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NORTHERN THAILAND'S HIGHLIGHTS

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   The Royal Chitralada Projects is set in Chitralada Villa, the royal residence of Their Majesties the King and Queen in Bangkok. The term makes one think of splendour and magnificence, which are shared by royal palaces all over the world.

   But is there any other royal palace in the world like Chitralada Villa where there are rice fields, Nil fish ponds, Suan Chitralada Dairy Farm, Tissue culture plant, mushroom cultivation unit and various kinds of pilot factories? All these projects concern tests and experiments in agriculture and agricultural products. Agriculture work is the main occupation of the Thai people. The Royal Chitralada Projects, as a result, were initiated to undertake research studies to find to the root causes of the problems as well as create a practical knowledge base. Probably, there is no other royal palace like this in the whole world.

   In 1961 His Majesty King Bhumibol ordered the Rice Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to improve varieties of rice for both transplanted and upland rice fields to be planted at Chitralada Villa.

   In carrying out the project, Mom Rachawong Thepparit Devakul used a six-wheeled tractor with a 8.5 hp diesel engine (Iron tractor) to plough the land. His Majesty personally gave instructions to readjust the tractor, making it suit the work better. His Majesty also drove the tractor by himself and went to the demonstration plot regularly to observe and to record the progress of growth of the rice that he personally sowed at each stage in detail until its harvest. Then His Majesty understood the obstacles that the peasants had experienced and tried to find ways to overcome them.

   His Majesty once gave the following message to the leading farmers in the whole country.

   "...We have had some occasions to study and try farm work and are well aware that farming is hard work with quite a few obstacles to overcome. The first requisite is improved grain strains and there are various processes to follow before obtaining substantial results. There is one more thing. The rice field after the farming season is over, should be utilized to plant some other crops. That will not only bring in a sizable extra income, but also loosen the soil, increase its natural fertilizer content, thus improving the quality of soil and making it more fertile for the next farming season...."

   Since then, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has requested His Majesty for the rice seeds from the demonstration plot at Chitralada Villa to be distributed accordingly at the end of the First Ploughing Ceremony yearly and the seeds have been granted and packed in small packets and given free to the on looking farmers from every corner of the country to be sowed as blessed seeds in their own fields.

   The service of rice milling is another big problem for the farmers. His Majesty was concerned that the farmers would have to sell their paddy (unhusked rice) to the rice mills at a low price and buy polished rice for their own consumption at a high price. Consequently, a model rice hulling mill was set up at Chitralada Villa and in May 1971 rice was hulled there for experiment. Then farmers were encouraged to set up a cooperative and build a rice mill in their locality so that they would not have to hire others to polish their rice or sell their unhusked rice cheaply.

   The husk, a by-product of polishing rice, was ground and made into bars in a test in 1986 and it was found that they could be used in place of coal. The next year several kinds of green fuel were produced from ground chaff, bagasse, orange rind and water hyacinths, all unused materials from The Royal Projects.

   The storage of paddy (unhusked rice) is another problem for farmers who are troubled by floods and animals. For this, His Majesty the King advised them to make a choice from different types of granaries to reduce the loss to a minimum. At The Royal Chitralada Project, there are two in use, a silo from New Zealand and a cooperative -type wooden barn.

   The royal project for fish ponds started in 1952 when His Majesty raised Tilapia mossambica in a pond at Amphon Palace. Later, fish of this species were bestowed on every village head and district chief of the whole country for widespread breeding.

  On 25 March 1965, His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, then Crown Prince Akihito, presented 50 fish of a Japanese species to our King who placed them in a pond at The Royal Chitralada Projects and bestowed the name Nil fish (Tilapia Nilotica) on them. At present, this variety of fish has spread to every water body in this country and has become an important cash fish.

   Now with rice field, rice milling and Nil fish ponds, who would believe that at this Chitralada Villa, there would be a wood of yang na trees (Dipterocarpus alatus) growing too. The King's idea to grow these trees at this residence occurred to him in 1961when His Majesty moved to stay temporarily at Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin. One day when His Majesty travelled to Amphoe Tha Yang, Phetchaburi province, His Majesty saw big Yang na trees lining both sides of the road and thought that these Yang na trees should be preserved as a park. But His Majesty found that this was impossible because the land was privately owned. So His Majesty made the following comment:

   "More and more Yang na trees in Thailand have been cut down for home use and making different products each year. It is worrisome that if the plants are not taken care of properly and cannot regenerate in time, the amount of Yang na wood can be reduced tremendously. Research on growing Yang na trees should be carried out and the findings from the research can be practically applied."

