A few days after our first meeting with our flood relief power house and sustainable farming advocate Khun Preeda (see previous blog) we visited his projects in Chai Nat three hours north-west of Bangkok. For an early bird platoon like Ruby, Christin and me it was of course easy to leave Bangkok at 5.30a.m.
The schedule was tightly packed and we were to meet various people who have supported Khun Preeda during his flood relief efforts. From the local head of tourism to enthusiastic home-stay owners our visit was marked with plenty of visits that would introduce Chai Nat and its people to us. Since we also would like to introduce Chai Nat first to our volunteers and later hopefully to environmentally conscious tourists through a beautiful and fun biking experience in which they are visiting the project-sites and further support the area through eco-, or agro tourism revenue.
Khun Preeda has been working on two ways in helping flood affected farming communities, one idea is to provide opportunities for those farmers who can harvest only once a year to harvest a second time. They are either given idle land (with permission from its owner) or be connected to other farmers who are still able to harvest twice year to share their farmland. The second already implemented approach is to introduce farmers to organic farming and to buy organic fertilizer. Did you know that chemical fertilizers cost around 800 THB per bag accounting to 7,200THB for 9 Rai of farmland (9 x 800THB = 7,200 THB) whereas organic fertilization requires only 2 bottles at a price of 500 THB each? But it’s not just the costs reduction in organic farming that offer an alternative to farming communities likewise important is the impact of long term sustainability. Organic farming mitigates climate change, it enhances soil structures, conserves water and ensures sustained biodiversity. Through its holistic nature, organic farming integrates wild biodiversity, agro-diversity and soil conservation and takes low-intensity farming one step further by eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms , which is not only an improvement for human health but for the local environment itself.
Given the benefits we assumed that it would be easy to get people jump on the organic bandwagon but it seems a bit more challenging. Farmers seem a bit cautious to go organic and we asked ourselves why are farmers afraid of taking the organic path? We found out that organic is not 100% trusted in their effectiveness as to yield the same amount during the harvest. They fear they might yield only 4-5 instead of the 8-9 tons thus they’re using a combination of organic and chemical fertilization to a rough ration of 70(org.)/30(chem.). If it turns out the organic fertilization gets the same yield as chemicals than more farmers would most likely change to organic farming but we will have to follow up on that. However the effectiveness of organic fertilization seems to vary depending on soil conditions and crops (from our understanding) thus it cannot be equally and easily applied everywhere. There are also apparently no channels of sales for organic produce in Chai Nat but a network of farmers is working to change it. Hence organic farming is still in its early stages in Chai Nat but we’re willing to help invest in projects here if we can improve the quality of life for the communities and making more resilient to floods. See below the photo of the flood marks on the pole. We will have to wait for Khun Preeda to identify more communities to which the organic approach can be introduced and applied and as usual we will keep you posted.