Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thailand – truly an agrarian society

Rural Thailand’s rhythm is closely tied to growing rice, Thailand’s number one industry, export, and what most people do. Isaan, northeastern Thailand is just finishing up rice harvest. During the last 4 – 6 weeks, that is what took priority over all else. On weekends, those who work off the farm, go home to help the family harvest. My storytime took a hit with many children off helping grandparents. There was no aerobics classes as the instructors were in the fields (and most of the class). School stayed in session, but according to my tutor, about half of the class was not there. They were either on their family farms or hired out as day laborers to make some extra income for the family. This is a community where already only about 20% of the children complete high school. Now that it is wrapping up, you see rice drying everywhere and big mounds stored around the community – of rice and rice husks (used for fuel and I think animal feed and in the bricks used for adobe houses).

Beautiful countryside of green, growing rice fields. In my area there is one rice growing cycle per year because there is no irrigation. Some areas have developed irrigation and have two cycles per year.

Then the floods. Many farmers lost their crops. This has been a bad year for flooding in Thailand, submerging 2 million acres of farmland. The government approved 800 million baht ($27 million) in compensation for households affected by floods. ($1 = 30 Baht), not nearly enough. Many farmers had been encouraged to expand production and now have loans they will be unable to pay. The government compensation is 2,500B per acre. Harvested, the same acre would bring in over 10,000B (according to officers in my office).

Rice ready to harvest. In my area, most harvesting is still done by hand. In some areas and on large farms, columbines are used.

Sacks of rice are everywhere. This gal lost control of her motorcycle with her heavy load. Our driver stopped to help her re-balance and safely continue her journey.

A pile of rice behind my house.

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