Vol. IV No. 40 - Saturday October 1 - October 7, 2005
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FEATURES
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Getting to know the avocado, one of nature’s most bounteous fruits

Japanese volunteers teach in high schools in Hang Dong and Saraphii

Getting to know the avocado, one of nature’s most bounteous fruits

Preeyanoot Jittawong

Fruit is more than just a tasty nutritious food, for extracts and compounds can be made into medicine, cosmetics and other everyday products.

Thoong Rueng Royal Project Development Center, the biggest avocado producer in Thailand.

Thailand of course has an abundance of fruit, an enormous diversity that is not always known or appreciated simply because of lack of information. The avocado is one such fruit that goes greatly unsung here, but it could be grown more and bring benefits to a lot of people.

Using a long-handled fruit-picker to harvest the avocado fruit.

The avocado is a fruit full of minerals and nutrients necessary for the body, such as sodium, potassium, folate, vitamin B6 and the mono-unsaturated fat that is able to reduce cholesterol.

Avocado oil is a popular ingredient in cosmetics, two million tons being used each year in Central America alone.

Cleaned and wrapped before distributing the fruits to the markets.

Nevertheless, avocado is not favored by Thai consumers due to its perceived lack of flavor, and most Thais are unaware of its benefits or nutrient values.

Avocados are not only nutritious, but also multi-purpose. Shown here is an avocado dessert.

Overseas, the story is different. Avocado’s folate content is extracted for pregnant women, as it helps baby tissue grow within the womb. As a health food is it especially prized, its vitamin E content being widely used in hair and skin treatment.

Wirat Praptook, of the Bureau of Highland Agriculture Development in Chiang Mai, said that the avocado is a perennial, fast-growing plant suitable for all areas of Thailand.

The biggest production in Thailand is from the Thoong Rueng Royal Project Development Center, at Tambon Baan Pong in Hang Dong, Chiang Mai. Avocados are produced there under the “Doi Kham” brand and are distributed from July to February.

Testing before buying.

Farmers are being encouraged to plant avocado because it can be an important cash crop. The market for avocado in Thailand at present is still only for local consumption, while the export process is difficult. There are no avocado oil extraction facilities so the oil needed for products made in Thailand, such as shampoo and hair conditioner, have to be imported. The only avocado derived products are those made locally, sometimes under OTOP classification.

Wirat said there is a lot of potential in the avocado business and it could bring more income to the people of Thailand, but first the benefits of this extraordinary fruit need to be recognized here.

Wirat Praptook, academic of Bureau of Highland Agriculture Development,
Chiang Mai Area 6.

Avocado shake and avocado ice-cream.

Avocado shampoo, OTOP product at Tambon Baan Pong, Hang Dong, Chiang Mai.


Japanese volunteers teach in high schools in Hang Dong and Saraphii

Keiko Samuels

Many more high schools in Chiang Mai are offering Japanese language classes but only a few can find teachers. A group of 12 Japanese volunteers is now helping Thai teachers to teach Japanese and to introduce Japanese art and culture to the schools.

Yoshimori Muraoka, (sixth from left), and Takashi Hirata, to the right with the students.

VIPs from the board of education visited Hang Dong Ratrad Upatham high school on September 24 and awarded the status of “lab school” for this district. For the occasion, the Japanese volunteers taught the students to greet and guide the VIPs in Japanese, dressed them in traditional Japanese kimonos, taught them to sing a Japanese “sakura” (song) to welcome the board members. In preparation, the Japanese consulate loaned the Japanese flag, pictures and traditional dolls to the school.

Enthusiasm to learn Japanese is mounting at Hang Dong Ratrad Upatham School. While most other students and teachers would look forward to having semester break in October, this is not the case at this school. Not only the students, but also some Thai teachers do not want to take a break, but continue to learn during October.

At Saraphi high school, they hired a full time Thai teacher to teach Japanese language to M4 students this school year. The 40 students enrolled have eight hours of Japanese studies a week. They are thrilled to have a group of Japanese volunteers come to the class on a regular basis and are highly motivated. They can speak, read and write Japanese fairly well already.

Students dressed in Kimono demonstrating origami and books.

There is a large community of Japanese retirees in Chiang Mai, and it has grown at an exponential rate during the last few years. Yoshiyasu Muraoka, who leads the group of volunteers, also retired in Chiang Mai after many years of working for a Japanese company.

Many of the retirees still maintain a household in Japan and live here part time. Therefore having a large number of volunteers allows them the freedom to come and go and still be able to get involved with Chiang Mai people. In addition to the retirees, some young students who are currently studying at universities in Chiang Mai are also participating in the effort.