Walking a new path of life: learning tours, ‘agro‐forestry' and the transformation of the village of Bann Na Isarn, Thailand
Rural areas in both developed and developing countries are being increasingly marginalized through structural changes. Furthermore, the disinvestment in state‐provided supports and services means that rural people are left to their own devices to cope with these changes. Numerous authors argue that the most effective way of dealing with these challenges and changes is through informal learning and local knowledge construction. One way of facilitating this type of local informal learning is through learning tours, which can be best understood as organized conversations. This study asked the question: what impact does participation in a learning tour have on the participants in the learning tour, the non‐participants and the community in general? We begin by developing a theoretical framework that integrates community capitals with the principles of working knowledge. Using this theoretical framework, we then employ a case study design, looking at how one person's learning in the rural Thai village of Bann Na Isarn changes his life, the lives of those around him, his community and other communities in the surrounding area. The study concludes that it is the tension between the individual and the structural that fosters social and community change, that local learning can be an effective strategy for mitigating the impact of capitalist ideology and development while at the same time improving the quality of local life, and that local informal learning is a rich complex process that must be understood as being embedded within a specific context.
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