'Social Enterprise' and 'Organic' roll off the tongue so easily, and the behind the scenes is rarely seen.
So this video is a tiny look-see at what it means to be a leader and a visionary - a creator. It means trial and error, in the dust. It means driving 4 hours plus each way on some hairy mountain roads. It means farming my child out with friends again. (Thank you Ad and Bo!) It means investing time, petrol money and overnight hotel costs. It means communication challenges. Saw Diamond Khin, the English-speaking indigenous Karen project adviser (Director of Karen Department of Health & Welfare) whom I normally meet and consult with, is away preparing for the opening tomorrow of the new Karen Community Field Hospital along Thailand's border with Burma. I will join him for that, heading out the door of my guesthouse at 4am. Meanwhile he sent one of his indigenous Karen medics to help me check the progress of our Phlai;- his English is super basic and his Thai is worse (his native language being Karen). So we poked about in the dust and made some decisions in a charades fashion.
For just on one year, I have been teaching this indigenous Karen community of displaced people how to make compost, how to grow things organically, and how to begin to make an income for themselves. We started with Phlai. (ไพล Zingiber cassumunar)
Phlai is a potent anti-inflammatory and circulation boosting root herb - a type of Chinese yellow ginger. Clinical studies show it outperforms over-the-counter pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories. It has a spicy, pungent smell and instantly triggers the thought, "tiger balm". And indeed, that's how it was originally used before vaseline, chemicals, fake colours and synthetic fragrances took over.
I bought and donated just on 70kgs of organic Phlai root for them to start the project off, and it has been in the ground now just on 6 months. During the peak of the rains last October, some of the plants were close on 3 meters tall. After 2.5 months of dry season and NO RAIN AT ALL, the plants have died off and sent all their goodness back into the roots. We will harvest those roots for drying and for the extraction of essential oil.
So what did we have to calculate today that warranted 8+ hours of driving? We needed to guestimate what mass of roots, on average, has each plant created. And from that, calculate how much we expect to harvest in total, after a few "test digs". How will we store it until we're ready to extract oil and to dry it? How many workers will I need to pay for, and for how many days? How much will they keep aside for next season's crop? And how much of this amazing organic resource will my Thai company, Pure Thai Natural Co Ltd, be able to buy back from this refugee community? For the refugee community, it is a first try at something different from the toxic GMO corn that their neighbours sell for pittance. It's a beginning. When I scratched some numbers in the dirt today, I saw our tired medic smile.
It's a 10 year love job. It's a passion and it's my belief that organic and sustainable social enterprise CAN begin to change the world for refugee and marginalized communities.
Feeling abundant, happy and like we're making progress, but super tired, and need to be up and to hit that steep mountain road in just on 6 hours.
Sending smiles from Mae Sariang in North Western Thailand. Thanks for watching, reading and engaging.