BAN BUH, July 18 – For Khun Hem, 74, making baskets to sell in the market is easy. Keeping up with demand is the hard part.

One 20-foot rod of bamboo makes about 20 baskets, which a cooperative sells in the market for 25 to 120 baht, depending on size. Each month, Khun Hem profits 1,500 baht (US$45), enough for Khun Hem to live but not enough to support his family. He also farms rice, vegetables and cows.

Bamboo baskets

Seven years ago, Khun Hem received a loan for his basket-making business from Nike, which partnered with PDA to invest 2 million baht in income-generating activities, including a village bank. Borrowers take out initial loans of up to 10,000 baht and also buy shares in the village bank, giving them personal incentive to see the bank succeed and all loans repaid. They must repay their initial loans within six months, at 12 percent annual interest, before borrowing again. The system works: since inception, Nike’s original investment has grown to 30 million baht from interest and reinvested savings.

Nike is just one of PDA’s partners here in the Jakkarat district. When it opened its first center here 19 years ago, PDA sought to develop the area’s economic, social and environmental situations. Locals were burning forests to create farmable land. They were sending family members away, usually to Bangkok, for jobs. Families were broken. Quality of life was low. Poverty and disease were familiar daily realities – accepted for lack of a clear solution.

With the help of businesses, the government, NGOs, experts, think tanks and the community, PDA has coordinated the reinvigoration of pockets of Jakkarat district.

It is here that we are focusing our first application of the Barefoot MBA, hoping to take what we learned at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and apply the lessons, articulated in the simplest manner, to those who need them most: the world’s poor. We hope that sharing a few business principles, embedded in examples of other local business, can propel our students out of a life of subsistence living to one of less stress, better health and greater economic self-sufficiency.

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