Thai-German cooperation boosts rice farming practices towards climate-smart agriculture

Story and photos: Agriculture and Food Cluster/GIZ Thailand

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and spouse Elke Budenbender are listening to a briefing on to a briefing on the Inclusive Sustainable Rice Landscapes project during a visit to a project demonstration site in Ubon Ratchanthani.

The President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, visited Thailand’s largest rice-farming province in the country’s lower Northeast.

With over 4.2 million rai-rice farmland, Ubon Ratchathani and Chiang Rai has been singled out to implement a Thai-German cooperation development project aimed at transforming rice production value chains toward climate-smart agriculture.

The German president and his delegation met Thai smallholder farmers at Suan Ta Rom Demonstration Farm in Trakan Phuet Phon District in Ubon Ratchathani. The 35-rai integrated farmland showcases methods carried out in accordance with the Inclusive Sustainable Rice Landscapes project (ISRL). On hand to welcome Dr Steinmeier were Capt Thammanat Prompao, Minister of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, Suphasit Kocharoenyot, Provincial Governor and other executives from the ministry and province. 

Thailand is one of the world’s leading rice producers and exporters, particularly of Hom Mali rice, producing an estimated 30-million tonnes of rice annually and exporting up to 10 million tonnes. However, increasing rice production and monocropping over the past decades and lack of sustainable landscape management have resulted in significant environmental degradation, greenhouse gas emissions, declining biodiversity, and weakened ecosystems. 

Building on the successes of previous initiatives supported by GIZ in cooperation with the Thai Rice Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and OLAM Agri, a multinational agrifood company, since 2018 through the develoPPP programme of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Global Environment Facility and United Nations Environment Programme-funded project now aims to upscale farming practices which can generate short-term and long-term benefits for farmers, communities and landscapes.

Up to 45,000 farmers joining the ISRL project are encouraged to help lower greenhouse gas emissions by implementing climate-smart rice farming practices and technologies, including soil regeneration and laser land levelling to prepare land before sowing to increase yields while also saving water. Communities learn how to produce their own natural composts and biocontrol products, thereby reducing farming costs and the potential risks of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Crop diversification and agroforestry will also be carried out.

As many as 652,500 rai of rice farmland (an estimated 90,000 hectares) are expected to adopt such farming methods, leading to a reduction of 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent and 100 metric tonnes of toxic chemicals. The project will also help restore 187,500 rai land plots (an estimated 30,000 hectares) through agroforestry and diversified cropping by the year 2027.

These key farming techniques will enable local communities to effectively reduce not only costs but also chemical use in rice farming, while actively improving soil quality and stabilising the ecosystem in the long run. ■

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