Small but not stagnant: changes of rice farmers in Thailand

Authors: Arunee Promkhambut*, Khon Kaen University, Phanwin Yokying, East-West Center, Kanokwan Manorom, Ubonratchathani University, Ian G. Baird, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jefferson Fox, East-West Center
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Regional Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: agrarian transition, modernization, farming practices, smallholders
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Some experts consider the continued existence of small farmers as a failure to modernize. In this paper we seek to document how small farmers have adapted to change over the last 20 years in the two main rice growing areas of Thailand, the Central Plains and the Northeast Thailand. Our data show that small rice farmers continued to grow rice in both areas. These farmers, however, were modernizing rapidly through changes in improved rice varieties, planting methods, mechanization, chemical inputs, crop diversification, government subsidies, and extension services. But due to their unique histories, natural environments, and access to land, labor, and capital farmers in the two regions are modernizing in significantly different ways. In the Central Plains, farmers are following a land-focused vision of agricultural development with highly intensive irrigated farming using high amounts chemical inputs. In the Northeast farmers are diversified away from rice by engaging in farm, off-farm, and non-farm activities, some of which are highly commoditized and others quasi-subsistence, some on the farm and others in places elsewhere.

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