เครือข่ายเกษตรกรรมทางเลือกภาคอีสาน

AAN Roi Et Profile: Prayad and Sum Suriyo

Striving for the Thailand dream

Esther Sosa (CIEE Khon Kaen) – March 1, 2010

“I want my children to have a better life, I want them to go to school, graduate, and have a good job earn a lot of money and live in the city” cried Sum Suriyo as she looked at her husband who nodded in approval.

Prayad Suriyo and Sum Suriyo have been married for 24 years. The 45-year-old couple resides in Ban Dong Dip Roi Et Province, a village three hours Northeast of the city of Khon Kaen. The province is known for the cultivation of three cash crops: cassava, sugarcane, and rice. Although their livelihood now depends on these crops Prayad Suriyo and Sum Suriyo, like other villagers, were self-sufficient before these crops came into the area. The village, which is currently the home of 679 people, was once a wild forest with a variety of wild animals that were used as a source of food. Residents of Ban Dong Dip Roi Et Province now face a number of problems that range from ecological degradation to rising health concerns to increasing poverty, all which were foreign to them before corporations like the one they work for now came into the area. A farmer in this village owes on average 169,597 baht to the corporations that they work for because of fertilizers.

Consequently farmers are making the switch to organic farming, as a less expensive alternative to chemical agriculture, which is becoming increasingly more inefficient. Chemical fertilizers are expensive and now because of the depleted nutrient soil more are being needed to grow crops in the same amount of land. The farmers are experiencing diminishing marginal returns on fertilizers, for example, a bag of fertilizer is only good for one rye of land, the same bag a couple of years ago would have been sufficient for two ryes of land. The Suriyo’s are among one of the few families in Thailand that have made the switch from chemical to organic farming. Organic farming has helped the Suriyo’s pay off their debt, as the number of inputs that they now use has decreased, the grain that they get is longer, and they feel healthier.

The Suriyo’s switched to organic farming four years ago, after an AAN representative came to talk to them about the benefits of organic farming. Prayad and Sum since switching to organic agriculture have paid-off their debt to the company and are using the profits to get their two daughters through college.

Mr. Suriyo. Prayad and Sum have two daughters that are currently attending a local university and are studying Mathematics and Thai Language. One will be entering her fourth year of college while the other will be entering her second year of college.

Prayad and Sum completed the fourth grade. They were both children of farmers and come from big families, as a result did not have the opportunity to go to school. Because of their lack of education Prayad and his wife Sum see the importance of having one. “If I could have had a different life I would be rich, being a farmer is hard, you have to work in the sun the entire day, and it is very labor intensive, the only good thing is that you are your own boss” said Mr. Suriyo.

A regular day in their shoes looks as follows, both Prayad and Sum water the mushrooms that they grow organically at home in bottles without soil, they also water the vegetables that they use for personal consumption, and afterwards they go out to the field and take care of the rice, the cassava, and the sugarcane. After they finish their work in the field they come back and feed the pigs, the catfish, and the frogs. “It is very difficult and tiring, but we must do this to put our children through school” cried Mrs. Suriyo. Although organic farming alleviated their financial burden Prayad and Sum admit that it is more labor intensive, him and his wife must now both work the field to get the same yield. Prayad and Sum work together in the farm and share equal labor responsibilities.  Gender is not an issue, she must work the field as hard as he to earn money and get their children through school.

Although Prayad Suriyo and Sum Suriyo are content with their life as organic farmers they understand the hardships of farming and as a result, do not want the same future for their children. They are working and taking care of the land so that their children could have an education and have a better life in the city. “ If I could be anything in the world I would be Prime Minster” Mrs. Suriyo. Farming seems to not have been a choice that Mr. and Mrs. Suriyo would have liked, but despite their struggles and discontent they continue to farm for the well-being of their children.

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