Thailand: New generation of farmers transform agriculture

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Thai rice farming_Arno Maierbrugger
© Arno Maierbrugger

In Thailand, a new and young generation of farmers has set itself the goal to transform agriculture into an innovative and profitable industry by deploying new cost-saving technologies and improve the management of farms. The initiative is currently centered on Thailand’s central Chai Nat province, a major rice-planting area in the country where 90 per cent of local people are engaged in agriculture.

As dropping rice prices on the international markets and the failure of the so-called rice-pledging scheme of the previous administration in Thailand have lowered the income of the farming community, and heavy use of chemical fertilisers have triggered increasing environmental and health concerns, new ways for agricultural production have been sought and found by younger farmers.

Anupa Panyadilok_Arno Maierbrugger
Anupa Panyadilok, head of the Learning and Development Center for the New Generation of Farmers in Chai Nat © Arno Maierbrugger

Anupa Panyadilok is one of them. A farmer’s daughter, she says she has experienced enough of the poverty and other difficulties farmers have been facing in the region for decades. As a result, she has decided to deploy new methods for farming that help farmers to reduce costs, allow for alternative products such as organic rice and alternative crops and enable them to find new sales channels. An accountant by profession, the first thing for her was to improve management methods for farms, including proper bookkeeping and profit-loss calculations, to increase efficiency in agricultural production.

Anupa launched the Learning and Development Center for the New Generation of Farmers in Chai Nat five years ago which is aimed at promoting efficient new farming techniques.

“We are not supported by the government,” Anupa says. “What I know about alternative and cost-saving farming techniques I learned by myself, through the Internet, for example by watching special YouTube videos, and through trial and error.”

So far, more than 10,000 people from all over the country have been trained by the center, and more are being trained online.

Thai rice farming_Arno Maierbrugger
© Arno Maierbrugger

New techniques include an alternative wetting and drying system that uses plastic cylinders to store water for rice seedlings and can reduce water use by 30 to 40 per cent, while the yield from a rice field can be increased by 20 per cent, Anupa says – which is especially of use in times of drought. She is also promoting organic farming as organic rice can command significantly higher prices on the market.

Furthermore, her center is teaching farmers how to reduce chemical fertiliser and how to use biological alternatives, which is not only good for the environment the farmers’ own health, but also reduces production costs.

“Many local farmers, around 60 per cent, have already turned to organic farming,” says Anupa.

Local business groups and farmers have now joined hands in Chai Nat to promote and develop organic rice  production – with the aim to make the province Thailand’s largest organic rice-producing area. This goes in line with the National Organic Agriculture Strategies 2015-2021 introduced by the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, which seeks to spread knowledge and innovation in organic agriculture and develop it throughout the supply chain, as well as to expand marketing of organic agricultural products, not just rice, but also other crops grown in the region including tapioca, corn, beans, sugar cane and fruits.

Thai rice farming1_Arno Maierbrugger
Beans as alternative off-season crop © Arno Maierbrugger

Other initiatives, such as those by rice farmers in neighbouring Banphot Phisai district of Nakhon Sawan province, which is the country’s center of rice seed production but also an area of recurrent droughts, have embarked on the strategy of “more quality – less quantity”. This means they have dropped  the second rice harvest in the drier season of the year in favour of other crops that are less dependent on irrigation, which not only cuts costs but also improves soil fertility, according to Nattakit Khongtip, Chief of Agricultural Extension in Nakhon Sawan.

“Since the government said no to off-season farming, we did some brainstorming to find a solution and decided to grow beans or corn as compensation,” he said, adding that as a result, production costs have dropped and the farmland has become more productive.

At the end, such initiatives go back to the traditional style of local rice farming which was used in the area for centuries, while they at the same time increase efficiency in agricultural production, something the country needs in the current tough economic times.

Thai rice farming3_Arno Maierbrugger
© Arno Maierbrugger

 

 

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[caption id="attachment_24752" align="alignnone" width="850"] © Arno Maierbrugger[/caption] In Thailand, a new and young generation of farmers has set itself the goal to transform agriculture into an innovative and profitable industry by deploying new cost-saving technologies and improve the management of farms. The initiative is currently centered on Thailand's central Chai Nat province, a major rice-planting area in the country where 90 per cent of local people are engaged in agriculture. As dropping rice prices on the international markets and the failure of the so-called rice-pledging scheme of the previous administration in Thailand have lowered the income of the farming community,...

