Update for the Making economic integration work for the rural poor through contract farming practices

Title of the Research Project
Making economic integration work for the rural poor through contract farming practices
Summary of Research Progress since last update

One of SUMERNET’s current projects, Making economic integration work for the rural poor through contract farming practices, is undertaking critical research to address challenges being faced by small farmers as the agriculture industry further streamlines itself from the top down.

This collaboration between SEI and four teams within the GMS countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand will identify and evaluate the links between how contract farming is approached and the resulting risks and benefits for farmers. Data, observations and recommendations will be collected from farming community, major NGO and corporate stakeholders to help formulate strategies to reform practices for the better. 

From 2-4 August, a meeting to lay out the project’s protocol was held in Karnmanee Hotel, Bangkok, with the projects key partners including: the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia; the National Economic Research Institute, Laos; the Faculty of Public Health, Khon Kaen University, Thailand; and the Asia Development Research Institute, Myanmar. Together with representatives from the SUMERNET Secretariat, the researchers exchanged information on the status of contract farming and related research surrounding to formulate the project’s research plan. It was decided that rice would be the target contract crop in Cambodia and Myanmar and for Thailand and Lao PDR, sugar. This will allow for contrasting and comparison of results once primary data has been collected. In addition, the sampling methods (e.g. random household selection from available information) and data collection protocols (e.g. formatting of questionnaires and methods of recording and transcribing in-depth interviews) for the study were discussed and finalized.

Other outputs of the meeting included the first draft of the household questionnaire and in-depth interview instruments. The main topics to be covered by these instruments are: livelihood information; household debt; recent trends (e.g. land use, social and environmental trends); contract farming agreement characteristics; and impacts, risks and benefits of contract farming activities. 

Since the meeting the team has been in communication to revise versions of the interview instruments and has also developed an online repository of documents and articles relevant to their research. 

The project schedule has been revised and now the first contact with target communities in the four countries will occur in September, with pilot testing of the questionnaire and a preliminary focus group discussion.