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Organic Rice Farming in Thailand as a Method to Escape Debt Entrapment

IFTF writes that in the face of an intensifying debt cycle, many rice farmers are moving toward organic agriculture away from the industrial methods of rice production that depend on hybrid seeds, fertilizer, agricultural machinery, and other high production costs. These high production costs often leave razor thin margins for farmers, compelling them to borrow for the next season, creating a debt cycle that squeezes farmers even while rice production in Thailand as a whole improves.

As for solutions, rice farmers in Chainat Province have banded together in an organization of adversely affected rice farmers within the Council of Networks of People’s Organizations of Thailand (CNPOT), which was started in 1991 in Central Thailand but has expanded to every region of the country. They have changed their production toward organic agriculture in order to reduce their production costs, and are applying various bodies of knowledge and techniques as well as disseminating them among their members. Examples of the activities and production techniques employed by the group at present include cultivating organic rice, producing fermented fertilizer and liquid biofertilizer, producing herbs to repel insects, etc., as well as mobilizing for advocacy on policy and political issues in order to solve the problems of rice farmers at large in Thailand.

Implications

IFTF notes that the Thai government has been promoting methods of rice production which depend on modern equipment, hybrid seeds, and fertilizer. Farmers have been self-organizing to meet the challenges this poses, and they are moving rice production away from industrial methods. Pricing schemes of the hybrid rice industry and government programs will have a major impact on how these efforts unfold.

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Sources:

Strategic Foresight Group, Dec 2010, page 18:
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/SFG_Dec2010.pdf#page=18

‘The real life of Thai rice farmers who produce to feed the world.’ Thailandreform.net. 23 August, 2010: http://www.thailandreform.net/data/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=77:thereal-
life-of-thai-rice-farmers-who-produce-to-feed-the-world&catid=95:article&Itemid=9