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Thai rice farming_Arno Maierbrugger
© Arno Maierbrugger

In Thailand, a new and young generation of farmers has set itself the goal to transform agriculture into an innovative and profitable industry by deploying new cost-saving technologies and improve the management of farms. The initiative is currently centered on Thailand’s central Chai Nat province, a major rice-planting area in the country where 90 per cent of local people are engaged in agriculture.

As dropping rice prices on the international markets and the failure of the so-called rice-pledging scheme of the previous administration in Thailand have lowered the income of the farming community, and heavy use of chemical fertilisers have triggered increasing environmental and health concerns, new ways for agricultural production have been sought and found by younger farmers.

Anupa Panyadilok_Arno Maierbrugger
Anupa Panyadilok, head of the Learning and Development Center for the New Generation of Farmers in Chai Nat © Arno Maierbrugger

Anupa Panyadilok is one of them. A farmer’s daughter, she says she has experienced enough of the poverty and other difficulties farmers have been facing in the region for decades. As a result, she has decided to deploy new methods for farming that help farmers to reduce costs, allow for alternative products such as organic rice and alternative crops and enable them to find new sales channels. An accountant by profession, the first thing for her was to improve management methods for farms, including proper bookkeeping and profit-loss calculations, to increase efficiency in agricultural production.

Anupa launched the Learning and Development Center for the New Generation of Farmers in Chai Nat five years ago which is aimed at promoting efficient new farming techniques.

“We are not supported by the government,” Anupa says. “What I know about alternative and cost-saving farming techniques I learned by myself, through the Internet, for example by watching special YouTube videos, and through trial and error.”

So far, more than 10,000 people from all over the country have been trained by the center, and more are being trained online.

Thai rice farming_Arno Maierbrugger
© Arno Maierbrugger

New techniques include an alternative wetting and drying system that uses plastic cylinders to store water for rice seedlings and can reduce water use by 30 to 40 per cent, while the yield from a rice field can be increased by 20 per cent, Anupa says – which is especially of use in times of drought. She is also promoting organic farming as organic rice can command significantly higher prices on the market.

Furthermore, her center is teaching farmers how to reduce chemical fertiliser and how to use biological alternatives, which is not only good for the environment the farmers’ own health, but also reduces production costs.

“Many local farmers, around 60 per cent, have already turned to organic farming,” says Anupa.

Local business groups and farmers have now joined hands in Chai Nat to promote and develop organic rice  production – with the aim to make the province Thailand’s largest organic rice-producing area. This goes in line with the National Organic Agriculture Strategies 2015-2021 introduced by the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, which seeks to spread knowledge and innovation in organic agriculture and develop it throughout the supply chain, as well as to expand marketing of organic agricultural products, not just rice, but also other crops grown in the region including tapioca, corn, beans, sugar cane and fruits.

Thai rice farming1_Arno Maierbrugger
Beans as alternative off-season crop © Arno Maierbrugger

Other initiatives, such as those by rice farmers in neighbouring Banphot Phisai district of Nakhon Sawan province, which is the country’s center of rice seed production but also an area of recurrent droughts, have embarked on the strategy of “more quality – less quantity”. This means they have dropped  the second rice harvest in the drier season of the year in favour of other crops that are less dependent on irrigation, which not only cuts costs but also improves soil fertility, according to Nattakit Khongtip, Chief of Agricultural Extension in Nakhon Sawan.

“Since the government said no to off-season farming, we did some brainstorming to find a solution and decided to grow beans or corn as compensation,” he said, adding that as a result, production costs have dropped and the farmland has become more productive.

At the end, such initiatives go back to the traditional style of local rice farming which was used in the area for centuries, while they at the same time increase efficiency in agricultural production, something the country needs in the current tough economic times.

Thai rice farming3_Arno Maierbrugger
© Arno Maierbrugger

 

 

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