In the village of Jumrung in Rayong province, the children are following the same principles of backyard vegetable gardening that has been practice for generations. Whenever the children want to eat any of the fruits, vegetables, leaves or flowers that are grown surrounding their homes, they can pick them whenever they want. Some of the edible plants grown on their own and some are grown intentionally. Furthermore, the children know the uses parts of the different plants that are grown.
Rice is the staple of the Thai diet and the fruits and vegetables in the backyard garden provide the necessary vitamins and minerals for strong and healthy bodies. This ensures that the people of the household have good food to eat, even in the leanest of times. Not only does the edible plants cultivated by the families provide for the basis of a good diet, any surplus can be sold for extra income for the household.
In 2008, food prices soared,along with fuel prices, reaching their highest level in 30 years. This created the worst food crises in recent memory. In 2010, food prices grew again, amidst natural disasters and drought hitting countries around the globe. Of course, high food prices make farmers happy, as it encourages them to plant more crops. But, what is the typical consumer to do when food and fuel prices continue to rise.
One answer to this problem to grow some of our own food. This can be done, even on a small scale, if one can grow vegetables and herbs in containers or a small garden. All it takes is a little soil and a little care to grow your own food.
Luckily, in Thailand, we are blessed with great conditions for growing food all year round. It’s been said that you can throw seeds on the ground and things will just grow. However, to get a good production of vegetables, it’s best to do a little preparation to make sure you are improving the conditions for your plants, since it will all determine the quality of the products that you get out. You need to “feed” the plants for them to produce well. It’s all going into your body, so we want to grow high quality vegetables.
Of course, when you grow our own vegetables you do not want to use pesticides. This is another benefit of growing your own vegetables. Many growers use pesticides to make sure their crops are unblemished since those are the beautiful fruits and vegetables we all look for when we got to the market. Some of the crops which use the most pesticides are watermelon and cabbage (at least in Thailand.
If more people grew their own food, it would help promote food security and development. As we saw with the recent flooding, there are times when food production areas are hit by disasters, thereby reducing the supply of food at those times. In think this idea is something that is well promoted by HRH King Bhumphipol’s Sufficient Economy (Por Peang) and goes in line with leading a sustainable lifestyle.
It won’t solve all of the problems resulting from high food prices, but spending a little less at the market each week will all add up.
During the past weekend, I ventured out of Bangkok to the rural area surrounding Khon Kaen in the Northeastern, or Isaan, region of Thailand. I participated in a three-day workshop organized by the small, rural community hospital in Ubonratana. The major focus of the workshop was to show how Sufficiency Economy philosophy (เศรษฐกิจพอเพียง) can be applied to agriculture. It is called precision agriculture, or เกษตรประณีต, in which the focus is growing many crops, primarily for consumption and use by the household, instead of only one cash crop.
We visited several farmers who used this concept to grow several crops and support their families with great success. These crops can be used first for consumption, second for sharing with friends and neighbors and lastly for sale. In that way, families can reduce their household expenses and eat healthier by growing a variety of crops that they can use for food (ผักปลอดสาร), herbal medicines as well as generate income. The alternative is to grow a single cash crop and then buy everything that the household needs.
This video from www.porpeanglife.com explains precision agriculture in a very visual and simple way. In essence, it is a way to reduce risk by diversification.
The type of lifestyle promoted by sufficiency economy, or porpeang, focuses on sharing and building communities. In this short video, different characters and situations are shown where sharing and looking out for one another is beneficial for everyone. This video has characters that have the Thai alphabet on the shirt and is like saying “Mr. A” and “Mr. B” to give the examples. Very simple concept and this video makes it easy to understand and see the impact when it goes from the small, community scale to a grand, national scale.