Thailand's orchards blossom anew
FAO spearheads sustainable recovery
Ban Bang Njang, Thailand – Virut Hokhua spent 33 years cultivating his fruit orchard, but nothing in his long experience prepared him for the day when dozens of dead and injured people washed up among the trunks of his rambutan and durian fruit trees.
Mr Hokhua, 65, recalls how he helped some of the foreigners carried to the orchard by the tsunami and how one, a German tourist, died there. Among the dead was Mr Hokhua’s eldest son, Tamarat, 29.
The tidal wave flattened the orchard but now Mr Hokhua has replanted his plot of just under one hectare with rambutan, mangosteen and longkon as well as oil-palm, all of which he received from FAO.
"FAO is the only agency that is giving some practical help in agriculture here," he avows. "Without FAO it would have been quite difficult. They gave me fertilizer and gypsum as well as the seedlings."
Like many farmers in the area, Mr Hokhua introduced oil-palms to his land for the first time because of the growing demand for palm oil to make biological diesel fuel and because they take four years to bear fruit compared with five years for rambutan.
Mr Hokhua's satisfaction is echoed by Wichien Kasemsri, District Extension Officer for the Khao Lak area, north of Phuket.
"FAO has helped smallholders a lot," he says, assessing the plight of 600 households in his territory. "Its assistance is more sustainable than other forms of help. People here still are suffering from losing all sources of income, including tourism. But for agriculture maybe next year will be better."
Also helped by FAO was Wananek Wilai, 58, whose livelihood was interrupted when dozens of coconut trees she cultivated with her sister Malle Navaloi, 56, were uprooted by the tsunami. Both sisters received 50 seedlings from FAO. Ms Wilai lost her two daughters in the tsunami when they drowned in their home. Her grandchildren, Kanchana, 2, and Pensiri, 8, survived because they were on high ground with Ms Wilai, who fled with them to safety as the tidal wave approached.
Not all orchards suffered immediate effects. In nearby Lam Kaen village, farmer Somchai Plodtuk lost some mangosteen and durian trees as much as two months after the tsunami as salt attacked their roots.
"My smallholding has suffered but FAO gave me gypsum, which I applied and which saved some trees," he says. "It made a difference."
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