Asia: Thai organic farmer honored by UN
Jarun’s achievements in expanding organic agriculturein Thailand were recently honored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) when he was named a Model Farmer in the Asia-Pacific region during a ceremony in Bangkok on October 16 to mark World Food Day. What made the award even more special to Jarun was that it was conferred upon him by King Bhumibol’s daughter, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, at the FAO’s regional headquarters.
“Today, 842 million people in the world still do not have enough to eat,’’ the Princess said, as the heads of U.N. agencies, Thai government officials and members of the media listened. “Malnutrition in all its forms imposes unacceptably high costs on society in human and economic terms.”
As the only net food exporting country in Asia, Thailand has an important role to play in regional food security and the battle to end hunger and malnutrition.Thailand’s abundant output of agricultural commodities and processed foods makes the Kingdom a crucial supplier for countries that are food importers.Even nations such as China, which grows more rice than another land, still need to import food to meet the needs of their populations.Thailand is a nation they often turn to to meet those needs.
Although the majority of Thai farmers are using conventional methods that involve industrial fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs, a growing number are venturing into organic farming. That seemed risky just a few years ago, as the market for organic produce in Thailand and Asia was very small. But that’s changing.
A recent article by agriculture news agency Orzya said that sales of organic foods and beverages increased 9.5 percent globally from 2006 to 2011 and are projected to increase by that much again by 2012, according to the Global Organic Food and Beverages Industry Outlook. It added that the organic trend is catching on in Asia as customers in China and Singapore have begun buying organic rice from Thailand.
And to meet that growing demand, Model Farmer Jarun now devotes a significant portion of his time training others in how to farm organically and according to the “Sufficiency Theory” formulated by King Bhumibol.
“I just want to see other farmers succeed as I have,’’ he said. “Being a farmer does not mean you have to be poor.”