Lowland Rice Cultivation in Transition: Context and Agrarian Change in Northeastern Thailand and Southern Laos

Authors: Ian Baird*, The University of Wisconsin - Madison, Kanokwan Manorom, Ubon Ratchathani University, Santi Piyadeth, Savannakhet University, Sirasak Gaja-Svasti, Ubon Ratchathani University, Chanthavisouk Ninchaluene, Savannakhet University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Asia, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Rice farming, agrarian change, organic, Thailand, Laos
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


Over the last two decades, between 2000 and 2018, dramatic changes in rice cultivation practices have occurred in both northeastern Thailand and southern Laos, even though there are significant differences in the ways that lowland rice is cultivated between both. In northeastern Thailand, for example, the majority of farmers now plant rice through broadcasting. They are also increasingly relying on large tractors and other forms of mechanization. In southern Laos, however, farmers have shifted from using water buffaloes to plowing their fields with hand-held tractors, although hand transplanting remains the norm. In this paper, we compare lowland rice farming in both locations, and consider the ways that agrarian change is occurring. How can we to expect rice farming in northeastern Thailand and southern Laos to develop in the future? What are some of the key things influencing agrarian change in northeastern Thailand and southern Laos? With different aspects of the agrarian question in mind, we examine some of the key factors that are influencing agrarian change. In particular, we argue that government policies and markets, particularly those related to organic and low-chemical input “clean rice” have already altered the trajectory of agrarian change significantly, and seem likely to continue to significantly affect lowland rice cultivation in the future.

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