Posted: March 24, 2011
In February 2011, The Sukhothai Culinary & F&B teams visited the sites of two brands of Chaipattana Foundation in north Thailand, namely PatPat in Chiang Rai near Mae-Sai and the Royal Agriculture Project in Chiang Mai, Doi Angkhang, both close to the Myanmar border.
It was an eye opening and instructive experience.
Standing at 1800 m. above sea level on Doi Angkhang with brilliant views, it's hard to image drug barons and pockets of communists were knock out the area just three decades ago. When the project was initiated by His Majesty the King in 1969, much of the hillsides were depleted of forest. Illegal logging and forest clearing for poppy fields had left the landscape barren and had a devastating effect on both the local ecology and the hill tribe communities themselves.
Today “Doi Angkhang Agriculture Research Station” and “Prince Chakraband Pensiri Center for Plant Development” focuses on developing a variety of temperate crops, such as strawberries, peaches and many types of lettuces and herbs.
The project includes the sampling of vegetables produced by the project before and after packing to monitor insect pests and ensure that the exported vegetables products destined to international markets like Singapore, Taiwan and Dubai are of good quality. If products do not meet the standard, the crops will not be harvested and the contract farmers will not receive payments for their crops.
The Royal Project provides assistance to tribe farmers with fertilizer and pesticide applications. The Royal Project controls the kind and the amount of pesticides used on vegetable crops. There are plant doctors stationed at each branch station to provide advice to farmers, such as when to use which pesticides, at what amounts and how to apply them. The introduction of the assistance of plant doctors was to reduce pesticides present on crops, minimize farmer exposure to pesticides and prevent environmental pollutions. Whenever improper use of pesticides is detected, proper consultations are provided to the farmers; however, if the problem continues, the contract with the farmer will be terminated. In order to motivate the tribe farmers and make sure they follow the policy strictly, the Royal Project offers excellent incentives, in terms of best prices. The Royal Project requires that farmers play a main role in management of the soil, water and forest in the areas where they live. Furthermore, the Royal Project initiated the program “Village Forest” in which farmers are encouraged to plant trees using seedlings provided by the Royal Project. Trees were being harvested for firewood or used as construction materials for home building and the forests needed to be replenished equal to the amount of trees that were harvested.
An visit like this one, to the far North, certainly gave us all a wider perspective on a positive form of agriculture, good for the environment and everyone.
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