Witoon Panyakul is Secretary of the Earth Net Foundation. Earth Net provides organic farmers with production technology, assistance in post harvest management, and pricing and marketing support.
“Farmers know that pesticides are dangerous. They often hire somebody else to spray for them, and they have to pay higher wages to people who do this work. Farmers also do not want to eat the vegetables they are selling, because of the chemicals they have used.”
“What farmers need to know is that they can change their system of production. They have a choice to make: they can continue to risk their health and pay a high cost for inputs, or they can stop using pesticides and get a good income. If farmers want to make the change, the Earth Net Foundation and Green Net Cooperatives can help them.”
“Farmers who want help from Earth Net have to sign a kind of contract. Those farmers are responsible for managing their farm and paying for their inputs, but they agree to follow certain standards. Farmers can stop using chemical pesticides immediately, but it takes 18 months before they can be certified as an organic producer. Every farm is examined to make sure it reaches the standards.”
“The standards used by the office of Organic Agriculture Certification in Thailand (ACT) are internationally recognised. In fact, this is the first certification organisation in Asia to be accepted internationally. Not all farmers can reach these standards and some have to drop out of our project. But the number of organic farmers is growing in Thailand.”
“We have implemented the organic scheme for 10 years, and now there are about 1,000 producers in the North East Region. We want to expand to the North, Central and Southern Regions. We are not expecting every farmer in Thailand to turn to organic agriculture, but many poor farmers can benefit from changing their method of production. Small-scale farmers are spending a lot of money on chemicals, but they get a low price for their crop and they are damaging their natural resources. Earth Net and Green Net have shown that there is an alternative for these farmers.”
Farmer’s fields contain many types of insects, bacteria, and viruses. Some of these organisms are pests, but some of them are beneficial because they are the ‘natural enemies’ of pests. Instead of spraying poisonous chemicals, it is possible for farmers to introduce natural enemies into their fields as a way of controlling pests. We call this ‘biological control’. There are three types of biological control in Thailand:
- Rearing of natural enemies by farmer groups. Some farmers have been trained to collect and breed insects such as earwigs that are released into sugar cane fields to control borers. This is a simple, effective and low-cost alternative to pesticides.
- Mass rearing of natural enemies by the Department of Agricultural Extension. Throughout the country there are a nine Biological Control Centres managed by DOAE. Large numbers of beneficial insects are produced, such as lacewings, assassin bugs, and ladybird beetles. Farmers can visit these centres to collect natural enemies free of charge.
- Commercial production of bio-pesticides. Some companies produce viruses (such as ‘NPV’) and bacteria (such as ‘Bt’) that are sold in bottles and can be sprayed onto the crop. These organisms make caterpillars sick and cause them to die.