Massa Yoributra, Poonsap Phrommee and Udorn Khamwongsa are Thailand’s first group of female farmers receiving the SRP authorised trainers certification. They recently passed the SRP Training Course designed to build a cadre of persons qualified to conduct farmer outreach, training, and verification activities in their communities.
Since its establishment in 2011, SRP certified selected institutions, and professional individuals as ‘authorised training providers’. To ensure high quality implementation, consistency, and credibility of SRP standard and requirement, training courses and examinations will be conducted prior to certifying each SRP authorised trainer.
The newly-certified Thai SRP female authorised trainers will help boost capacity building among farmers at their communities. Training activities on the ground will be organised to learn reducing the social, environmental and climate footprint of rice production. Their high-quality SRP rice will offer the global rice market an assured sustainable rice supplies to meet the growing global demand for rice.
All female farmers-turned-SRP authorised trainers are also eager to pass knowledge and skills on sustainable rice farming practice. The three SRP-authorised trainers having already started provided trainings for their local neighbours during this non-rice growing season.
Mrs Yoributra has participated in the Sustainable Aromatic Rice Initiative Thailand (SARI) project since 2018. The collaboration project between Mars Food, Herba- Bangkok (Ebro Foods) and Rice Department aims to build the inclusive Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) value chain to support 1,200 rice growers in a northeastern province of Roi Et in the production of aromatic Hom Mali rice.
Having 61 rai land plot in Roi Et’s Suvarnabhumi district situated in the heart of Thung Kula Rong Hai regarded as an expansive, dry and harsh area in the middle of the region, Mrs Yoributra and her husband decided to switch from the traditional practice of broadcast rice seeding having implemented for generations to the direct seeding technique after ploughing as learned from the project.
“Looking back, it really took much courage to completely change and try a new way of rice farming. Learning new skills and taking action is the only way to know whether or not the result will pay off,” she said. And the result really paid off. Her overall cost for seedlings and fertilisers was reduced by 20%-30% as she applied the tailor-made fertiliser technique and learned from the project to her paddies.
Poonsab Prommee, 61, also found rice seedlings are stronger and bigger compared to those grown at the broadcast rice seeding plots. Roots can go deeper underground as seedlings are not overcrowded in the rice plots. She saw such difference as she experimented the rice farming technique at the 9-rai land plots out of the total 30 rai in the first year. She applied the direct seeding technique to the whole paddies ever since.
As an upstream farmer, Udon Kamwongsa, always believes in producing safe food for her family members and consumers. The 45-year-old farmer never hesitated to join in all kinds of trainings available in her communities. So she would be able to learn new skills and practices that she could apply to her family’s rice land plots in Ubon Ratchathani province. This is the reason she joined in the Better Rice Initiative Asia and Market-oriented Smallholder Value Chain Thailand project introduced by the Department of Rice, Olam (Thailand) Limited, Crop Life and GIZ in 2019.
The project was piloted in Ubon Ratchathani province, which is home to the country’s largest rice growing area of 4.1 million rai, with an aim to connect farmers to the market through capacity building among farmers and systemising sustainable rice cultivation practices.
“We also eat Hom Mali rice from our own farm. We would like my consumers, wherever, to be confident that the rice they eat is of the same quality, safety and sustainability standard,” she said.
The reality is that Thai rice farmers usually overuse fertilisers and pesticides. Excessive use of chemicals destroys and creates imbalances in soil fertility which would lead to reduction rice yield and an impact on climate change.
They were also recently welcomed by Hans-Ulrich Suedbeck, Deputy Head of Mission and Head of Economic Affairs and Dr. Bernd Christiansen, Counsellor for Food and Agriculture
“Knowledge sharing from farmers to farmers is a solution to improve better quality of rice and better way of production yields,” said Mr Suedbeck. He also learned about drought challenges facing rainfed rice cultivation in the Northeast.
Raised by a farmer family Dr Christiansen said he understood the hardship facing Thai farmers and shared his view on consumers’ perspective towards sustainable rice with the three SRP-authorised trainers. “Rice price matters. However, mindset of consumers nowadays have changed. It is always better to choose products having a good story behind. It will make the rice eaters feel good too,” he said. ■