficiency economy. Doing so will turn the nation’s communities, organisations, and enterprises into a network of sufficiency-based communities that refrain from offending one another but interact with, help, and coexist with one another happily and permanently.

Five Aspects of Sufficiency Economy

All in all, it can be concluded that to achieve sufficiency economy, the community must be self-supporting in the following five aspects:

  1. Self-supporting in terms of technology: having material technology such as tools and machinery, as well as social technology, such as project management and planning in terms of both quantity and quality, including efficient utilisation and suitable application of the local wisdom.
  2. Self-supporting in terms of economy: making a living in a secure, moderate or balanced manner.
  3. Self-supporting in terms of natural resources: optimising the use of natural resources available and preserving them while preventing them from depleting or losing the balance.
  4. Self-supporting in terms of mentality: possessing the strong mind to be ready for fighting against obstacles in life, It also means being able to make a living, to uplift the living standard, and to take the middle path in daily conduct according to the Buddhist precepts.
  5. Self-supporting in terms of social matters: strongly uniting and helping each other in social activities to reach the state of self-reliance.