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Rubber is one of Thailand’s good cash crops that supports millions of smallholder farmers
About 1.7 million rubber smallholders nationwide rely on their production for income. Thus, balancing farmers’ income, improved livelihoods and environmental sustainability is crucial in driving rubber plantation in an environmentally friendly manner. It’s one of WWF-Thailand’s key areas of conservation that led to the establishment of the Sustainable Rubber for Smallholders (SR4SH) Project in 2017.
The SR4SH Project aims to prop up and strengthen smallholder rubber farmers in the project’s pilot provinces that are the country’s biggest rubber producers, including Songkhla, Rayong and Beung Kan. The project’s implementation helps reduce negative impact on ecosystem and conserve forests through the Multi-actor partnerships (MAP) that focuses on the equal participation of all parties throughout the supply chain such as smallholder farming groups, independent organizations in social and environmental sectors, business sector, educational institutions, and public sector.
The collaboration on sustainable rubber plantations among farmers has also been expanded to smallholder farmer groups living in neighboring countries like Cambodia and Myanmar.
Between 2020 – 2021, the SR4SH project’s staff conducted training sessions on the SR4SH model and stepwise towards the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)’s international standard for forest management for smallholder farmers in the project’s pilot areas. One of the successful cases is Naprang Pattana Farmers Group (NPFG) that has been certified by the FSC standard and has become the first smallholder group of Thailand to obtain the certification, proving that the group meets the international standard.
As of now, the NPFG certified rubber plantations make up 1,571.19 rai (or 251.39 hectares). The figure is set to grow in the near future with the technical support from WWF-Thailand.
Becoming FSC smallholders further advanced their knowledge of managing rubber plantation in line with the international standard for forest management, increasing their bargaining power with large buyers, competing in the global market and being able to respond to more consumer demand for deforestation-free products.
At present, there are about 2,000 participating smallholder rubber farmers, representing more than 4,000 rai (or 640 hectares) in three pilot areas – Songkhla, Rayong and Beung Kan provinces.
Thai rubber farmers use the Criteria and Indicators for sustainable management of rubber plantation for smallholders via the Sustainable Rubber for Smallholders Project (SR4SH C&I) as their guideline. The SR4SH C&I has been developed on three aspects of human life – society, environment, and economy – in order to add value to products and support the continuous implementation of sustainable farming practices.
SR4SH Project has expanded its pilot areas to four more provinces which are Nong Khai, Chanthaburi, Trat, and Surat Thani to accelerate the adoption of the SR4SH C&I. Advanced technologies such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), commonly known as drones, are also applied to support forest management more effectively.