Follow up the Multi-stakeholder Forum (16th December at faculty of communication arts, Chulalongkorn University)
The Achievement of Multi-stakeholder Dialogue towards Sustainable Food Systems and Warm Gathering of Hope
The first section of forum was launched by Deputy Secretary, Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board, Khun Ladawan Kumpa. The dialogue focused on the trend of organic farming, the current agricultural sector situation in Thailand including, and agricultural development plans. The crucial one is the 12 NESDB plan which aims to retain natural resources, expand sufficient economy, and increase economic value of products.
While Khun Prokchon Usap a representative of Bio Thai (Biodiversity Sustainable Agriculture Food Sovereignty Action Thailand), proposed a practical scheme of organic agriculture “15 Million Rai for Organic Farm”. This plan presented a solution for the government for increasing free chemical plantation in Thailand which emphasized participatory technology development, green credit, participatory guarantee system, creating demand in local market, government procurement, and logistic.
Moreover, a chairman, Farmer Council of Chantaburi Province, Khun Teera Wongcharoen also suggested that organic cultivation should be supported by Thai government especially, marketing both domestic and export. The opinion was emphasized by Mr. Prida Tiasuwan, a Chairman of Pranda Jewelry Public Company Limited, who proposed that Thailand can provide free chemical food and products to the global market as the trend of organic food is raising. Organic agricultural segment in Thailand has a capacity to meet a demand of the market. However, he thought that labour force becomes a significant issue as Thailand is reaching population ageing, thus the country encounters shortage of workers. Migrant workers from neighboring nations can fulfill the organic industry requirement.
The atmosphere got impassioned when Paw Kamdueng Pasee, a local wisdom insisted his visionary perspective on non chemical plantation for self consumption in household. He expressed that sufficient organic farming is benefit both producers and consumers because it emphasized network building, health, traditional knowledge, and livelihood. In addition, he agreed that the state should support pesticide taxation due to it is an appropriate strategy which stimulates organic agricultural distribution.
The participants were eager to join a discussion and raised many good questions and suggestions to governmental representatives regarding farmers and consumers’ needs.
Question from participant 1 : How is the trend of potential export market as fresh organic products are vulnerable to decay? Moreover, the logistics induce higher costs, and organic farming requires delicacy and is very labour intensive in general. Should there be a study to confirm the possibility for domestic consumption?
Answer from Khun Ladawan: There’s an observation that there is an increase in organic products from Thailand in US and EU supermarkets now. More than ten years ago, there was no significant value of export. The export value has grown gradually from 1 billion to 3 billion to 5 billion up to 6 billion Baht a year currently (2016). Thailand officials facilitate the promotion of organic goods through international road shows e.g. coconut juice and coffee received a lot of popularity. It is certain that future market trend of the organic product will tremendously grow as people become more health conscious. But one major concern is the shrinking number of workforce in the farming industry. The challenge is to draw new faces into the industry by showing success stories of profit making organic farmers and entrepreneurs and giving them the right incentives.
Question from participant 2: According to NESDB 12th plan requires support for local market and consumption, 20,000 Rais of organic farming werecertified. How can local learning centers play role in promoting local market and other uncertified farms?
Answer from Khun Ladawan: Due to the lack of precise data on the uncertified farms, the support is made difficult. Nevertheless, by channeling support through learning centers advertising through local market, local economy can be enhanced. Conventional and exclusive certification standards and system must be revisited.
Participant 3 suggestion: I would like to convey my message to NESDB that small farmers who need most support are currently unable to access government support. There are problems in the administrative procedures on the ground that constrains effective flow of support. We mustn’t neglect small and marginalized farmers who are more helpless and vulnerable. NESDB should take this situation into serious account.
Participant 4 suggestion: I would like to give one remark on policy. I believe that the government plays a big role in influencing people’s mindset. Therefore, project implementation should show sincerity towards making the change because from what I see policy makers and project implementers treat this as simply obligations. They don’t have faith on the impact of organic movement. Although, there are budgets for organic cultivation plans, the actions are not result-oriented.
Afternoon session began with Toward organic Asia Partners’ voices and their non-chemical farming, national and organizational policies; Mr. Keam Makaradee a founder of Cambodia Sustainable Organic Agriculture, Mr. Sonam Tashi a senior professor at College of National Resources of Bhutan Royal, and Mr. Phukhumm a leader of Community Development Association.
