Kui Buri district in Prachuab Khiri Khan has adopted the late Monarch’s new agricultural theory on land and water management and is keen to show it off
His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej had a long and happy relationship with Kui Buri district in Prachuab Khiri Khan province and today his new agricultural theory on land and water management is being applied here for the first time.
The water management system is called khok nong na – khok meaning a moulded mound, nong a catchment, and na a field. Here, when it rains, the water runs down from the Tenasserim hills into the first catchment. When that catchment overflows, the water goes to the second catchment and runs through a khlong sai kai (spiral filling canal) towards the third catchment and the loom khanom khrok (a small catchment dug along the canal) before ending in the field. Along this canal line, the flow is continuously decelerated by a fai or weir. Crops are planted in terraced fields between those catchments to ensure irrigation.
Kui Buri has developed its own khok nong na and it’s known as the Kui Buri Model.
The district has long offered a range of homestay accommodation, but Viroj Soongying is the first resident to connect his homestay with the khok nong na model to promote sustainable tourism following the royal wisdom of the late King Rama IX.
Viroj, who lives in Baan Phubon, recently turned 50 though he looks considerably younger thanks, he says, to his love of cross-country mountain biking. Born and raised in Kui Buri, he left as a young man to work in the jewellery trade for 20 years, returning to his native land after learning about the late monarch’s philosophy related to natural agriculture.
“I love eating local, wild and organic vegetables that are in season and grow organic vegetables on two rai of my land,” says Viroj, who uses a further rai as a demonstration plot for the khok nong na model. “Climate change means that the world is heating up almost daily and we have to reduce the use of chemicals. This Kui Buri Model is a cooperation between three villages – Phubon, Yang Sue, and Ruam Thai.”
Viroj is a mountain-biking coach for five students from the villages and also a member of a group actively promoting the King’s philosophy for sustainable tourism. He has two homestays and also welcomes tourists to his own house.
“Visitors can learn the king’s wisdom by themselves through digging catchments, planting vetiver grass and trees, and finding shellfish, shrimp fresh water fish in the reservoir. And when they’ve done that, they can relax over such healthy dishes as pineapple curry with mussels and pork ribs soup. A homestay is priced at Bt600 per person,” says Viroj.
We start our stay by visiting the check dams built above Yang Chum Reservoir to store water for use as well as slow down the water flow to prevent flooding, maintain soil moisture and to provide water for the elephants that roam this area. The construction of check dams can be done at intervals and take the shape of a pond that is then connected with a pipeline system to disperse water and create moisture for the forest, which continues to serve as a food source for the elephants. We also spend time at the reservoir, which is wonderfully tranquil and demands to be photographed.
We have fried tilapia fish from the reservoir for our lunch and dinner. The freshwater fish, whose history dates back to Ancient Egypt, was introduced to Thailand by the late King in the 1960s. In 1965, the Thai monarch was looking for fish species with high nutritional value and which could breed fast to solve the problem of malnutrition among Thais in rural areas, and the tilapia fish from Japan was the species he chose. Later, the king bestowed the fish with the name “Pla Nil” from its English name “Nilotica” or Nile River fish.
Later, on the way to Kui Buri National Park to watch elephants and gaur and where, we are told, we are only allowed entry between 2 and 5pm, we stop off at a 1,500-rai meadow managed by the Department of Livestock and admire the tunnel formed by chamchuri trees and the herds of cows and flocks of sheep that graze here. Pine trees sway lightly in the background and the bucolic scene reminds me of happy times spent in rural New Zealand. The meadow had also been planted with ruzi and pangola – the highest-quality tropical grasses – which serve as forage for Phra Sawet Adulyadej Phahon, the first white elephant of King Rama IX.