|Thailand Case Study for Organic Agricultural Development|
Sector organization for organic farming
No specific organic producers’ organization exists at the national level. Small-scale producers are organized at the local level, especially for the benefits of organic certification and logistic arrangements. The Green Net’s producer network is the largest network of organic producers’ organizations, representing around half of organic producers in the country.
The ‘Organic Agriculture Society’ is an informal group of individual government officials and researchers interested in organic agriculture, and serves as a forum for discussion and policy advocacy. Many of its activities are linked to the government’s organic projects.
The Thai Organic Trader Association was founded in November 2005. Despite having fewer than ten members in the association, the founding members are the key players in organic trade, representing close to half the organic trade in the country.
The development of Thai organic agriculture has so far been driven by the private sector and NGOs. These play key roles in organizing organic conversion projects and marketing, making a major contribution to the growth of organic agriculture. The government may have played a supportive role through national regulations and some favorable policy activities.
The image of organic agriculture: The majority sees OA as a safe food production system with a good potential for export, while a minority see it as a rural development approach. NGOs see organic as a means for sustainable development (and wants strict rules and principles for biodiversity and monoculture, etc). Private businesses see trendy opportunities (and prefer more relaxed rules). Organic farmers are depicted as small-scale, traditional family farmers.
Supporting structures: Research, education and extension
No special mechanisms have been set up for supporting organic farming. The existing extension system run by government agencies is used. General agricultural extension services often are ineffective because of bureaucratic politics and inappropriate training methods, i.e. focusing on classroom lecturing. Also, most of the public agencies’ training programs do not have a clear objective of supporting producers for certification. A more successful organic conversion program is the one developed by local NGOs with a combination of participatory learning and market incentives.
research institutions see organic agriculture as a way to promote Thai exports
and sustainable rural development. There are two streams of research, one
focusing on evaluating the efforts of local producer groups, as well as
assessing constraints and conditions for conversion, and the other on specific
crop production technology with high export possibilities, e.g. organic rice,
baby maize, and okra. Several educational institutions are currently preparing
a curriculum for an organic or sustainable agriculture course for bachelor and
master degrees, but none are available currently.
Business does not want to invest in market development when there is lack of regular and reliable supplies, while producers want to see that there is an existing market before converting to organic farming.
Further Reading about the Early Organic Sector in Thailand:
Case Study Overview
Regulatory Framework and Policy
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
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