Thailand, 18 Oct 2010 -- Bangkok − Today, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presented FAO awards to four Asian farmers from Nepal, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Timor-Leste for outstanding achievements.
Somkhuan Siriphakdee, a female model food crop farmer from the Kingdom of Thailand
Located on the Gulf of Thailand, the province of Rayong is famous for its delicious fruits, powerful fish sauce, a famous poet and the island of Ko Samet. Each year in May, the Rayong Fruit Festival celebrates the peak season of tropical delicacies like durian, rambutan, longkong and mangosteen.
It is in Rayong where Somkhuan Siriphakdee was born in 1948. One of five children, she inherited a small rubber plantation from her parents. After marriage, she continued farming rubber latex while attending agricultural training courses to learn about compost fertilizer, bio-liquid compost and ways to produce and use extracted medicinal plants to control plant pests.
“During my training courses, I became convinced that organic farming was the path to good quality, safe and healthy food,” said Khun Somkhuan. “It is also safer for the farmer and better for the environment.”
Armed with this new conviction and a storehouse of knowledge about organic farming techniques, Khun Somkhuan began transforming part of her rubber plantation into an agro-tourism destination where visitors learn about organic fruit farming and even harvest their own fresh fruit at the end of their stay. Between 1 000 and 2 000 people visit the farm every month, often in large groups. She has more than 300 fruit trees, or around 50 trees for each of six different kinds of fruit.
“I had to take a low interest loan to expand the farm. It put me in debt for almost 30 years, but now I’ll soon be debt free,” she said.
There’s much more to Khun Somkhuan’s success than the farm. A natural born leader, in 1984 she set up the Ban Laeng Pattana Farm Women’s Group with 15 other women farmers. From the bounty of their farms, they began making and packaging durian chips, rice crisps with Thai herbs, mangosteen soap and even shrimp paste under their own “Waathung” brand.
Their operations have now become something of a Mecca for farmers and others interested in organic farming. “Our activities have brought increased recognition and income to the whole community.” The Department of Agricultural Extension was key to making this happen.
Motivated by the family, her children have obtained higher education but still help out on the family farm during free days. Says Khun Somkhuan, “I’m happy they’ve found other careers, because farming is such hard and uncertain work.”
Still, she says she’s positive about the future. “I’m sure the future is bright if we continue as a group to make a better living by helping each other. With many farmers getting older now, we could use more public investment in rural communities if we want our young people to be farmers.”
No doubt, her husband, children and the Rayong community are lucky to have Khun Somkhuan and her dream for the future: “I dream of a peaceful Thai society with people who will all be better off in the future.”
The award ceremony was part of today’s Asia-Pacific observance of World Food Day - the 65th anniversary of FAO’s foundation in Quebec, Canada on 16 October 1945.
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the ceremony. The Thai minister of agriculture and cooperatives, other senior Thai government officials, Bangkok based members of the diplomatic corps, UN organizations and civil society were in attendance.
A keynote address “United against hunger” was delivered by Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
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