Government officials and agronomists from the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE), Department of Agriculture (DOA) and Harmless Harvest are pressing ahead with a plan to pass on their knowledge and skills on regenerative organic agricultural practices to coconut farmers in the four provinces of Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkram and Ratchaburi.
From June to November, a group of 27 governmental and private agriculturists and agronomists will carry out training sessions on farming as a business, soil health, pollinators, organic compost, and organic pest management for as many as 350 coconut farmers across the four provinces.
They participated in a master training class during March-April in Ratchaburi led by the Regenerative Coconuts Agriculture Project (ReCAP), showcasing Thailand’s first collaboration between Danone Ecosystem Fund, Harmless Harvest and GIZ Thailand. The aim is to transform conventional practices of coconut farmers towards regenerative organic practices, thereby reducing their impact on climate change and strengthening the livelihoods of farmers and local coconut farming communities.
Situated at the mouth of the Mae Klong River that flows from the highlands in Kanchanaburi province into the Gulf of Thailand, the river at its point of exit branches into more than 300 canals spreading the water and sediment throughout the delta, creating a unique wetland of fresh, brackish and brine waters known locally as the ‘Ecosystem of Three Waters’. Such a unique ecosystem gives rise to fertile lands suitable for fruit orchards like pomelo, lychee, rose apple, sugar palm and, most notably, aromatic coconut. Thailand is regarded as the world’s main exporter of aromatic coconuts. As export value increases, most coconut farmers rely on coconuts as their only source of revenue and have turned to chemical-laden monoculture crop farming just to boost their yields.
“After attending the training, we see an opportunity for farmers to revitalise their farms through regenerative and organic farming. Reducing production costs and implementing environmentally friendly practices such as cover crops and beekeeping will be of great benefit to the farmers,” said Wilaiwan Thawichsri, DOA Senior Agriculturalist.
Ms Thawichsri is aware that adopting all regenerative practices will take time, but trainers will continue supporting and encouraging farmers to change their farm management practice while assisting the ReCAP project in expanding the impact.
The master training is regarded as the project’s key step to the next phase since its launch in June 2020. The project has provided coconut farmers a series of trainings on regenerative organic agriculture. The first batch of 13 coconut farmers have so far learned practical techniques to enhance the sustainability of their coconut farms, while remaining profitable.
How regenerative agriculture can increase farmers’ livelihoods and boost the sustainable ecosystem
Jitisak Yensabai, has been farming coconuts on his 48-rai land plot in Nakhon Pathom’s Samphran district, which has been regarded as Thailand’s aromatic coconut epicentre since the 1970s. A lack of farm management directly affected the quality of his coconuts. He turned to chemicals to boost coconut productivity.
After joining the ReCAP project, he was able to learn a great deal, from how to run an intercropping farm, and revitalise soil fertility and the ecosystem by using earthworm composting, black-headed caterpillar, fish and stingless bees. During the reunion activity, he could also share with other coconut farmers the challenges, lessons learned and techniques to boost farming productivity and livelihoods.
“Traditional waste disposal methods of dumping all agricultural leftovers are not sustainable. We can simply use everything in our orchards to produce natural compost. This way, we can reduce costs for fertilisers, while boosting our livelihood and good health,” said Panom Thimachai, who is also a member of ReCAP pilot farmers group.
Thanks to the regenerative agricultural practice, the 59-year-old farmer successfully produces high-quality fresh coconut produce that meets the United States Department of Agriculture Standard. Mr Panom has also expanded his business to include the sale of aromatic coconut nursery plants.
The next phase of the project will lead to an expansion of the aromatic coconut farmers and is a real asset for the project, fostering a group of pioneer farmers who are now great ambassadors of regenerative practices.