Better Farms, Better Lives extends assistance to farmers, leading them towards modern agricultural techniques for better human and environmental health
A public-private network in cooperation with more than 100 farmers and Bayer Thai Co., Ltd. hosted an event under the “Better Farms, Better Lives” initiative in Ayutthaya, expecting to improve farmers’ post-COVID-19 quality of life through an education program aimed at lower production cost, efficient and safe use of pesticides and use of drones for better human and environmental health.
Amid the transitional period for farmers and local economies, the impacts of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) have worsened the situation. Bayer Thai and the Cooperative Cyber Brain Foundation were thus inspired to host “Ayutthaya’s rice and economic rehabilitation” under “Better Farms, Better Lives” initiative at Wat Sam Bundit School, Uthai District. At the event, farmers were educated on cost-saving techniques and innovations like drones, efficient and safe pesticide use and etc. Joining the event were more than 100 smallholder farmers.
Mr. Anan Pusittigul, chairman of the Cooperative Cyber Brain Foundation, said that under this project, farmers are encouraged to adopt a rice-growing approach that is safe for both growers and consumers. In collaboration with government and private organizations as well as farmer networks, it aims to reach upto 50,000 smallholder farmers in 25 provinces, or about 150 communities.
The Better Farms, Better Lives project at Sambundit farmer community, Ayutthaya was executed through learning stations that inspired farmers to grow safe rice with rice-growing innovations, drone, saving technique, and etc, manned by experts from Kasetsart University, the Department of Rice, Cooperative Auditing Office, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, and etc.
Attracting overwhelming interest was the agricultural spraying drone station, which extended knowledge on the use of drones in spraying pesticides to save cost and time and importantly to reduce risks on human involved with spraying operations.
Mr. Khawean Khumdee, chairman of the community rice breed production and promotion center in Tambon Khao Changum, Photharam District, Ratchaburi Province, chemical-spraying drones become an increasingly popular innovation as it addresses farmers’ demand. The spraying cost is Bt60-Bt80 per rai and in one hour, drones can cover 25 rai.
“That would take a whole day for human sprayers and today, such laborers have become increasingly scarce. The cost of agricultural drones and human sprayers is comparatively the same, but drones are safer, preventing human from contacting chemicals.”
On other cost-saving aspects, Mrs Thanaporn Hongthong, chairman of large plantations group in Wang Noi District and chairman of a marketing-oriented cooperative for BAAC’s clients, said that successful rice plantations require efficient management. She personally owns a 12-rai rice field which has grown low-sugar Kor Khor 43 rice for years.
"This rice variety is popular in Thailand as it is useful in controlling body sugar level and saving cost for farmers. Only 15-20 kg of rice is required for sowing, compared to 25 kg in the past. As the field is less dense, space helps prevent insects. The healthy variety also fetches a good price, at Bt50 per kg. This can support farmers financially.”
Mr. Sinsamut Khongprayote, a model farmer, added that demand for fertilizers and pesticides may continue, but farmers should also use them with compost and organic fertilizers. Farmers should refrain from burning rice fields, to reduce impacts on the environment and importantly build networks to exchange their knowledge.
Mr. Suthinart Khongsomthong, chairman of Tambon Sambundit technology transfer center, noted that a large number of farmers still apply traditional techniques because of “fears” that new techniques would boost the production cost. Some are not aware of chemical residues in rice fields. This project could help address these issues, he said.
Ayutthaya's Uthai District Chief Mr. Prapan Treebubpha commented that “large plantations” and the adoption of rice-growing and marketing technology will help farmers access to government assistance. Farmers should also apply the approaches that benefit people and the environment.
The "Better Farms, Better Lives" initiative was launched by Bayer Thai Co., Ltd in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the Rice Department, the Cooperative Cyber Brain Foundation, Kasetsart University, and Charoen Pokphand Produce Co., Ltd to support smallholder farmers who are facing economic problems induced by the Covid-19 pandemic. A number of 50,000 sets of Bayer products and safety equipment are given to farmers growing rice along the Chao Phraya River Basin covering Pathumthani, Suphanburi, Phitsanulok and nearby areas in 26 provinces together with an education program on New Normal rice production with safe technology for sustainability.
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