Pacharee, friend of Khun Yai, looked after us for the morning along with Mr Santi Jeeyapan. Santi works as a facilitator to support villagers doing farm based research. We drove out to Naku Village, near Ayutthaya, where we met with three local farmers: Pattapee Poungsuwan, Somnuk Sanksem, and Yaowaluck Sukseeleang. We interviewed all three together in quite a challenging setting, a small roadside cafe. All three farmers have decided to move towards organic production because of concerns with degradation of the land and the high cost of inputs. The climate has definitely changed with more erratic weather patterns than in the past. Last September there was widespread flooding in Thailand and Ayutthaya Province was one of the worst affected, because it is low lying. They were all clear that the cause of the problem is people and that there is a need for a more balanced approach working with nature.
Yaowaluck Sukseeleang and Pattapee Poungsuwan both had their farms right next to the cafe, so we went into the field to talk to them some more.
Yaowaluck is an amazing woman. She learnt rice growing from her parents, beginning when she was 10 years old and has now been a rice farmer for 29 years. Yaowaluck farmers 56 rai (about 20 acres, or 8 hectares) on her own. At times in the past she has felt depressed and tried other work. People think farming is a dirty job, but she is clearly very passionate about her work and life as a farmer. Yaowaluck is a true leader for the future.
We then walked down the road to Pattapee’s farm. He stopped growing rice and shifted to organic vegetable production for the Bangkok market. This was a more financially viable option for him, as well as good for the environment.