The following is a brief guide to our program in the Thailand. Upon acceptance into the program, CITA Stewards will receive an in-depth packet including orientation and training schedules, online class descriptions and dates, a packing list, and information about home stay and accommodations, food, program pricing, health and safety, and contacts both in the US and abroad.
About the Program
CITA Thailand is offered as a three-month winter program, starting early November and a one-month program in late December. The 3-month program will include a 2-week starter course mixing intensive Thai language and Thai self-sufficiency basics at the Wanakaset Learning Center. The center is famous for its dissemination of the Wanakaset (organic agro-forestry) principles and practices, which look not only at growing multilevel food and herb forests, but on how to use and transform one’s natural resources to meet all of the basic human needs, food, medicine, household goods, or to improve the soil’s fertility.
After this cultural and ecological immersion, CITA Stewards will live and work in the field with some of the most recognized and respected new generation organic farmers, many of them MESA alumni, and their farming organizations. The program will conclude with a 3-day exit seminar and debrief where CITA Stewards will have the opportunity to share stories and celebrate the completion of the program with fellow CITA participants.
After a number of years as a MESA global partner, Earth Net Foundation is happy to be developing a CITA program in Thailand to invite young farmers and others interested in sustainable community development and self-sufficiency to learn from its organic farmers and farmers’ organizations and experience Thai rural culture.
Thailand is geographically diverse, lending to a multitude of tropical climates throughout the year. The majority of the country is warm and humid year-round. Unless you are planning to be snorkeling all day, it is generally best to visit Thailand in the cooler months of November to February. April is the hottest month in all of the country, with average temperatures in the 90-100 oF range with high humidity. July through October is the monsoon season, where rainfall is frequent and humidity can get up to 90%.
The CITA program has participating host farms from the northern, northeastern, central and eastern regions of the country. Each region has a unique climate that lends to different types of agriculture. The Northern region is mountainous and home to hardwood forests. In the winter months of November through February, temperatures are cool enough (low 70s) to grow strawberries and lychees. The Northeastern, or Isaan region, raises challenges for farmers due to poor soil conditions. Many farms are situated on plateaus which flood during the rainy season. Sticky rice grown in these flooded paddys is the most common crop, along with increasing numbers of sugar cane and cassava.
The Eastern region of Thailand is famous for its production of fruits, especially durian. In the center of the country lies "the rice bowl of Asia", a relatively flat region that is ideal for its complex irrigation systems. The fertile lands of Central Thailand are especially necessary tosustain the dense population of Bangkok, located on the region's southeastern shore.
Bangkok (Thai: Krung Thep Maha Nakhon กรุงเทพมหานคร) is Thailand's very metropolitan capital as well as the largest city with a population of around 12 million. It's a bustling city with endless sightseeing as well as a plethora of delicious food to sample. CITA Stewards will be encouraged to try new flavors and to learn traditional recipes at their host farms. Careful of those Thai chilis!
While Thailand may have more notoriety for tourists in its beautiful beaches and exotic cuisine, Thai locals are blessed to have a number of next generation farmers who understand the ecological impact of industrial agriculture and are moving toward more sustainable methods .
One such "next generation farmer" is 28-year-old Apisak Kamphen, who after returning from his MESA program with Dripping Springs Garden in 2009, has gone on to develop a CSA network with three other new-generation farmers in his community. Apisak's farm, Arom Dee Farm (Good Feeling Farm) is a certified organic 4-acre (10 rai) farm with free range chickens and pigs. The farm is an ideal location to host CITA Stewards, located in Mae Tha, a small community with a strong roots and traditions.
In a time where farmers are getting older and older, the community of Mae Tha is an inspiration. Farmers like Apisak and his colleagues are showing that organic techniques and other creative approaches can make farming a very viable and attractive profession. Set in a lovely valley with its rich community, traditions, and well-managed forest, Mae Tha is one of the bright spots in this world, showing how doing things the right way can be so rewarding.
Another farm CITA Stewards will have the opportunity to work on is the Chiang Mai Organic Learning Center. Located about 1 hour from the popular city of Chiang Mai, this farm is also part of Mae Tha Farmers Cooperative. The main focus of host farmer, Mattana, is to produce organic vegetable seeds and to retain traditional cultivars. There are also groups associated with the Mae Tha cooperative that do processing of herbs and forest fruits for longterm keeping and added value sales.
In the Isaan region, CITA host farm Por Moon, is a family farm that uses alternative energy sources and is a leader within the community's organic farmers cooperative. Por Moon uses a biogas digestor for cooking and a windmill to pump water to rice and vegetables during the dry season. CITA Stewards will have a wonderful opportunity to learn and train on innovative farms around the Yasothon province.
"Earth Net is happy that while many of our farmers have had a chance to learn and experience the organic life in the USA, now we can return the favor as hosts for the CITA program." -Michael Commons of Earth Net Foundation
The program will begin with an in-depth orientation with Earth Net Staff, focusing on beginning Thai language, principles of organic agroforestry, herbal medicines and preparations, soil fertility, and the sustainable use of forest goods and available natural resources. After the orientation, CITA Stewards will travel to their host farms where they will continue to study, read, and participate in group discussions on various topics in agroecology. Hands-on learning will depend on the specific host farm, however, many will include; sowing, harvesting and post-harvest processing of organic rice, green manure and compost, alternative energy sources, aquaculture systems, CSA and farmers' market sales, seed saving, farmer cooperatives, and animal husbandry. Many hosts will also be happy to share their knowledge about traditional Thai cooking and artisan crafts.
Program length of 4-weeks: December 28, 2012- January 25, 2013.
Program fee of $2,300 includes the following. Scholarships may be available.
Become a CITA steward, train abroad in agroecology!