เครือข่ายเกษตรกรรมทางเลือกภาคอีสาน

Farmers Lay Out Action Plan

In Farmers Groups, Meetings on 13/06/2010 at 8:09 pm

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. At times Paw Nai (Nai Ben Gong Suwanapet) would break up the conversation by playing devil’s advocate- offering a typical comment of a chemical farmer, such as, “Ooh, this organic agriculture stuff is just too much!” People were honest and expressed the sentiment that long meetings can be a burden, a barrier shared by both chemical and organic farmers alike. The farmers discussed both successful and less successful activities that they had attempted in their villages, and suggestions for the future revolved around tweaking these ideas to create new, engaging ways of offering information about organic agriculture. These ideas were recorded by five members of the Agircultural Land Reform Office, who attended the meeting. This meeting was one of many events happening in Kudchum this past week, including a presentation and survey on local food, planting of several native rice varieties provided by Sustainable Agriculture Foundation, and a discussion on utilizing water sources for local farming.

Commentary:

This past week, I (Abe Levine) had the opportunity to experience organic agriculture. I was invited to join a large group of villagers from Ban Non Yang, Kudchum in making compost. I also witnessed my Paw (host-father) tilling a field using a buffalo rather than a tractor. Yes, making compost required some perspiration. But what a small offering to make for the return- the whole time everybody was laughing. This was a community gathering that truly bonded neighbors, and what fun it was to stomp around in rice husks with no shoes! Lastly, getting exercise and preparing nutrients to feed the earth should be part of the natural life cycle. Some claim that using a tractor is far more efficient and relaxed than having a buffalo. Well, the buffalo moves at a leisurely pace, and in this time, one develops a relationship with the animal and the land not to be found while stuck inside a tractor. Furthermore, buffalo’s require no replacement of spare parts or maintenance other than the occasional mud bath and lots of grass. Thus, I’m skeptical about all this talk about the difficulties of organic farming. It seems that the information used to promote this way of life should explain not only the health benefits of going chemical free, but also the health benefits that come with the joy of doing farming in close relationship with the land and your community.

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