Growing up in Datoh Panyang, a small fishing village in Yaring district, 49-year-old, Aka Samahe, learnt how to build boats from his father. Whilst his father built actual boats made to order for fishermen in the village, Aka was inspired to make boats on a smaller scale – model boats. During high school, Aka spent any spare time he had making model boats and sold them to residents in the village.
Today, with thirty-five years’ experience of building model boats, Aka is able to sell his boats from 1,500 to 25,000 Thai Baht (US$42 - US$693). Aka who is a fisherman by trade, makes the model boats to supplement his income to support his wife and six children. However, since June 2015, Aka has being imparting his boat making skills with young men in the village after receiving a small grant from UNDP’s Southern Thailand Empowerment and Participation (STEP) Project.
“This project gives many young men in the village who are struggling to secure employment, and who are prone to drug use and abuse, with an opportunity to learn new skills,” said Aka speaking in Malay.
The small grants awarded by the STEP II Project to eight community projects in targeted provinces, are generously financed by the Japan-UNDP Partnership Fund, and aim to assist local communities to become more resilient amid the ongoing violent conflict in southern Thailand, through the improvement of their livelihoods. The provinces of Pattani, Yala, Songkhla and Narathiwat, located in southern Thailand, are prone to frequent violent incidents, resulting in numerous civilian casualties. The on-going conflicts in these provinces have significantly hampered human development. According to UNDP’s 2014 Human Achievement Index Report, the province of Pattani is ranked 76th on the employment index out of the 76* provinces in Thailand, where the majority of residents are Malay-Muslim and make up about 88 per cent of the population.
Aka learnt about the STEP Project II small grants programme through Sareeha Waheng, a leader of Thong Muan Housewife Group in Ban Datoh village, Pattani province, which was supported by STEP I’s income generation project. Recognising his unique skills after seeing Aka’s boats displayed at her local UNDP-supported learning centre, Sareeha informed Aka about the small grants programme and encouraged him to apply.
After getting in touch with STEP II Project staff, Aka attended three days training consisting of proposal writing and project implementation. “I gained so much confidence by attending the training and I obtained skills in how to run the project,” said Aka. “I enjoyed most parts of the training was even able to improve my Thai by practicing with the other participants,” he added.
In June 2015, Aka’s proposal to train young people in his village on model boat making was successful. He was awarded a small grant of 213,450 Thai Baht (US$6,929) by the Small Grants Committee which included representatives from the College of Islamic Studies, the Institute for Peace Studies, the Center for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity, the Faculty of Communication Sciences, and King Prajadhipok’s Institute.
Since receiving the small grant, Aka is training seventeen students where he provides all the materials needed. The students, mostly from Datoh Panyang village, are taught how to identify the appropriate timber such as Tonbok, which is used to make the model boats because the wood is light in weight and easy to work with. The students are also taught on the different tools and how best to use them, traditional paint designs, and how to make other wooden products.
“I find training the students very rewarding. I think it’s important to impart the skills my father taught me onto the younger generation,” said Aka. “Through word of mouth, I’m also providing a few training sessions to students from various institutions and the local university.”
Improved incomes, improved lives
“Before setting up the business I used to roughly earn 200 Thai Baht (US$5.50) per day from fishing but the money was uncertain and around 6,000 Thai baht (US$166) per month through the boat sales,” recalled Aka. “Now I’m earning an extra 3,000 Thai Baht (US$83) per month. And with this money I can afford to renovate my home. I’m also saving to build a bigger workshop so I can train more students. I even have enough left over to buy more food for the family and put some money aside for emergencies,” he added.
One such student to benefit from the model boat building community project is 22-year-old Wachakorn Mastea from Datoh Panyang village. Wachakorn who is married with one child, has been attending the boat making training every day since June 2015. After graduating from high school, he moved to Malaysia and worked in a restaurant for three years. In 2014, Wachakorn returned to Datoh Panyang village to register for military service but was not selected. On his return, a group of friends in the village kept persuading him to take Yaba – a tablet form of methamphetamine – but he decided against it because he had seen the negative effects it had on them. “They were aged from 15- 20 years old,” said Wachakorn. “Some of them never attended school.” As a last resort Wachakorn worked with his father who was a fisherman. “I would earn 200 Thai Baht (US$5.50) on a bad day, and around 500 Thai Baht (US$14) on a good day,” said Wachakorn. Aka knew Wachakorn and invited him to participate in the model boat making training.
When asked about the training, Wachakorn stated, “I’ve learnt how to build small boats from scratch and other products from wood. I’ve particularly enjoyed creating and designing the artwork for the ‘Two-heads’ model boat.” Wachakorn spends on average, an hour a day at the model boat making workshop with Aka. Whilst Wachakorn only earns a small percentage from the sales of the model boats, he continues to help his family by fishing and feels the training is a way of diverting other young men in the village away from drugs. “For now, I want more young people in the village to undertake the training and for our products to receive a high number of orders. In the future, I want to design and make my own wooden clocks, and like Aka, I want to share my skills and train other young people too,” said Wachakorn.
Ms. Angelique Reid, Communication and Partnership Officer
Mobile: +66 (0)9 496 52272