The Thai Government has been training farmers in something called “Integrated Pest Management” or IPM. This training helps farmers to grow their crops with less pesticide.
The first step in IPM is to learn how to grow a healthy crop. Strong plants are less likely to suffer from pests. Farmers can grow a healthy crop by selecting a suitable variety, providing the right fertilizer, making sure the plants get water when it is needed. If a healthy crop is attacked by a few pests, it will recover without any difference to the yield.
The next step in IPM is to recognise the types of insects that are living in the field. Some insects are harmful to the crop but many of them are useful. One of the things that useful insects do is to kill pests. If farmers can see plenty of useful insects in their field, they don’t need to spray with pesticides. If they did spray, they would kill both types of insect, and in most cases the pests would come back to the field quicker than the useful insects.
Integrated Pest Management is different from organic production. IPM farmers sometimes use pesticides, but they have been trained to carefully decide if chemicals are really needed and to select chemicals that are less harmful to human health and the environment (for example botanical pesticides or bio-pesticides).
Thousands of farmers have completed IPM training in Thailand. The training has been organised by both the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Ministry of Education. Support has been provided by foreign agencies such as the Danish Government (DANIDA), the German Government (GTZ) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
Farmer Field Schools
A Farmer Field School (FFS) is an educational process for a group of rural people. The FFS helps farmers learn about ecosystems and has been used in Thailand to teach Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
The FFS involves learning from practical experience. In the FFS, between 20 and 30 farmers meet once each week in their village for a period of 3 or 4 months. During these meetings, the farmers conduct experiments to test and compare different methods of managing their crops. They carefully observe what is happening in the field and record details of the health of the crop, the number and type of insects, the level of water etc. This information is analysed by the group and, as a result, they are able to make better decisions.