Thai Rice Farmers Experimenting with Sustainable Agricultural Practices
In the face of global price fluctuations and severe weather, rice farmers in Thailand have begun diversifying their crops and re-using plant material in their agricultural practices.
The Strategic Foresight Groups notes that two-thirds of Thai farmers are rice farmers, and Thailand is the world’s leading rice exporter. Rice production is central to the livelihoods of many Thai and to the economic health of the country. But droughts in recent years have affected both crop production and global rice prices. Small farmers in Khon Kean have changed to complement their production of rice with mono-crop cassava and/or sugarcane, in order to cope better with fluctuations in the price of rice. A survey in Khon Kean revealed that many of the farms are integrated, and even though the majority of farm income still comes from rice yields, farmers were able to create sufficient income through a combination of other crops including tilapia fish, cucumber, long beans, spring onions, etc. In addition, all kinds of plant residues, such as rice straw and vegetables, are more commonly being utilized as materials for compost, along with animal waste from cattle, pigs and chickens. Farmers have started to make investments in their ponds and crops in the dry season and benefit from pond fish as a new source of both protein and income. Diversifying the life-cycle can ultimately minimise financial risks and help preserve biodiversity.
The Strategic Foresight Group notes that adapting to climate change has become a priority for these rice farmers. Though the government has made hybrid variants available, which are more drought- or flood-resistant, but a majority of the farmers cannot afford to buy the variants. Diversification and improving farm management can help protect against climate instability.
IFTF adds that these methods could supplement or supplant hybrid rice production practices. Simply increasing rice yields does not make farmers less vulnerable to global price shocks, and the increased farm management practices generate less waste and protect biodiversity.
Sources:Strategic Foresight Group, Dec 2010, page 18:
Kawasaki, Jitana. ‘Thailand’s rice farmers adapt to Climate Change.’ Our World. 24 May, 2010: http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/climate-change-adaptation-for-thailands-rice-farmers/
‘Change in the weather spells trouble for rice farmers.’ Bangkok Post. 7 February, 2010: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/investigation/32497/change-in-the-weather-spells-troublefor-rice-farmers