Friday Future Lister: Farming the Future: How Dr. Prapart Advocates for Farmer's Rights

Koktail Magazine

21 Jun 2024

Discover Dr. Prapart Pintobtang’s journey from personal struggles to systemic change in agriculture.

This week in our Friday Future List, we highlight how Dr. Prapart Pintobtang has revolutionised Thailand's rice farming, advocating for farmers' rights, sustainable practices, and environmental responsibility.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Prapart Pintobtang, a retired lecturer from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, has dedicated his life to transforming Thailand's rice production system. Born into a rice farming family in Nakhon Pathom, he witnessed the daily struggles of farmers, including crushing debt, insecure land rights, and the overwhelming influence of large corporations on rice sales and pricing. These early experiences shaped his lifelong commitment to advocating for farmers' rights and sustainable agricultural practices.

Dr. Prapart’s activism is rooted in his personal history. Growing up, he saw how farmers toiled on lands they did not own, leaving them at the mercy of landlords and market forces. This lack of land ownership meant that many farmers had no control over their livelihoods. In response, Dr. Prapart worked tirelessly to secure community title deeds for farmland in Khlong Yong over a decade ago, a landmark achievement that gave farmers ownership and a sense of security.

Promoting Organic Farming: A Vision for Economic Stability

Empowered by this change, Dr. Prapart urged farmers to adopt organic farming practices. He believed that organic farming could not only improve the quality of their produce but also enhance their economic stability. This vision led to the creation of a social enterprise in 2011, focusing on organic rice production. Moreover, Dr. Prapart championed the revival of traditional rice strains, which are more resilient and have higher market value compared to the mass-produced varieties subsidised by the government. These subsidised varieties often led to overproduction, with excess rice stored in warehouses, serving no practical purpose and causing economic strain.

Dr. Prapart’s efforts go beyond improving farming methods; he pushes for systemic change. As the head of the People's Movement for a Just Society (P-Move), he has been a vocal advocate for the decentralisation of agricultural management, arguing that local communities should have control over their natural resources. He believes that Thailand's rice industry is held back by old and inefficient production structures and emphasises the need for development in this area.

His vision for sustainable rice farming also addresses broader environmental concerns. He highlights the interconnectedness of agricultural practices and environmental issues, such as air pollution caused by burning straw to expedite rice production for export. Dr. Prapart advocates for ecological farming practices that are not only sustainable but also environmentally friendly. He believes that to truly solve the rice industry’s problems, there needs to be an integrated approach that considers all related issues.

Organic Farming for Healthier Ecosystems

Dr. Prapart’s approach to sustainable development shows his holistic philosophy. He argues that organic farming can mitigate issues like air pollution from straw burning and improve the overall health of the farming ecosystem. His insights emphasise that solving the rice industry’s challenges requires a collective effort from society, recognizing the interconnectedness of economic, social, and environmental factors.

Dr. Prapart Pintobtang’s advocacy for land rights, promotion of organic farming, and focus on environmental issues have helped create a more sustainable and fair future for Thailand's rice farmers. His efforts inspire change in Thailand's agricultural sector, showing that progress is possible with vision, dedication, and a comprehensive approach. Dr. Prapart’s legacy highlights the importance of grassroots activism and sustainable practices in ensuring the long-term success of agriculture.