Workshop to Develop TOA Wellbeing Indicators of Agriculture Practice

On 25th-26th February 2015, the action research workshop was organized in Bangkok for developing TOA wellbeing indicators as a common pilot project inorganic agriculture research. The process was set into 6 steps;

  • Understanding the past
  • Framing the present
  • Formulating wellbeing indicators
  • Pollinated ideas
  • Synthesis
  • Way forward 

Background of the TOA networks and former research meetings was presented at the first step.After that, Hans van Willenswaard explained TOA wellbeing framework design for wellbeing impact assessment to provide ‘common ground’. The common ground was developed through discussion and consent among participants on a framework,domains, sub-domains and indicators.

The next session of the action research workshop was facilitated to the World café platform for formulating wellbeing impact indicators by group to discuss each wellbeing domain. The agreed domains consisted of Health, Time-use, Education,Community Vitality, Governance, Economy, Environment, Culture/Spirituality and Self-evaluation. The plenary synthesis was formed to discuss and create sub-domains of each wellbeing domain before mapping the results.

The final step on exploring ways forward aimed to facilitate the discussion among the Action Research Working Group to identify a common topic for furthering the development of a ‘Common Project’ under the Towards Organic Asia umbrella. The year work plan of TOA was presented at the end of the session in order to allow all participants to have common understanding on overall work plan of the programme.

Research Project 1(June – October 2015): Comparative study of organic small-scale farming and non-organic small-scale farming: the case study of Thai farmer in Yasothorn Province by Alternative Agriculture Networks (Thailand)

 The research objectives are the development of well-being indicators to apply within Participatory Action Research (PAR) with the second objective to study organic farmers from a socio-economic dimension in comparison to non-organic farmers. The researchers selected the case study from small-scale farmers in Yasothorn province that comprise of 3 organic farmers and 3 non-organic farmers and 28 small-scale farming operation both organic and non-organic. In-depth interview, questionnaires and documentation are applied together with PAR technique for data collection.

Well-being indicators were applied into this work as a conceptual framework to explain in the comparative results. The indicators consisted of 9 domains;

  • Economy/ income / livelihood
  • Health
  • Ecology/ environment
  • Knowledge/ education
  • Governance/ justices
  • Time use
  • Culture/ spirituality/ friendships
  • Self-evaluation
  • Community vitality

The study found higher income among organic farmers in comparison to non-organic farmers and workers in organic farms getting paid higher than non-organic farms.However, the cost of land leasing between organic and non-organic farming is comparable, while the cost of plant and soil fertilizers in non-organic farms is higher than organic farms. Mostly, organic farming depends on family members as labour, thus the production cost of organic farming is lower than non-organic farming.

The characteristics of organic and non-organic farmers are also different. While non-organic farmers are lack of knowledge and skills in both organic farming and chemical usage, in contrast, organic farmers seem to be more energetic and eager to learn new things and apply new techniques to improve their production and living.

Research Project 2 (June – October 2015): Loss of farmland through informal debt and loan sharks (informal private lenders) by Local Action Links

The research objectives were studying of loan sharks and farmland loss and its impacts to Thai farmers. In addition, this study attempted to find out solution for state agencies. Participatory Action Research (PAR) was applied as the main research method, and four case studies were selected among farmers in chemical agriculture and one agriculture network for in-depth interview.  

The study found the causes of informal debts that caused farmers to lose their farmland included lack of knowledge on loan system, laws and business administration.Moreover, they are unable to access through formal loan systems. Consequently,they lost their farmland to debt repayment. Therefore, loan sharks directly contributed to farmers losing their livelihoods through land deprivation.

The researchers attempted to link the well-being concept into circumstances of debt by explaining indebted conditions that affected to the farmer’s well-being in 6 dimensions; career, economic, mental, physical, social and environmental well-being. This work explains problem solving from related state agencies that have mainly focused on transferring debtors from informal systems into the formal system, and legal assistances. The researchers recommended that these solutions cannot solve the root cause of indebtedness indeed. This work recommended the state to focus in self-reliance agricultural policies and systematic problem-solving process for poor people. The researchers recommended that these solutions cannot solve the root cause of indebtedness indeed. This work recommended the state to focus in self-reliance agricultural policies and systematic problem-solving process for poor people.

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