Title

Benefits and challenges to small scale farmers in conversion from their chemical and pesticide dependence to organic agriculture in Northeast Thailand

Publication Date

1-1-2006

Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

Jeff Unsicker

Abstract

In 1961 the Thai government introduced agricultural policies that for over 40 years turned Thai subsistence farmers away from traditional methods of agriculture and towards a more mechanized, chemically-dependent, export-oriented agriculture. This modern system boosted farm earnings and exports for some farmers, but damaged local food security, left many Thai farm families and rural Thai communities in debt, and harmed local biodiversity and farm ecosystems. In the early 1990s, a small organic farm movement began to sprout. Even so, in 2002, only 586 of the nation's 5.1 million farms were certified organic. In 2003, however, this number nearly tripled, to 1,653 certified organic farms, suggesting the beginning of an exciting new trend in Thai farming. This investigation analyzes the benefits gained and challenges faced by small-scale Thai farmers shifting or considering shifting from chemical farming to organic methods. Through interviews and group discussions with small-scale farmers, NGO workers and government officers from Surin (a northeastern province), the author seeks to understand how some Thai farmers are making the shift, what mechanisms are helping facilitate this transition, and what obstacles stand in the way. The research suggests reasons that farmers have made the shift: increased crop yield, relief from debt, reduced expenditures on inputs, increase in market demand, greater health awareness, restoration and conservation of the farm's natural resources and biodiversity, greater family participation, and greater community support. It also identifies constraints that hinder farmers from going organic: a long-established trust in the efficacy of chemical fertilizers, household debt, household labor shortages, household expenditure, attitudes towards sustainable development, and state policies promoting commodity agriculture. In order to overcome the constraints the study concludes that greater state support is important.

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