Annual burning of vegetation and monoculture of maize on sloping lands characterize agriculture in Northern Thailand, as in many other upland areas of the Central Mekong. Farmers know the practice rapidly degrades their soil, but it generates cash and requires minimal effort. The maize is produced for the burgeoning livestock sector in Central Thailand; the farmers spend their cash to buy food. â€œMaize growing does not make people more food secure,â€ says Chao Adhikarn Somkid Charanadhammo, the abbot of Pong Kum Temple in Nan. The abbot started a local crop diversification program that prioritizes food security by encouraging people in the community to grow their own food in gardens and fish ponds, and sell the surplus.
On May 15-16, the abbot and several members of his community participated in the launching of the Humidtropics R4D Platform in Nan. The launch was organized by AVRDC, Chiang Mai University and Chulalongkorn University Nan campus. A total of 41 people representing 18 organizations in Northern Thailand and four international research centers joined the meeting and showed their interest to work together to make agricultural development more sustainable. They aptly named their Platform â€œTogether Making Nan Betterâ€ and spontaneously scheduled their next meeting in a monthâ€™s time. The Platform will help stakeholders share information and coordinate their efforts.