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Interview: Returning home

Why Dr Chi decided to return to his roots in rural Thailand


Screenshot of returning home article
Indra, Alisha (eight) and Prakash (three) on the steps of their home in Nepal.

From: Home and hospitality – Footsteps 116

How hospitality, kindness and planning can reduce vulnerability and help communities to flourish

Trintawat Thuraworn (known as Dr Chi) is from the Karen ethnic group in northern Thailand. Dr Chi grew up in rural Chiang Rai, but after leaving the area to study he did not return for more than 40 years. Here he tells us why he decided to go back, and what he is doing now.

Why did you leave Chiang Rai?

‘When I was young a lot of us left the area because we were attracted by the cities and did not want to work as farmers. I gained a PhD on the subject of non-formal education and worked as a professor for many years.’

What made you return?

‘My father, just before he passed away, gave me a vision for the future. He encouraged me to return home and start farming.

‘I realised that I wanted to restore the land given to me, live a self-sufficient life and become a role model for the people of my home town and area. I also want my land to serve as a learning centre to inspire people in Thailand and other countries.’

‘My father encouraged me to return home and start farming.’

How are you working towards this vision?

‘I am applying self-sufficiency principles that fit with the social and environmental setting in my home area. My farm includes a “five-layer forest” where each layer contains edible crops. For example: fruit trees, shrubs with berries, vegetables, herbs and a variety of root crops.

‘By looking at how forests grow and maintain themselves in nature, we can copy the overall pattern and apply it to how we grow food.’

‘I am always conducting research and looking for new options for value-added products. For example, health treatments using local wisdom and herbs. I am also networking with other people with a similar vision so we can share ideas and learn together.’

What advice do you have for others?

‘Do not turn your back on your ancestral lands. Find your abilities and preferences based on resources in your home area. Find your own clear vision and goals. Develop your potential both in knowledge and skills. Take action and persevere.’

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