Extra cash in pockets of many Thai rice farmers

Writer: Prangthong Jitcharoenkul, Junior Communication Officer, GIZ Thailand’s Agriculture and Food Cluster

UBON RATCHATHANI, Thailand – Once the local farmers developed a better understanding of the international standard on sustainable rice cultivation and managed to do away with the overuse of fertilizer, they have earned more money and become a role model for those who still feel uneasy to shift from their long-standing practices.

The small-scale farmers follow good cultivation practices of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), the world’s first voluntary sustainability standard for rice introduced by a public-private partnership project called Better Rice Initiative Asia or known as BRIA.

In addition to improving farm incomes, a bonus totaling 900,000 baht (or about 26,455 euros) have put a smile on the faces of more than 1,200 farmers in several districts across Ubon Ratchathani province.

A farmer from Samrong district of Ubon Ratchathani province takes her daughter to the community hall, so they can receive the bonus together. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)
A farmer from Samrong district of Ubon Ratchathani province takes her daughter to the community hall, so they can receive the bonus together. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)

Among farmers who received bonuses, Chomphu Thipwong, the 67-year-old farmer from Baan Tha Lat, Samrong district said the tailor-made fertilizer is good for the soil and save a lot of her money.

“I apply the fertilizer amount as needed and at the right timing which save the rice plants and my money as a result. The cost of fertilizer was previously at 9,000 baht (267 euros) per year but now it has decreased to only 5,000 baht (147 euros)”, Ms. Chomphu said.

Farmers laugh during the meeting with Olam International and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Thailand. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)
Farmers laugh during the meeting with Olam International and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Thailand. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)

Of the 80 rai of rice farmland, 7 rai is reserved for glutinous rice for her family’s consumption while hom mali rice is grown in 70 rai. The remaining areas are separated for vegetables.

She set aside 23 tonnes of hom mali rice and sold them to the project last year. She got 2,000 baht (or 59 euros) as a special bonus.

The amount of bonus depends on the adulteration in rice, either adventitiously or deliberately. “I am happy with my current income while the bonus is a proof that I can grow rice in line with international standards.”

According to Ms. Chomphu, the rate of fertilizer use has gone down from 60 bags per 70 rai to only 24 bags.

“I first joined the project in March 2019. I never knew how to customize the fertilizer before but after I learned to tailor the fertilizer to meet specific basal nutritional need, I enjoy doing it,” she shared her thoughts.

Local farmers line up to receive bonuses from staffs of the Better Rice Initiative Asia – Thailand Project. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)
Local farmers line up to receive bonuses from staffs of the Better Rice Initiative Asia – Thailand Project. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)

Ms. Chomphu is one among local farmers who are supported by Thailand’s Rice Department, Olam International and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German government’s sustainable development service provider to adopt the SRP-related concept for the long-term development of the economy and environment.

In 2019, farmers in Ubon Ratchathani were audited and received a score of 93.87. They met all essential performance levels for the SRP’s applicable requirements, meaning they sustainably cultivated rice.

“The bonus is to boost your morale and offer you an incentive to commit to the project’s key goal – sustainability. The consumers want rice that is produced by happy farmers,” Narawadee Modenuch, Research and Sustainability Analyst at Olam International, a leading agri-business operating in 70 countries, told a group of farmers during her field visit late last month.

Narawadee Modenuch, Research and Sustainability Analyst at Olam International speaks to a local farmer during her visit on 23 February 2020. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)
Narawadee Modenuch, Research and Sustainability Analyst at Olam International speaks to a local farmer during her visit on 23 February 2020. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)

While Montree Promaluksan, the project’s field manager said the bonuses also aimed to encourage farmers who have not adopted technology for rice cultivation to shift from their long-standing practices and have better ideas of what are climatic drivers in rice production.

The project’s team visited groups of farmers for cash handouts between January 23 – February 5.

“The important thing is their rice farming has the capacity to make profits. The long-term sustainability and continuity of care for local farmers should go hand in hand for the betterment of the country and the future generations of farmers,” Mr. Montree said.

Local farmers have their ID cards checked before receiving the bonuses. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)
Local farmers have their ID cards checked before receiving the bonuses. (Photo credit: GIZ Thailand)

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