Mrs Suikong was just one of the few farmers handpicked from more than 1,200 rice growers in Northeast Thailand participating in the “Sustainable Aromatic Rice Initiative” (SARI) supported by the Thai Rice Department, HERBA Bangkok Limited (Ebro), Mars Food Limited and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Thailand Office.
The selected smart farmers from Thung Kula Rong Hai all share a thirst for change and a willingness to try a new way of rice farming.
A simple strip-dropping technique for cost reduction and income generation
Mrs Suikong, did not hesitate to join the SARI project when she first heard about it in 2019, After attending a series of training sessions on Dry Direct Seeding techniques organised by GIZ field staff, she decided to put the theory learned into practice on her family’s 30-rai plot of land by switching from using the traditional practice of broadcast rice seeding to the direct seeding technique after ploughing.
In fact, chemical fertilisers are not even needed all that much, resulting in her overall expenditure on fertilisers dropping from THB9,000 to an average THB5,000. When the costs are reduced, her income and savings automatically increase.
Technology, innovation and smartphones also enable Thai farmers to become true “smart farmers”. They can receive information and updates on the weather forecast, the right period to start ploughing and when the seeds will be dropped off by GIZ staff.
Perseverance always pays off
When the harvest season arrives, Mrs Suikong is now able to harvest up to 575kg/rai out from the seed dropping fields compared to the usual 350-370kg/rai harvested from the general broadcast seeding rice paddies. The overall profit she could earn from selling Hom Mali rice grown by seed dropping farming is about THB123,000/year, considerably higher than the THB96,000/year she earned from broadcast seeding.
An increase in income and profit together with a reduction are evidence of the success which Mrs Suikong has achieved in just one year and all on her own. The smart farmer is positive that she will be able to write off her 1.2 million-baht household debt if she continues with the dry direct seeding technique, records and maintains her income-expense account, follows the recommended ploughing technique and utilises technology and innovation to access agricultural knowledge online.
Her husband and neighbours who once laughed at her now show her respect and even ask for her recommendations about trying the new farming technique. The smart farmer aims to use her rice fields as a learning centre to share outputs and her experience not only with her neighbours but also with those who are interested in learning and putting new rice farming techniques into practice. Her daughter is also interested in developing the farmland as a community agri-tourism spot.
The session is one of the project’s attempts to groom local farmers like Mrs Suikong and many others so they will be valuable resource persons for local communities and pass on sustainable agricultural practices to younger generations in the long term, he said. “Learning by doing is the best practice. Outputs from active implementation of alternative rice farming technique can provide better livelihoods for Thai farmers, and the sustainable rice farming practice in Thailand,” he said.