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Since 2007, the Training Centre for Rural Skills and Trades has offered professional training for young ethnic Karen, promoting economic and agricultural development in Thailand's Northwestern Mae Sot region.
In this isolated region near the Burmese frontier, most villages are self-sufficient and inaccessible in the rainy season. Producing mainly rice and pimentos, malnutrition is a problem once the communities become cut off. Poverty has also sparked an exodus of young people to the towns.
Father Alain Bourdery, a priest based in Thailand for the past ten years, offers a solution based on agricultural diversification and better prospects for the future: the Centre de formation aux métiers ruraux (Training Centre for Rural Skills and Trades, or CMR). The CMR advises villagers on ways to develop their agricultural output, and encourages young Karen to discover enterprise through diversification (fish farming, farm produce, pig breeding, egg production). Embracing education, training and biodiversity, the scheme is a natural focus for the support of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès.
Each year, twenty students aged 13 to 17 begin a two-year training course in agriculture. Students are catered for and housed at the centre, which offers dormitories, a kitchen, two classrooms and technical workshops (a garage, egg production and chicken and pig-rearing facilities). Young graduates also receive help and support as they move on to set up their own businesses. Based on its growing success, the CMR plans to extend its courses to established farmers and growers.