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Promoting the use of organic substances to reduce farm chemicals/organic agriculture of Land Development Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives

           Presently, the agricultural situation of many countries all over the world including Thailand is in critical condition. The agricultural development of Thailand during the past 4-5 decades, the so-called ‘Green Revolution’, has been to increase the agricultural production efficiency that aims towards the maximum productivity for high profit by relying upon the external inputs that need to import from abroad such as chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides, agricultural machinery and high-yielding hybrid seeds. They were used to replace those inputs that existed naturally in the past such as manure, compost, green manure and pesticides made from plants. Even though the imported technology and external inputs could clearly result in higher productivity at the initial stage but the consequential impact is that the agricultural environment is destroyed, the soil becomes deteriorated due to incorrect usage of chemical fertilizers and agricultural chemicals that causes a problem of toxic chemical residues that harm the health of farmers, consumers and the environment.

  In 2005 the government gave the importance and made the policy to have organic agriculture as a national agenda with the main target to increase the organic agriculture area, to reduce the quantity of chemical fertilizers and chemicals used in agriculture, to increase income to farmers and to add value to the organic agricultural products for export. In 2007, the National Organic Agriculture Development Committee was appointed, consisting of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Paiboon Wattanasiritham) as the chairman and the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Science and Technology as the joint secretariat. The committee consisted of the concerned ministers, representatives from state organizations, private sector and non-governmental organizations, qualified advisors and scholar villagers. They jointly prepared the 1st National Organic Agriculture Development Strategic Plan B.E. 2551-2554 (2008-2011) that has been approved by the Cabinet on 22 January 2008 as the important framework of the organic agriculture development of Thailand for a 4-year period.

On 29 November 2011, the Cabinet issued the resolution approving the guidelines for organic agriculture mobilization in the next phase whereby the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is the main unit in the operation to drive the organic agriculture development jointly with the concerned organizations. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives then set up a committee to drive the organic agriculture development whereas the Ministry will be in charge of the secretariat.

  On 13 March 2012, the Cabinet approved the guidelines proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and appointed the National Organic Agriculture Development Committee. It comprises the deputy prime minister and representatives from all sectors as the committee, with the deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives as member and secretary, representatives from the Land Development Department, the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards and the Office of Agricultural Economics as members and assistant secretaries. The committee’s main authority is to determine the national policy and strategies to push and drive the organic agriculture development of the country, to integrate and implement the guidelines, measures, operational plans and budgets with the related government offices to develop the organic agriculture; to coordinate the systematic operation (directions, measures, plans and budgets) with relevant government offices to supervise and accelerate the mobilization of organic agriculture of Thailand to concrete implementation.
The Land Development Department is an organization having mission on development and management of the soil resources to be suitable for sustainable agricultural production. The Department therefore gives importance to the mobilization of the promotion of organic material utilization to reduce the use of agricultural chemicals, i.e. organic agriculture, to comply with the state’s organic agriculture policy, whereas the Department has been continually preparing the operational plan and budget for activities to promote organic material utilization to reduce the use of agricultural chemicals and has received the budget from the Budget Bureau from 2006 up to present.

The policy on promoting the use of organic substances to reduce using farm chemicals/organic agriculture of the Land Development Department

     1. To campaign and promote integrated usage of both organic fertilizers and chemical fertilizers, but concentrate more on organic fertilizers, through the network of farmers groups that prefer using organic materials to farm  chemicals that has already been established all over the country, including the network of volunteer soil doctors, and network of agricultural volunteers, so that farmers can have access to the knowledge and the state’s service on production and use of organic fertilizers, bio-fertilizer (น้ำหมักชีวภาพ), herbal pesticides to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and agricultural chemicals imported from abroad. It will thus comply with the production according to the sufficiency economy, e.g. focusing on using local materials to produce organic fertilizers to use within the community and to empower the farmers groups continuously.
     2. To  enable farmers to have correct knowledge and understanding in using organic fertilizers according to the kinds of plants including green manures that are suitable for growing rice and field crops such as  sugar cane, tapioca, while the compost  is suitable for fruit trees and vegetables.
     3. Avoid burning rice stubbles as it kills microorganisms in the soil and releases carbon dioxide and smog to cause global warming. The correct method is to submerge the rice fields with water, plus the application of bio-fertilizer to accelerate the fermentation of rice stubbles; then plow all plant residues under to enrich the soil with organic matter.
     4. To transfer the technology how to efficiently apply chemical fertilizers to farmers so they will have knowledge and understanding of how to use chemical fertilizers appropriately in growing crops, to reduce the production cost in the situation when the chemical fertilizers are expensive, whereas the Land Development Department has prepared the database of the Thai soil program and plant nutrient elements, with recommendations on soil management and fertilizer use to match each plot of land according to the soil analytical data.
     5. To promote the use of green manure in soil improvement, growing cover crops, growing vetiver grass to conserve soil and water and to reduce the erosion that washes away the valued topsoil.
     6. To promote the production of compost from crop residues, which is an efficient way to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
     7. To promote and accelerate the efficient increase of the production of organic fertilizer and bio-fertilizer to suit the kinds of plants, with a standard that complies with the minimum criteria of the Fertilizer Act (2nd Issuance) B.E. 2550 (2007). 
     8. To rehabilitate and develop community factories for producing organic and bio-fertilizer under the Provincial CEO Budget’s support that has already been established according to the state sector’s policy to be able to drive on the continued productivity operation with accepted standards.
     9. To promote and transfer knowledge body, mobilize the Land Development Department’s farmers groups already established by selecting the groups that are ready, strong and with volunteer spirit to develop into the organic agriculture production system of the following levels:
Local level such as Surin Organic Agriculture Standard (SOAS – มสร.), Northern Region Organic Agriculture Standard ( NROS – มอน.);
National level that includes the organic agriculture standard of the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards;
International level that includes the organic agriculture standard of the Office of Organic Agriculture Standards (OOAS – มกท.), etc.

        Whereof the Land Development Department has integrated the implementation jointly with the relevant organizations, e.g. Department of Agriculture, Rice Department, National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards, Office of Organic Agriculture Standards, in order to mobilize and develop the farmers groups that are ready towards the organic agricultural production according to the various standard levels.
     10.  To support and promote volunteer soil doctors and farmers to be ‘Smart Farmers’ in the production of safe agricultural goods, being friendly to the environment and the products are of the quality that pass the standard criteria, whereas the personnel of the Land Development Department give advice and technical assistance as the ‘Smart Officer’ on how to develop the land to suit the sustainable agricultural production, and to assist farmers in various ways.

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