Three institutions have their similar objectives which are to promote organic products and raise awareness of safety food consumption in society. Especially, in Bhutan, the government declared an aspiration to reach 100% organic country. This policy goes along with country’s development philosophy of “Gross National Happiness”. Hence, the organic agriculture is focused on domestic market and sees export of free chemical goods as an alternative. On the other hand, in Cambodia, quantity of organic commodities is substantial enough to export to USA and China.
After the presentation from TOA partners, action research on the relationship between loan shark and loss of farmland was presented by Local Act. This study aims to raise the government awareness about the issue and propose innovative solutions The participants of the inquiry comprised of government officers, social workers, academic, and farmers from KasikamThammachart foundation, Ratchaburi province. For methodology, in-depth interview is used for gathering data. The research finding shows that the main causes of debt include damage from natural disaster, land loss, inadequate fund, lack of agricultural skills, government policy impacts, high cost of production, and monopoly in production food chain.
Another interesting study was presented by Alternative Agriculture Network(AAN). The topic is the comparison of Well-being between organic and non organic smallholder farmers. Its objectives are to enhance the community capability to initiate the research and integrate the research finding in community plan and agricultural policy. The sampling group comprised of organic farmers and conventional farmers from Kammad, Kudchum District, Yasothorn Province. In-depth interview was used for gaining insight of 6 cases(3 for organic farming and 3 for non-organic farming).Domains of wellbeing are indicators for a specific result of organic and non organic cultivation such as economic, health, ecology, educational, political, time use, cultural, self evaluation, and communal aspects. The finding shows organic farming is productive in a long term and spends lower cost of inputs. In addition, organic producers are healthier and safe from chemical herbicide and pesticide, including the environment. Trainings and local wisdoms are knowledge that also expands in the group of free chemical farmers and links people as networks. Consequently, they are willing to devote their time for communities when they are available. On contrary, conventional producers have a problem of less yield when they keep applying chemical which harm their health condition and the surrounding natural resources. Furthermore, a high cost of chemical substances cause debt for their families. They focus on maximize their benefit, modern knowledge, and individualism. Thereby, they tend to overlook traditional notions and spend their time on the farm.
The world cafe session began right after the research presentation. The topic of “What are challenges for increasing 15 millions Rais of organic farming in producers, consumers, and marketing aspects?” was risen. The participants were asked to divide into groups and to brainstorm. The representative from each group illustrated the result of the first question which showed that farmers are facing 4 issues; knowledge, labour, land, capital. For example, they lack of organic farming method knowledge and are unaware of the chemical use in cultivation including unconfident of non-chemical agriculture. In addition, the number of farm workers decrease as young generation move to cities for better opportunities. Hence, their farmlands were bought by investors and transformed to residential properties. The abandoned farmlands are for conventional cultivation for serving the main stream market which causes environmental problems such as water pollution, soil degradation, and climate change. Farmers also face loan access difficulties, financial management,and loan shark. Regarding the consumers challenges, the issues include cheap price of food (conventional farming) and look over good food for their health as organic commodities which are more expensive. Moreover, organic goods are produced in small amount, thereby it is inadequate to feed the market. High cost of transportation and limited channel of free chemical food are also concerned.
On the other hand, the collaborators pointed out the solutions for these issues. For instant, farmlands in communities should be protected from investors. Also, the degraded land should be revitalized by the support from local wisdom and government. Training for farmers in financial management is a crucial as well because it will help to control expense and reduce loan shark engagement. Another factor is farmer image. It plays a key role for encouraging young people to continue farming because farmer image present hardship and poor. Thus, this image should be changed to be attractive to youths through introducing successful role model of agriculture and use of modern technologies for production. Finally, the marketing of organic goods should be fair in price and quality including making channel of organic products directly to buyers.
The second question is presented “What are our vision for Sustainable Food System at local, national, and international levels?”. The participants agree that in a local level, organic food should be affordable for everyone and the number of organic farming must increase for reducing environmental and health impacts. Furthermore, consumers should realize that organic food is better for their health and support CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for a proficient way for consumers to buy local and seasonal food directly from farmers. In a national level, chemical substances prohibition must be proposed in the Agricultural law and organic cultivation subsidy should be provided by state. Moreover, free taxation is an alternative to boost free chemical goods and fair trade promote is need regionally.