I approached Slow Food’s Terra Madre with ambivalence. My fellow young farmers in New York called the organization an “eating club.” I was frustrated because my Thai friends from the Alternative Agriculture Network were not attending the event due to problems with paperwork. I didn’t know what to expect from the event – would the people I meet really care about food being “good, clean and fair”? Or, would the “good” take up most of their effort? Yet I also admired Slow Food for it’s explicit belief that “good food” (or “sustainable” or “fair”) should actually taste good. This same value is one that I see within the AAN and other farmer-based organizations working for a better food system.
Archive for the ‘Meetings’ Category
Dear readers – here is our summer intern’s first post! Abe Levine, a student from the CIEE Khon Kaen study abroad program and Macaelester College, will be supporting the AAN’s Yasothon Green Market and website for the next few months. Abe is fresh off a semester of learning and living with villagers and has spent the past weeks working in the fields and getting to know our network’s farmers better.
O June 6th, farmers from 15 villagers gathered to create an action plan directed towards promoting sustainable organic agriculture. Farmers sat in a circle, classroom style, at the learning center in Kudchum province, Yasothon, prepared to share their stories and offer each other feedback. Paw Lan (Dow Ruung Peht Pon) began the meeting by asking three questions:
1.) What problems are we experiencing?
2.) What can we do about them?
3.) What outputs can we expect from these solutions?
A number of farmers expressed that their neighboring villagers who do chemical farming embrace the mentality that organic farming requires too much physical labor, that there are too many steps involved. Read the rest of this entry »
P’ Kanya Onsri smiles whenever she talks about her organic pig project in Surin. As one of the first organic farmers in her village, she has always been willing to try out new techniques in order to make her farming practices more sustainable. Since 2006, Kanya has pioneered a organic pig raising producers’ group in Tamor subdistrict, Surin province. With support from Surin Farmers Support and the AAN, the program has expanded to more than 70 families and provides 2 whole pigs at the Surin Green Market every Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday’s meeting, featured in the Bangkok Post article below, touched on a lot more than AFTA tariff reductions and their impacts on small farmers. This new Institute is the product of many years of work and collaboration with Thailand’s Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, Commerce Ministry and Public Health Ministry. Over the next three years, the Policy Institute will work to mobilize information about sustainable agriculture and our network’s way of thinking about sustainable agriculture and farmer welfare.
Rice Fund Surin members agree that organic agriculture is a solution for small-scale rice farmers in the province. And the organic food market that has developed is a result of a strong people’s movement for sustainable livelihoods and safe, healthy food. Yet, given how farming is inherently risky, the transition to organic farming is difficult for many farmers. The expansion of the organic market has taken a long time in Surin, but for many, the movement seems stagnant – organic farmers keep farming organically, and conventional farmers keep using chemicals.
The Rice Fund Surin meeting on Jan 14 sought to look further into the possibilities for local fair trade to help revive interest in organic farming among villagers and further develop urban consumer awareness about food systems. Fair Trade has always been an important part of Rice Fund’s ideology (the mill is Fair Trade certified and farmers’ groups have independently managed fair trade premiums for yeas), but is often overlooked by producers and consumers on the local level. “Domestic Fair Trade” is a small movement in the U.S., and is organized by a network of organizations and producers cooperatives, including Equal Exchange.
There’s a chance that we can have an agricultural system in which farmers grow local varieties with little or no chemicals – Mr. Somsong Chotechuen
Seventy-seven percent of rice production in Thailand is rain-fed.
AAN farmers and staff from throughout Esan and northern Thailand came together on December 1st to exchange about their seed research experiences and findings over the past year with the Ubon Rachatani Rice Seed Research Center. First we got an update from Joko in Nan province, where farmers are improving seeds independently. Over two thousand farmers are growing these seeds all over northern Thailand. More remote places have been able to preserve seeds and these communities tend to be local ethnic groups. Northern Thailand has preserved many field rice varieties are suitable to the hillsides, but many paddy rice varieties have disappeared from the fields. But surrounding Chiang Mai, sixty percent of rice is Gor Kor 6.
There are three types of rice – field rice, which is suited to the mountainous ranges of northern Thailand, rain-fed rice, grown throughout Esan, and flooded-paddy rice, which grows in taam ecosystems and was traditionally grown in central Thailand (but has mostly disappeared in this export-intensive region). There are pure, indigenous varieties, improved varieties, which have bred by and varieties improved by researchers and sold to farmers. Read the rest of this entry »
The mess of provincial bureaucrats sitting across the hall is a symbol of their ineptitude and the lack of political will within this system. They have made a major mess for themselves and they look nervous and embarrassed. The district has come to accept it’s at fault and the higher ups have had to come in and clean up this mess…
After the AAN met with the Governor of Yasothon and the agricultural departments on October 19th, the Furadan and other pesticides were removed from the Kudchum silo. But by the 26th, the government’s deadline to properly address the situation, we had not been informed of where they had been moved to or what had been done with them. By November 3rd, the Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives had arrived to meet with the district’s organic farmer-leaders. It was our forum to voice our concerns and demand government accountability.
On November 3rd, the Alternative Agriculture Network – Esan (AAN) demanded: Read the rest of this entry »
Please click on the photos below to see slideshows from some of the AAN’s recent activities
Indigenous seed preservation and expansion is an essential part of AAN farmers’ sustainable agriculture practices. Local varieties have a role not only in farm biodiversity, but in community culture and traditions. A number of varieties have also been found to have unique health benefits and medicinal properties. These are good enough reasons to plant them, but unfortunately most conventional farmers no longer do: many are in debt and need to continue planting jasmine rice for the mills or lenders they are indebted to (and often need to purchase back low grade rice, after selling their entire crop), others may grow only enough to feed their household and grow cash crops on the remainder of their land, and finally, some farmers are simply not interested in these “low-yielding” or “stiff and un-fragrant” seeds. The first two cases are examples of the pressures of a market-export-oriented agricultural system. The last case represents a change in farmers’ mentality and culture about agriculture – there is a dearth of knowledge about these seeds and their characteristics, fear of low-yields and a high value placed on Jasmine 105 rice.
But we don’t seek to rant here about the impacts of Thailand’s Green Revolution. The AAN has actively supported a small indigenous seed renaissance here in northeastern Thailand for more than ten years. As this movement has progressed, AAN farmers groups have created local, indigenous seed resources, and invited their communities to join them. At our meeting in Mahasarakm on Aug. 21, farmers’ groups from Kalasin, Petchabun, Ubon Ratchatani, Roi Et, Yasothon and Mahasarakam provinces gathered to review the past season’s activities and plan for the coming season’s indigenous rice campaign. Read the rest of this entry »
Local vendors at the Warin Bus Station market in Ubon Ratchatani – selling local plants on the ground, in front of the dumpster.
Several provinces in southern Esan were brought together by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation last Thursday to discuss the possibilities for forming a food security network. Representatives from Yasothon, Surin, Sisaket, Amnat Charoen and Ubon were brought together to focus on a few key issues: resources – rights and management, food and agriculture – organic and sustainable production, and consumers – alternative markets and public movement. The Sesa Asoke community, Kunatam rice cooperative, Community Forest Network, Ubon Green Network, Surin Farmers Support and AAN were all represented.
The meeting worked towards forming a plan for food security in these provinces, working based on the existing relationships between villagers’ organizations, local government and NGOs. There is a concrete basis for food security in southern Esan, so the meeting focused on ways to utilize this basis for future work and expanding a movement for food security. Regional-level research and policy-making efforts are end goals for the network as well, as these efforts can build consumer awareness and “society security” as ThaiHealth put it. Read the rest of this entry »