What a young Swiss agricultural student learnt from Thai rice farmers

I am interested in this project because we all need to eat food and rice is a stable food for almost half of the world population.  The Food industry currently produces unhealthy and unsafe food for consumers which is why I am interested in how basic crops are processed into finished food products”.

Ludovic Schorno is a 26 year old International Agricultural student from Switzerland who came Thailand to be an intern with GIZ for 6 months and to see how rice farming differs from his home country.

I choose Thailand because it is more interesting than other countries. My visit here focused on Thai farmers and sustainable agriculture in Thailand.” Said Ludovic

During his internship he worked with the Rice Department and had the opportunity to visit Suphanburi province in central Thailand where he met and interviewed 15 farmers for his research on sustainable agriculture. He became fascinated about Thai farmers and rice production management in Thailand.

“I am interested in this particular project because we all need to eat food and rice is a stable food for almost half of the world population.  The Food industry currently produces unhealthy and unsafe food for consumers which is why I am interested in how basic crops are processed into finished food products”.

I asked him what was the most interesting thing he learnt from talking with Thai farmers

“The most fascinating thing that I learnt was that by outsourcing many of the farming processes like plowing, seeding and harvesting to third parties, rice farmers might only need to work 6 hours per day. The term “phone farmers” has been coined to describe the practice of managing their rice production by phoning third party providers who carry out the various farming activities. As a result Thai farmers seemed have a better work life balance compared to farmers in Switzerland who work for 10 hours or more per day”.

And what else struck you about your experience talking with the farmers – I asked

“I found that some Thai farmers are very innovative especially in marketing. Some of them have their own branding and sell their produce directly through social media. I was also impressed that Thai farmers do additional processing of rice, for example they make rice cookies, snacks and cereal bars”.

and how this different from Switzerland.

“I think that the Thai government puts more effort into supporting farmers to process their rice, while in Switzerland the focus is on financial support.” Ludovic answered.

Before ending my chat with him, I asked him what else he would take away from his internship and what he planned to do after graduating.

 “After 6 months working with GIZ, I learnt about the functioning of development cooperation and realized that this is what I want to do with my life. Indeed, I appreciated being able to work on such an interesting topic as sustainable agriculture and the contact with all the different actors, from government agencies to farmers.”

“I have definitely gained insight into Thai agriculture and rice production and found that Thai farmers are friendly, motivated as well as innovative. I will take this great experience and memory back to my country and hopefully I can adapt these experiences for Swiss farming and of course, finish my degree!”

So just maybe in the future, we might see Ludovic as a smart young farmer who brought his experiences from meeting Thai farmers and introduced them to farmers in Switzerland.
 

Story: Ludovic Schorno , Intern of GIZ Thailand

Written: Naylinya Chappanapong, GIZ Thailand

Photos: Chatthep Chanya, GIZ Thailand