New Theory in Farming
The north eastern provinces of Thailand, in and around , are blessed with hard working people and abundant land for farming. Subsistence farming is the norm, but with only seasonal access to water, even that is out of reach for many farmers. The majority of farmers in this region can only plant during the 3-4 month rainy season when water is plentiful. During the dry season, their farms lay fallow forcing many farmers to find work elsewhere to provide food for their families. This once a year harvest cycle has deep impacts on individual families. With parents forced to travel to find work during the dry season, families are split up many months during the year. Farm children see that farming is not a reliable way to raise a family so they regularly migrate to the City to find work that will provide a steady paycheck. Often these children never return to farming thereby reducing Thailand's ability to engage its next generation in farming.
District 5300's Project Team leader visited the region and, during discussions with a local Water Foundation, discovered that the solution to the problem was originally discovered by the King of Thailand. He developed his New Theory in Farming. As shown in the drawing, the "New Theory" includes a pond reservoir for each farm allowing that farmer to catch, store, and use water captured during the rainy season. The basin must be of a size (about 71,000 cubic feet each) that will provide enough water storage to allow farmers to farm throughout the year.
Utilizing a rain catchment pond based storage system gives farmers a new ability to plant year round but comes with new challenges with soils and insect management, crop rotation, and erosion control. In addition to additional crops, livestock, poultry, fish, and frogs all become viable commodities for farmers to bring to market. The Team is recommending that the Water Foundation work with local agricultural cooperatives and agricultural schools to design and implement various training programs that teach the new farming, aquaculture, and horticulture skills needed to better manage local farms that will have increased variety and agricultural capacity.
The grant will fund the creation of approximately 100 ponds at about USD 1,300+ each (subject to exchange rate fluctuations). The Water Foundation for Northeastern Thailand in partnership with the civic authorities will select those farmers who embrace and practice the late King's New Theory of farming. Once the farmers are selected, the Agricultural Cooperatives and the Water Foundation will work together to facilitate the excavation of the basins. The Cooperatives officials, working in partnership with the Water Foundation and Rotary, will provide the heavy equipment needed to create the basins only charging the project the actual labor and fuel costs. The Foundation will partner with local cooperatives and agricultural schools to develop necessary curriculum to insure that the various training programs are provided to the farmers.
Creating the opportunity for farmers to farm year round changes their and their family's lives. Not only do they not have leave their homes for work in the City several months of each year, but they can connect with their children and train the next generation of farmers. The proposed training will help them understand the importance of managing their farms in an efficient and sustainable way to ensure that the added water storage will result in increased output and healthy crops for years to come. Local training in insect control and composting as an aid to crop fertilization could help farmers reach maximum output per farm
Providing adequate food to sustain their families is not the only benefit of year round farming. The Thai farmers will also be able to plant and grow marketable crops. In addition, the ponds themselves allow farmers to raise and sell frogs and a variety of fish to local markets thus increasing their disposable income. When one considers new agricultural markets and the ability to access those markets year round, one can easily envision a 50 to 60% increase in output per farm. Using any viable economic multiplier will quickly show that the money invested in the ponds will result in huge benefits to the farming families and the communities in which they live.