SURIN Cooperative (Rice)
Pakphum grew up in Thailand’s northeast region, where he has been working in his family’s field since he was seven years old. When he was 13, he dropped out of school to help his single mother with the farm work.
Now Pakphum no longer worries about losing his ancestor’s land because he, his sister Sohm Rien, and his mother Coo-eye represent one of the 7,500 families currently selling organic Fair Trade rice through a farmer cooperative. The Fair Trade price has allowed Pakphum to make the three-year transition to organic farming. Subsequently, his pesticide-related respiratory illness has subsided, and the health of his fields has improved. He has not only been able to pay off the debts he incurred under conventional trade, but also has invested in more land and buffaloes.
Pakphum is the leader of his village’s committee through which farmers annually set the rice price and enforce organic standards. This cooperative structure also gives Pakphum and his neighbors yearly dividends and a community savings fund. Most important to Pakphum has been the return of his dignity.