This week meant that it was time to check out the seed varieties planted by Natural Agriculture Group (NAG) Tamor Subdistrict on August 5th! The varieties were planted using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method, which enables a higher yield per plant and high quality seeds, which members can replant over future seasons in order to obtain a pure, organic seed for more intensive production. This year there are 33 varieties being planted by NAG Tamor, among 18 of it's members. This day's activities included visits to 10 members' fields - about 97 rai (about 38 acres) in total were visited. We first went out to the group's small paddy, where 22 different varieties were being planted and took down information about expansion of the plant base, number of plants and other characteristics of the varieties' growth.
NAG Tamor members know how important it is to be sure of the quality of what the group produces and realize that there is much more use to their work than just selling rice. In an export-oriented, monoculture context, producing varieties that yield less than Jasmine 105 per rai makes it apparent that this project is about diversifying one's fields and transitioning into genuine sustainability. These farmers are producing pure, perfect seeds for the sake of preserving their genetic traits and maintaining biodiversity in their fields.
After visiting a few more fields in Donlengthai village, we went over to Tamor village to visit Jansee's seed saving paddies. He is saving over 10 varities on his own, and has become a leader for developing SRI techniques and managing the group's practices for seed expansion. His paddies were beautiful, and ranged from varieties just starting to grow over a foot, to some that will be ready to harvest in a few weeks (this variety, called simply, "Red Rice" was planted earlier than most, and typically has a shorter growing period).
After the day of visiting member's fields was over, Jansee spoke to the group about his recent visit to the seed vault and DNA testing lab at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. He felt strongly that the group was in a good position to start managing more information about each variety they were planting, and clarify the differences between the varieties. By doing more information managing, the group will be able to expand and share seeds and information with other parts of the Alternative Agriculture Network (AAN). As this grows, others will better understand the work of their farmers' group, and they feel that they will reach a new level of success.
While there are a solid number of varieties grown by NAG Tamor, many farmers still grow only 2 varieties (Jasmine 105 and Red Jasmine). Some ideas were also shared about the future of indigenous seed growing, including growing sticky rice with the possibility of selling it at the Green Market (as members currently have to purchase it). One member suggested having a CD made about the varieties planted by the group so that they can promote their work to other members and "help create authority and respect for the activities of Tamor group." There will be a number of follow-up meetings throughout the year to track the growth of the SRI plants and make new plans for the group.
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2 months ago