Nikorn, an 18-year-old youngster, was helping his grandmother line up fish he had caught on the charcoal brazier. “Grandma and I will have salt-grilled fish for dinner. Grandma will make us green papaya salad, too. The papaya trees we’ve grown just bore fruits,” said Nikorn while grilling the fish on the brazier. “My family has received Mozambique tilapia from World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT) to be raised as the source of our food and income.”
His father abandoned the family since Nikorn was little. A few years later his mother passed away. His grandmother has adopted Nikorn and his younger brother and taken care of them ever since. “I’ve raised them and paid for them to go to school. Though it’s difficult, I just bear with it. I don’t have any paddy field of my own, so I just work as a paid labour on a daily basis. But as my grandsons are growing up, I’m getting older and older and becoming wearier. So, I can’t work much to keep them well-fed. But these kids have never whined about this. The boys are strong. Even though they are hungry, they won’t say a word,” said Grandma Nukan, Nikorn’s grandmother.
The hardship Grandma Nukan, Nikorn and his younger brother faced is lessened by the kind help from sponsors through Child Sponsorship Project under the implementation of World Vision Foundation of Thailand in Kut Chap Area Development Programme, Udon Thani province. “Thank you so much for supporting my grandsons to go to school. They’ll have knowledge and good life. Nikorn is in grade 11 now. Weerapan, his younger brother, is in grade 8, but he’s not home during this school break because he’s been ordained as a novice monk.” Grandma Nukan shared her words of thanks.
Nikorn’s family has also been supported to secure sufficient food, so they need not to buy food to eat. Plus, extra income has been earned. “I learned how to raise fish. At the end of the training, Mozambique tilapia fingerlings were given. Nikorn also helps feed the fish. When we want to eat or sell some fish, he and his brother are the ones going in the pond to catch them,” said Grandma Nukan.
“Mozambique tilapia are not difficult to raise. They grow fast, too. They look similar to Nile tilapia, but smaller. Mozambique tilapia meat is tougher, yet tastes good. They become full-grown very fast. When they reach 4-5 months old we can sell them at 100 baht a kilogramme. Three fish weigh about 1 kilogramme. The first harvest has been sold for 5,000 baht. Grandma has saved some money to pay for our education and household expenses and to buy more fish to raise, including catfish and snakeskin gourami,” said Nikorn.
Mozambique tilapia is native to southern Africa. The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama 9) was kind enough to have Department of Fisheries breed the fish and distribute them to Thai people to ensure food source security and occupation and income promotion since 1953. His late Majesty the King realized that Mozambique tilapia is hardy to Thailand’s climate and easy to breed, making the fish perfect to respond to people’s need of food in the famine period after the end of Greater East Asia War. Mozambique tilapia had been the most favourite fish among rural Thai people before the late Rama 9 introduced Nile tilapia or ‘Pla Nin’ to the Thais to widely breed as an alternative cheap protein source. Still, Mozambique tilapia has been commonly raised and consumed ever since.
In addition to the support of Mozambique tilapia, Nikorn’s grandmother has also equipped with knowledge on vegetable gardening and received some vegetable seeds from Kut Chap Area Development Programme. “We have a vegetable bed, too. We’ve grown a variety of vegies - papaya, lime, rice paddy herb, eggplant, and tomato. We grow them to eat, but if there are more than we can eat, we’ll sell them.” Nikorn pointed to the vegetable bed covering 15 square wa (60 square metres) – the plot is mini in size, yet packed with nutritious vegetables.
“Now my grandmother, my brother and I are no longer starving. We have everything to eat at home,” said Nikorn as he took the salt-grilled fish from the brazier while Grandma Nukan scooped the green papaya salad and placed it in a dish.
Another delicious meal is ready to serve – the food which is not bought, but made with the joint effort from everyone in the house.