28 Dec 2020

Thailand’s Next Generation of Farmers

Young people are the future of agriculture – but hardly any of them want to become farmers. At a youth camp in Thailand, young people from Fairtrade farming families learnt about sustainable agriculture and were encouraged to explore a career in farming.

“I love growing plants,” says Pongpol Kusardet, a 27-year-old farmer of herbs and spices in Thailand. “I love cultivating and harvesting them, and then distributing the produce. I certainly want to continue working in agriculture, in the Fairtrade system”.

Pongpol has grown up with farming. He and his parents are members of Sisaket Fairtrade Farmer Group, a small association of 35 farmers in Northeastern Thailand, around 500 km from Bangkok.

“Fairtrade has had a big influence over my family and quality of life. Because of Fairtrade, we have improved our farm management and received different kinds of training. And the Fairtrade Premium has helped us to improve our group,” he explains.

But young farmers like Pongpol are the exception rather than the rule. In Thailand, as in most parts of the world, the number of small-scale farmers is declining, and the remaining farming population is ageing. The vast majority of young people have little interest in going into agriculture, given the hard physical labour and low income it typically generates. Most small-scale farming families in Thailand send their children away from their village to go to school, in the hope that they will then go on to get office or factory work, and have more opportunities to make their way out of poverty.

Fairtrade’s recent youth camp in Thailand aimed to motivate more young people from farming communities to learn more about sustainable agriculture and to see farming as a viable career path. More than 40 young people aged between 13 and 27 took part, from Fairtrade farming families producing coffee, lychee, herbs and spices.

The two-day workshop was organised by the Fairtrade Network of Asian & Pacific Producers and co-funded by the European Union through the EC-FPA project.

2020 Thailand youth camp group training 870
Participants taking part in the youth camp
(c) Fairtrade

Pensri Arsong, a 17-year old young woman from a coffee farming family was one of the participants. Her parents are members of Doi Chaang Community Enterprise Piko, a small-scale farmer cooperative. “I learned a lot from this training. I learned problem analysis and problem solving and I will be able to improve my farm,” Pensri says. In future she wants to process coffee from her family farm and export it globally. “I have a lot of hope. I dream to have my own business and improve my standard of living and my family’s well-being.”

After the workshop, Pongpol is already dreaming big. “I would like to establish a network of a new generation of farmers,” he says. “I want to interest them in agriculture, to make them aware of the environment and how to care for nature. They should see that farming is important to feed and sustain humankind”.