PRASNEE TIPRAQSA1, DIETRICH SCHMIDT-VOGT2, GUENTHER MANSKE1
1Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Ecology, Germany
2Asian Institute of Technology, School of Environment, Resources and Development, Thailand
Continuous land degradation endangers household food security in the Northeast of Thailand. To cease land degradation and regain productivity, farmers have organised themselves in groups to come up with alternative agricultural practices. Integrated farming is such an alternative promoted amongst farmers. Advocates of integrated farming argue that this type of farming increases household food sufficiency and incomes, while it decreases migration into cities. The objective of this investigation is to test whether household food sufficiency and incomes are higher for integrated farms than for conventional farms, and if not, what are the conditions for integrated farms to achieve these goals? To answer the research question, a survey was conducted in the Huai Nong Ian catchment in Khon kaen province, Thailand. Since 1997 integrated farming has been promoted among the farmers in this catchment. The catchment was divided into three areas: up-, middle-, and downstream to control for large variation in biophysical factors. For each farming system and for each area respectively, three, two and three farm households were selected; giving a total of sixteen farm households. Household characteristics, farm resources and land use histories were recorded for each farm. Soil physical and chemical properties were analysed from twenty composite samples from rice paddy field. The vegetation diversity and structure were investigated through transect line, size 10 x 80m. Parametric and non-parametric tests were used to compare differences in means and medians between the farming systems. The results show that integrated farms in areas where water and soil nutrients are limited, attain significantly higher food sufficiency and farm incomes as a result of both a larger number and a higher diversity of crops and animals. Yet, in those areas where water and soil nutrients are not limited, food sufficiency and farm income of integrated farms is not significantly higher than conventional farms. Because integrated farming benefits the farm households especially in areas where soils and water resources are most limited, integrated farming can be an appropriate technology to rehabilitate degraded land. Yet, switching from conventional to integrated farming requires substantial investments while benefits are only received after a few years.
Keywords: Food sufficiency, integrated farming, land degradation, Thailand