We work together with small-scale farmers’ to create a sustainable, fair and local food system that promotes sustainable livelihoods, community food security and environmental conservation. Read more about us here.
About the Alternative Agriculture Network (AAN)
The AAN supports SFS farmers through sustainable agriculture education and training. SFS farmers exchange knowledge and techniques with other network members around Thailand. Read more about AAN programs here.
Exciting Stuff - the ENGAGE Convergence was just announced on the Greenhorns blog! Let's hope some Greenhorns in the Carolinas can join us for some exchange and future collaboration. I'm headed back to the U.S. from June 12 to July 8 - so I'll get to catch the Greenhorns Goat Spit Summer Throwdown event in Brooklyn, NYC. These two events could build new relationships between ENGAGE and the Greenhorns, and we can work together for a more sustainable and just food system.
Greenhorns, this is a solid opportunity for collaboration and activism. The convergence organizers would like to make farming and food activism a bigger part of ENGAGE. Let’s help them do that!
The ENGAGE Convergence brings students, educators, organizers, community members, and other allies together to reflect on the year’s work, to share victories and struggles, to learn from one another, and to set a course for the coming year.
Past Convergences have been held in Boston, Oakland, San Francisco, and Virginia. This is the second year that the Spartanburg Educators for Empowered Communities (SEEC) will host the Convergence in Upstate South Carolina, and it is the first year that SEEC will host the Convergence entirely in its home community of Glendale (photo inserted above).
Dates: Friday, June 26th to Sunday, June 28th. Please try to arrive in the early evening on Friday, and plan to stay through the late afternoon of Sunday. We hope to have as many folks as possible stay for introductions and evaluations. A more specific agenda is forthcoming.
Costs: The Convergence funds itself from what the participants can pay on a sliding scale. This year, the funding scale will be from $40.00 to $60.00. We will collect your contribution at Friday evening’s registration. Costs will go towards: food for Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning and afternoon; gas expenses for local coordinators during the Convergence; office/workshop supplies for the weekend; and honorariums for guest speakers, workshop facilitators, and community hosts. Please bring extra money if you intend to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, or anything outside of basic meals.
Also, please do not let costs prohibit you from being a part of the Convergence. If you have any concerns about paying, please contact email@example.com so that something can be worked out.
This past week, SFS entered the Ashoka Changemakers' "Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities" competition! We're hoping to recieve a grant to support our Community Biodiesel Learning Center concept, which will train local farmers how to make biodiesel from recycled cooking oil. The process is only a few steps, and it produces an efficient, sustainable alternative for farmers' walking tractors.
Please check out our application and feel free to post comments on the Changemakers website. The competition looks pretty fierce, but it's always worth a try!
Sawatdee from a rainy day here in Ban Non Yang, Yasothon Province. The past few weeks have been very busy and we haven't found time to update this site. This past week, CIEE students were helping with the Non Yang Food Ways research project, which concluded on sunday with a community forum. More to come on this research project later.
Here's a report from last month's Big Chef Conference:
(P' Kanya's organic pork: what about swine flu?)
April 27-29 brought the AAN’s four regions together in Tamor sub-district for the long-awaited Big Chef Conference. The meeting focused on a few major issues for our national network, and brought farmer-leaders together to exchange about challenges and successes in their local efforts.
(an attentive audience at the Khok Buk Forest Temple)
One major topic was the upcoming Office for Agricultural Reform and Quality of Life – an independent institution which will spend the next 8 months developing a working plan for supporting sustainable agriculture on a larger scale: connecting farmers with organic transition and training programs (inside and outside of the AAN), ending the use of chemicals, and changing government policies on the local level to support diverse production for local markets. After the 8-month research and planning period, the government will decide whether or not to move forward with a long-term agriculture reform ministry or similar type of organization. The Abhisit government is being surprisingly supportive of the AAN and sustainable agriculture more generally. At the Conference, however, our network decided to reject a proposal to sign on to the Farmers’ Congress, a set of regulations and clauses that many activists regard as similar to the U.S. Farm Bill.
During Day 1, P’ Ubon (above) reminded the audience that the word gasetagawn (agriculturalist or farmer) came after the use of the word utsahagam (industry). Farmers have always referred to themselves as chow naa and chow baan (farmer and villager), which reflects the ways in which farming is a way of life and a part of rural culture, not just a career in relation to industrialized society. Remembering the terms associated with this cultural identity is increasingly important for small farmers who are faced with the “specialization” of work and loss of traditional knowledge. This line of thinking moves along the same lines as the Spanish campesino movement, which reinforces peasant identity as an important force for change in society.
Day 2 featured a presentation from yours truly (farang, above) on the sustainable agriculture movement in the U.S. in the midst of the current economic crisis. I focused on the growth of the organic and fair trade sectors in 2007-08, the progress made by Slow Food, the campaigns organized by the AFF/CIW for food justice and fair wages for farm labor, and I tried my best to explain the Greenhorns “agricultural revival” and the Real Food Challenge, both of which are important youth-led movements for sustainable agriculture and local food systems. Finally, I talked about the significance of the Obama’s White House Organic Garden (which most of the audience already knew about) – here’s to 20 million American’s tending their kitchen garden’s seedlings as we move into summer!
P’ Kachai from Focus on the Global South swept in for a late-morning presentation on the relationship between the global economic crisis, the food crisis of 07-08 and global warming and Thailand’s agriculture sector. I won’t go into the details (partly because I couldn’t keep up with many of them), but his talk was mainly focused on price speculation in agricultural commodities and the coming drop in prices. He also gave a clear explanation of the sources of the food crisis (one interesting fact: between 1980 and 2008, chemical fertilizer usage increased from 12 to 112 kilograms per square kilometer). As is the case at many network-wide conferences, these types of presentations help local farmers to develop their own knowledge of global issues and link their communities’ experience to the struggle for alternatives to neoliberal globalization.
The next Big Chef Conference will be held in two years. But in the time between, the AAN will work to form a broader assembly focused on sustainable agriculture and health, based in what is accomplished by the Office for Agricultural Reform and Quality of Life. These are important opportunities for the AAN, and we will continue moving forward for positive social and environmental change throughout communities around Thailand.