Thailand

In Thailand, our point of departure was the challenges that small and medium scale (especially rice) farmers face to make a living. The research done from 2017 to 2019 interrogated how these challenges are closely connected in the delta area around Bangkok. In particular, farming systems in this area face interconnected constraints in terms of:

  • shifts in commodity value chains, and in particular low profitability of rice farming  since the end of direct public support to rice prices;
  •  the frequent occurence of floods in the rainy season and of brackish water during the dry season;
  • a rapid process of ageing of farmers population.

We aimed to jointly explore the possible evolutions of the Thai agricultural sector in such a context. The research was conducted in the Upper Bang Pakong delta in Prachinburi Province and first consisted in characterizing agricultural systems in relation to water management dynamics ( Aguilhon, 2017; and Phiboon et al., 2017 for a synthesis). Land use changes and their impacts on agricultural water requirements were assessed (report: Pannon, 2018). Another preliminary work focused on young farmers: 1) their objectives, their activities, the constraints they face and the support they obtain – this study took place also in Chiang Mai Province (report: Cochetel et al., 2017); 2) a review of international policies for supporting young farmers and perspectives for considering these policies in the Thai context (document: Faysse, 2017).

A study was conducted on the vision that young people have of farming in general and of becoming a farmer (see Ruiz, 2018a for the whole report and Ruiz, 2018b for an executive summary). A key result of this study is that, although most young people are currently not involved in farming, 75% of them would actually be ready to become a farmer if some key constraints (access to capital, knowledge, etc.) were solved. A second study was conducted on young students of agricultural colleges and universities in Thailand. This study showed that many of these students were interested in becoming farmers, but they had to plan to work outside agriculture first for several years in order to gather the capital needed to start farming (summary: Filloux, 2018;  whole report, Filloux, 2019). A video on the vision of vocational agricultural students on becoming a farmer was also produced. This work has led to a mini-special issue in the Outlook on Agriculture journal (Ruiz-Salvago et al., 2019 an open access publication; Filloux et al., 2019; Phiboon et al., 2019; Faysse et al., 2019).

From March 2018 to May 2019,  scenarios were designed about the likely and desirable trends in the coupled agricultural and water sectors by 2030 in the study area (see Phiboon et al., 2018). Trend analysis and scenario discussion opened the way to discuss multi-level initiatives that can lead to sustainable farming, and notably facilitate the involvement of a new generation in the agricultural sector, a challenge faced by all countries in South-East Asia. A series of workshops enabled to jointly define a vision for the agricultural sector by 2030 and a strategy to achieve this vision (Phiboon et al., 2019).

In order to support the exploration of possible pathways of changes for the farming systems, a study was undertaken on the new national programme to support transition toward organic rice farming in Thailand (Hérique, 2019).

A last area of investigations, this time in the center part of the Chao Phraya Delta, north of Bangkok, related to the processes, perceptions, and consequences of the establishment of flood retention zones following the 2011 floods that struck Bangkok (whole report: Trakuldit, 2018 and related published paper Trakuldit and Faysse, 2019). This work was complemented by another thesis in 2019 (Voogd, 2019).