Transforming the Indigenous Farming Villages: What the Reform Policy for Food Security Brought to Their Sovereignties

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Booth 61
Oral Presentation
Sayamol CHAROENRATANA , Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Global and national level concerns over food security challenge the farming life of the indigenous communities. This paper presents a qualitative study of three indigenous villages in western forest of Thailand. The indigenous Karen people have faced conflicts with the governmental official over the access to farming land in protected areas. Land used to produce their own food is a key concern for the Karen and security means availability, access, and use for a stable food production. On the other hand, the Thai national economic policies have driven agriculture into intensive farming, relying on chemical inputs and high technology. How did the indigenous Karen’s community level reforms take place and increase availability, access, and use of the food? How did the stability of food production change over time at local level? Did the transformation bring fairness to the life of the indigenous community? Analyses reveal that small farmers like the indigenous Karen have shifted from a diversity of food for household consumption to cash crops. These agricultural producers face uncontrolled factors, such as costs of fertilizer, pesticide, land rent and market prices. Ironically today they sell their cash crops and must purchase low quality food at high market prices. My findings suggest that subsistence crops were thus destroyed by market mechanisms and local, regional and global policies. For the indigenous farmers, food sovereignty is the main topic in their negotiation with policy makers. I argue that food sovereignty and organic farming can only succeed with the full support from indigenous community. This research provides a critical perspective to such global-market-driven policies without concerns for negative impacts on the indigenous community for the purpose of simply increasing the amount of food production.