By Stephanie / November 18th, 2014
Last month, I had the privilege of visiting the Surin Rice Farm Co-operative in Surin, Thailand. Alter Eco has been in relationship with the farmers that comprise the Surin Rice Farmers Co-Operative for over 10 years. They are a group of warm-hearted, hospitable, affable people. Sompoi and her staff welcomed Kate Tierney and I with gracious hospitality.
The first time I visited the Co-Operative was in 2009. Since then, many wonderful changes have taken place. It is inspiring to see the impact Fair Trade has on the lives of the farmers, their families and the community.
They built a spacious, air-conditioned conference room that can seat about 20 people. A new drying slab was laid. The mill has new equipment for sorting and packaging the rice. And flush toilets were installed.
All of these improvements just go to show that fair trade is made a qualitative difference in the lives of the farmers, coop employees and their families!
I had the opportunity to interview Samrat Thongeim on this visit. With the assistance of an interpreter, I learned how fair trade farming has impacted Samrat.
Samrat Thongeim is 46 years old. He grew up in Surin, and attended a Commercial (vocational) School in the region. He currently lives with and supports five family members (wife, one daughter, an aunt and mother). He has two daughters. One is in high school, and the other lives in Chonburi.
Samrat supports himself and his family solely through farming. His 8 hectares have been certified organic for over 12 years; although he has farmed organically for 17 years. At that time, he foresaw the benefits of farming organically and tried to convince his neighbors, friends and farmers in other parts of Thailand to farm organically. At one time, he was the President of the Surin Rice Fund.
For approximately six months out of the year, he produces organic, fair trade Jasmine Rice that is sold to Alter Eco. That rice grows from May through November. He rotates his crops the other months of the year. In late November he grows vegetables that he sells at the farmers market. From December through April, he grows Mung Beans, Losale, Soy Beans and Jack Beans. The residue from the veggies and legumes get composted back into the fields to create nourishing fertilizer for the rice crops.
The income yielded from the veggies and the rice are approximately 400,000 Baht per year. Half of that income comes from rice, that other half from vegetables and legumes. He yielded over 14 tons this past year, which is above average. Samrat would like to obtain more land, so that he can continue to yield more organic, fair trade crops.
He believes strongly that organic and Fair trade are not only viable for sustainable income, but creates self-reliance, harmonious relations with neighbors and fellow farmers and is good for the environment.
– Kara Powis
Director of Organizational Development