BayG.A.P. training modules encourage farmers to reconsider some of their farming traditions and, instead, place an emphasis on safe use practices and sustainable production.
Dr. Chainarong Rattanakreetakul
Uthorn Prasopjit is a durian smallholder farmer in Thailand. Everything she learned about farming she learned from her parents, who also learned how to grow crops from their parents long before Uthorn was born. Engrained by years upon years of traditions, Uthorn’s farming methods are based more on routine than on effectiveness or safety. This became an issue when in July of 2019 China announced new certification requirements for durian exporters including the knowledge of both Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). These requirements left many smallholders like Uthorn unsure on how to adhere to new regulations on the safe use of crop protection products, soil quality control, water and more, which they had to do if they wished to continue exporting to China. Access to Chinese markets is crucial for Thai smallholders since China, the largest importer of durian, provides a major source of income. On top of that, Chinese consumers rely on these transactions as Thailand supplies 80 percent of fresh durian, their favorite delicacy, each year.
While researching certification opportunities to secure her future livelihood, Uthorn came across the BayG.A.P. service program, a collaboration between Bayer, Kasetsart University, and the Thai Department of Agriculture, Region 6, that supports farmers in their efforts to get certified and connected to the food value chain. Since the G.A.P. program was introduced in Thailand in 2019, hundreds of smallholders, including Uthorn, have attended a BayG.A.P. training session and fast-tracked their localg.a.p. certification process.
Some of the practices taught at BayG.A.P. might have felt strange to smallholders at first, especially when compared to the knowledge passed down by previous generations. However, modern agricultural education is the only way forward in securing international market access and improving agricultural productivity. Through programs such as BayG.A.P., smallholder farming is elevated to a new level and allows farmers to adopt safer, more sustainable practices.
Since this program’s launch in 2019, more than 1,000 farmers in Chanthaburee, an important durian growing area in Thailand, as well as other nearby provinces have partaken in ongoing BayG.A.P. training sessions. The information covered in these sessions is usually unfamiliar to the farmers. In order to make these new concepts as relatable as possible, BayG.A.P. designs its modules as straightforward, hands-on experiences. The training includes a mixture of theory discussions and in-field demonstrations along with exercises and an examination at the end of each module to evaluate comprehensiveness. Additionally, BayG.A.P. Farm Advisors attend these sessions so they can provide smallholders with customized, on-farm consultations over integrated crop management and sustainability practices.
Upon successful training completion, the farmers receive both a BayG.A.P. recognition and a pre-audit to directly obtain their local ThaiGAP certificate which facilitates access to both regional and global export markets. For durian growers, this access makes a world of difference as it allows them to export their fruit to China, Asia’s thriving durian market, as opposed to selling exclusively in the saturated market of Thailand. This expanded access prevents them from losing out on vital financial opportunities needed to support their families. Access to overseas markets also avoids food waste as growers can sell their entire supply.
“The education we are providing through the BayG.A.P. program raises crop production standards for farmers and helps them to get their farm certified under national G.A.P. standards. This results in more exports, higher income and career stability for growers,” says Chonlatee Noomnu, Director of Agricultural Research and Development at Thailand’s Department of Agriculture Office, Region 6, Ministry of Agriculture Cooperatives.
While BayG.A.P. has helped hundreds of farmers, there are still many more in need of their localg.a.p. or equivalent certificate. Thai smallholders have difficulty getting their certificate due to the cost and the resources required. On top of that, COVID-19 presents its own challenges and threatens in-person interactions including training sessions. In response to these issues, BayG.A.P. provides sponsorships to fully cover the cost of trainings and plans to extend its reach by making the service program available virtually.
In December of 2020, the Office of Agricultural Research and Development, Region 6, in collaboration with Bayer Thailand and Kasetsart University presented their 2 in 1 G.A.P. app at the HortEx Fair in Thailand. Through the app and associated website, farmers can attend virtual lessons on G.A.P. and take their ThaiGAP certification assessment online. In addition to ThaiGAP, the app also gives entry knowledge to what is needed for any other G.A.P. based certification. By going virtual, BayG.A.P. hopes to speed up the steps of the certification process and provide convenience for both farmers and auditors.
Whether the BayG.A.P. trainings are conducted in-person or virtually, the skills gained will benefit Thai farmers for years to come. Let’s applaud the farmers who are seeking to improve their farming practices to adhere to G.A.P. standards, and, as a result, are contributing towards a healthier, more sustainable future. In support of this effort, BayG.A.P., along with the many other initiatives in the Food Chain Partnership, continues educating smallholders across the globe to empower them to reach their full potential.