Thailand focuses on climate-smart agriculture to transform its climate action
August 2022 – The Kingdom of Thailand is home to a rich and biodiverse landscape, extensive coastline and 936 islands; making this Southeast Asia tropical country a tourism hotspot, as well as incredibly exposed to climate change impacts. Climate change threatens all key sectors of Thailand’s economy: agriculture, tourism, and trade. The agriculture sectors (agriculture, forestry and fisheries) employ around 30.67 percent of Thailand’s workforce according to the World Bank (2021) and are essential to providing food security to rural communities. The slightest changes in average growing season conditions will put the agriculture sectors at risk.
Agriculture is also the second largest source of GHG emissions in Thailand, while rice cultivation is the main source of national methane emissions. With this knowledge, Thailand has outlined a plan of action to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions in its nationally determined contribution (NDC) and National Adaptation Plan (NAP). Thailand’s NAP and its NDC recognize the importance of adapting the agriculture sectors to climate change.
To support with the implementation of its NDC and NAP, Thailand partnered with the FAO and UNDP Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture through NDCs and National Adaptation Plans (SCALA) programme (2020-2025), funded by the German International Climate Initiative (IKI) to focus on climate action in the agriculture and land use sectors. Following the signing of the project document by the government in March 2021, the SCALA programme was officially launched in Thailand through an inception workshop in June 2022 that brought together close to 50 participants representing different ministries and other government organizations.
The SCALA programme sat down with Mr. Pongthai Thaiyotin, the Director at the Bureau of Agricultural Economic Research in the Office of Agriculture Economics (OAE) and Ms. Benjaporn Chakranon, the Director General of Land Development Department (LDD) to learn about the outcomes validated during the workshop and how SCALA will support Thailand transform its climate action over the next four years of the programme.
What are the key areas of the research development, innovation and technology for managing agriculture and land use activities responding to climate adaptation and mitigation in Thailand?
Mr. Pongthai Thaiyotin: In Thailand, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) oversees the implementation of climate change actions in agricultural sector, which has a sub-committee and two working groups. They are responsible for updating the Climate Change Strategic Plan for Agriculture (CCSA). Thailand’s previous plan, the Agriculture Strategic Plan on Climate Change (ASPCC) [2017-2021] was developed under the previous NAP-Ag programme implemented by the FAO and UNDP. The overall mission of CCSA is to support and accelerate mitigation and adaptation actions, which aligned with Thailand’s NAP and NDC. In addition, the MoAC develops agricultural strategic plans for economic crops, plants and agricultural factors, such as water management and land development, which are accordance with the climate-smart agriculture (CSA) concept.
Ms. Benjaporn Chakranon: The key areas of research and development will focus on improving the efficiency of technology for food security, land use optimization and climate change adaptation. This includes the development of plant and animal species that are more adaptable to climate change projections and therefore contribute to the reduction of losses during the production process.
What approaches will Thailand take to enhance climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and integrated land use management for climate adaptation and mitigation?
Mr. Pongthai Thaiyotin: Thailand will support field-level implementation of managing agriculture and land use activities, such as New Theory Agriculture, Precision Agriculture, Good Agricultural Practices and the Large-Scale Agricultural Extension System Project. These strategies and policy support provide significant potentials for driving CSA nationwide under its concept of increasing agricultural productivity, income generation, and greenhouse gases emission reduction.
Ms. Benjaporn Chakranon: Thailand will support the development of early warning systems and reporting on agriculture, and promote research on precision farming to help reduce costs and increase management efficiency between government agencies. This will be the primary mechanism for technology development and research.
What are the barriers of the country to overcome these climate actions for achieving the targets of the NDCs and NAP?
Mr. Pongthai Thaiyotin: One of the barriers to implementing climate-smart agriculture practices is related to the farmers’ adaptive capacity and risk perception. The adaptive capability of farmers for new practices in response to CSA may be limited due to the difficulty of an accession to technology and innovation. This can, also, be relevant to farmers’ socio-economic status, such as gender, education, age, and financial situation. Moreover, farmers tend to be risk averse to invest in the new cultivation practices, though the conventional ones are less effective.
Ms. Benjaporn Chakranon: To achieve the targets of the NDC and NAP, Thailand needs land use data and land status data to be better linked. Data on climate change sensitive areas and degrading areas needs to be able to identify the level of severity to better inform where urgent action is required.
How can the SCALA program support and strengthen these climate actions under the two sectors?
Mr. Pongthai Thaiyotin: The SCALA programme is aiding an accelerated shift from planning to action through transformative system change. The programme is helping assess the process of existing climate actions in the agriculture and land use sectors to identify gaps, needs and to prioritize them under Thailand’s context. SCALA will support capacity development on system-level assessment to deliver the climate-related approach and system for enhancing agriculture and land use actions.
Ms. Benjaporn Chakranon: The SCALA programme is playing an essential role in enhancing the capacity of the NAP priorities and the NDC targets to further support Thailand in achieving its climate action goals. The programme can also help mobilize resources for implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation plans as required. This will help mitigate the barrier of a lack of financial, technology and human resources that Thailand is facing.
The expectation of the SCALA programme in Thailand is to tackle barriers to climate actions. In-country support will include research development, sufficient coordination, and enabling environment and incentives for farmers and private sector. The concrete outcomes of the programme are expected to strengthen and stimulate the implementation of climate actions, to support the achievement of Thailand’s NDCs and NAP.
Importantly and in parallel, SCALA in Thailand intends to create opportunities to facilitate synergies across other in-country climate adaptation initiatives and projects. SCALA will operate in close consideration with Thailand’s Green Climate Fund financed project, “Increasing resilience to climate change impacts in marine and coastal areas along the Gulf of Thailand,” implemented by UNDP. The project was launched last year and is designed to contribute to the implementation of Thailand’s National Adaptation Plan. The main objective of the project is to integrate climate change adaptation into planning and budgeting for marine and coastal areas.