   Officials from the Bureau of the Royal Household were then sent to gather Yang na seeds from the roadside woods to be sown at Piam Suk mansion in the compound of Klai Kangwon Palace. Later, the seedlings numbering 1096, were transplanted at the pilot plot in Chitralada Villa on 28 July 1961, the birthday anniversary of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, and a location in the compound of Chitralada Villa was allocated to the Forestry Department of Kasetsart University to conduct research work.

   At present, the pilot plot of Yang na trees planting in the compound of The Royal Chitralada Projects has become a Yang na wood in the middle of the city, flourishing and shady and serving as a place of study on plant breeding.

   During the Royal Trip to the Kingdom of Denmark in 1960, a visit to a dairy cattle farm and a milk processing plant was put in His Majesty's itinerary. The purpose was to study the possibility of establishing a milk farm and milk industry in Thailand.

   On 12 January 1962, His Majesty presided over the Opening Ceremony of Suan Chitralada Dairy Farm. The Department of Livestock Development and private companies presented six milk cows for this purpose, of which four were pregnant and two heifers. In those days, the courtiers in Chitralada Villa were the first group of Thais who had a chance to drink fresh milk regularly. Apart from milking training, the Suan Chitralada Dairy Farm also sold cow milk in 8-ounce glass bottles at a price of 1.50 baht each. It was high quality milk sterilized by the heating process. For this reason, dairy farmers proudly mention dairy farming and processed milk industry as the "Royally-Granted Career". One important success coming from this project has been the Nongpho Milk Cow Cooperative in Ratchaburi province.

   One problem encountered by people who have succeeded in breeding milk cows is failure to sell all their products which will turn sour if kept too long. To help solve the problem, His Majesty was pleased to have a small scaled powdered milk factory (Suan Dusit Milk Powder Plant) built by appointing Mom Rachawong Thepparit Devakul, an agricultural engineering expert, to draft a design. And His Majesty then proceeded to officiate the factory's opening ceremony on 7 December 1969 when he made a speech, saying:

   "This factory is intended as a model and will be operated as such for the farmers and people who are interested in producing milk in Thailand, this factory is the first that has been constructed in this country and we should be proud that it has been designed and built by Thais. Let us regard this factory as a model factory. Who wants the know-how, who wants to run a milk business successfully and progressively and beneficial to people and to the national economy, just come to make an inspection here at any time."

   In the same year, Suan Chitralada Milk Collection Centre was built, in 1984 Suan Dusit Milk Tablet Plant was established. The opening of Cheese Plant started in 1987 where several products use milk as raw material, such as The Royal Chitralada Projects brand cheese, ice cream, pasteurized milk, butter, nonfat milk, butter cookies, instant yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, powdered milk in cartons, etc.

   The peat commonly found in southern provinces is a highly acid kind of soil. People were unable to do farming there. His Majesty considered this his duty to find a solution. In 1985, an organic fertilizer factory was set up at The Chitralada Projects with a peat improvement project to be conducted there. Peat was brought from the South for tests. Different kinds of substances were mixed with it one after the other to find out how effective each is in reducing the acid content in the mixture. Moreover, surplus farm materials, bits of weeds, waste water containing yeast dregs released from breweries, were also used to produce compost.

   The mushroom cultivating project started in 1988 when His Majesty got the idea to bring the straw left over from the pilot plot, where the first farming project was conducted in Chitralada Villa, and the bran left over from the rice milling, for a study about their use in cultivating mushroom. Cooperation and support were obtained from both the government and the private sectors, including Chulalongkorn University and Aranyik Mushroom Farm. Starting from the cultivation of straw mushrooms and fairy maiden mushrooms, the operation was extended to the development of a fungus named glossy ganoderma (Ganoderma lucidum), an important medicinal herb used to treat diseases in the respiratory and circulatory systems. The fungi were just dried by heat and bagged for sale. Since 1996 they have been extracted and put into capsules after going through a process of gamma ray radiation to check the growth of various micro-organism that may have gone into the production line.

   There is another Royal Project carried out at Chitralada Villa that is interesting. That is the Royal Candle Factory, which was born of the King's judgement that a large quantity of candles was needed by the Office of the Royal Household to be consumed at the various royal ceremonies yearly. Workers were trained to roll candles by hand. So in 1986 the Royal Candle Factory was built to produce quality beeswax candles for use in ceremonies held in the royal court. The budget for procuring candles was reduced.

   All the above are The Royal Chitralada Projects conducted inside Chitralada Villa that have not only made this royal residence of King Bhumibol of Thailand quite unlike any other royal palace in the World in appearance, but have brought about enormous benefits to the Thai people as a whole.

 

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