Following a proposal on land reform by the National Reform Committee last month (see here and here), Chair of the National Reform Assembly Prof Dr Prawase Wasi has explained in an article published in Matichon how giving 5-6 rai, or about 2-2.4 acres, to farmer families for sufficiency agriculture will bring the country out of its crisis.
He describes the current crisis as having 4 components:
Economic crisis. This is the overwhelming gap between the rich and the poor. Thailand has tied its macro-economy closely to the global economy which has been extremely volatile; as a result, it has seen repeated crises and foreigners have come to take over banks, hotels, retail businesses, etc. Free trade agreements benefit certain big business groups, but devastate small people.
Social crisis. The lack of justice and overwhelming inequalities bring about all kinds of social problems such as crime, prostitution, and drugs. The poor cannot access the justice system; their frustrations are building up and one day will burst open.
Environmental crisis. 50 years ago, Thailand’s forest areas accounted for over 60% of the entire country, but now, due to development which has served the interests of small groups of people, there remains only about 20%, resulting in increasingly frequent floods and droughts. The decrease in forested areas makes the poor suffer even more. The use of chemicals and pesticides in agriculture and the mining industries poison the land and the environment, and toxins have entered the human body, causing cancer and crippling fetuses.
Political crisis. These three problems have led to political conflicts which ‘almost have people kill one another’ and cause widespread rifts.
He says that he describes the problems above to simplify the very complicated crisis which is occurring.
He then explains how giving people a couple of acres of land can be a solution to the whole crisis.
A plot of land will give people security in their lives and the economy, by ensuring their employment and income. He says that unemployment is a big and insoluble problem in the US as its economic system ‘depends on employment which fluctuates according to the market’. The massive political demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, in essence, stem from economic problems.
With access to a couple of acres of land, each farming family can have a small reservoir to provide a year-round water supply for aquaculture, vegetables, fruits and poultry to meet their own needs in the practice of subsistence or sufficiency agriculture, with any surplus for sale or sharing with others. Village head Phai Sroisraklang and Khamdueang Phasi in Buriram have already shown how to make a living for their families with only one rai of land, or 0.4 acres. So a couple of acres will definitely be enough. Tens of thousands of farmers have already found a balanced and sufficient way of life.
He also raises the examples of Martin Wheeler, a Briton who lives with his Thai wife on 6 rai, or 2.4 acres, at Kham Pla Lai village in Khon Kaen, and Doctors Abhisit and Thanthip Thamrongwarangkul, who have proved this for twenty years of their lives.
Food insecurity will become a global problem. With the land, people can produce their own food, thus achieving food security, and, even without financial resources, they can build mud houses as shelters. Security in food and shelter yields security in life.
They can also take other jobs or pursue other interests, as subsistence agriculture does not take much time, 1-2 hours a day. If their other jobs fail due to market uncertainty, they will still have a place to fall back on, and not have to commit suicide or crime.
Each family can have a pond to keep water, and as a result a huge amount of water will be stored in these small reservoirs all over the country without doing any harm to the environment.
In addition, integrated agriculture or agro forestry will bring back bio-diversity and forests.
Village head Wiboon Khemchalerm in Chachoengsao, for example, has switched from growing a single crop, cassava, to over 600 plants and trees in an agro forestry system. Therefore, sufficient or sustainable agriculture will bring forests back to Thailand. Through this, a target of 50% forested areas can be expected; nature will be restored and floods and droughts will be prevented.
This kind of agriculture does not need chemical fertilizers and pesticides, thus solving the problem of toxicity and preventing hazards to public health.
In the current economic system, people hardly make ends meet, work hard and get increasingly in debt, resulting in stress and violence. In some communities, people used to kill one another almost every night, but since sustainable subsistence agriculture was adopted, they have been freed from debt, have had more savings, and have been happier. And killing has become almost non-existent.
He says that young people should form themselves into ‘small social enterprises (SSE)’, to run businesses which connect urban consumers to rural producers who practice sufficiency agriculture. These SSEs will create jobs for many people, and are a great force to push for sustainable development.
The increase in forests will be priceless, as the demand for wood in both domestic and foreign markets is endless. In addition, atmospheric carbon will be sequestered in the trees.
His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy will become the world’s new civilization, he says.
With life for most people falling into place, it is not difficult to tackle other problems; for example, how much land should be allocated for environmentally and socially friendly large industries, or putting an upper limit of not more than 50 rai per person on land holdings.