The end of the Thai farmer
First we shifted from hunter gather to farmer, now we’ve shifted from rural to urban living: are we standing on the precipice of the demise of the subsistence and small-scale farmer? Thailand is seeing a stark decline the amount of small farmers, and a sharp increase in the average age of farmers—a sure sign of a changing world.
According to the Strategic Foresight Group, “Small-holder farming, i.e. farmers with small farms, has been the mainstay of the Thai economy. Official statistics point out that the last fifty years has witnessed a drastic fall in the number of Thai farmers, from being over 80% to presently less than 40% of the total population.
“In addition, the country has witnessed an increase in the average age of farmers, which now ranges between 45 and 51. Farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to convince their children to take up farming… The rapid push towards industrialisation is also seen as one of the causes behind the drastic fall in the number of farmers. The lack of structural support has aggravated the farmers' problems as the absence of genuine land reform, redistribution programmes and farmers' cooperatives are some of the key factors behind this decline. Low investment is also seen as another major reason.”
Implications from Strategic Foresight Group:
“[Thailand] will face a serious problem in the next few decades where the number of farmers may decline, resulting in food insecurity.”
Implications from Institute for the Future:
Not only does this have the potential to lead to food insecurity, but overall conflict as food riots increase alongside a growing population of unemployed youth. Additionally, the industrial sector simply may not ever have the capacity to employ everyone who wants to enter it regardless of the level of government intervention. We may see a swing back to farming in the next generations as wages in industrial sector get pushed down due to increased competition, in turn, making agricultural living more desirable.
Sources:Strategic Foresight Group, July 2010, pg. 16