Amid skyrocketing costs for fertiliser and other inputs globally, farmers worldwide have developed community-led solutions to counter the rising threats of food insecurity and climate change.

Farmers in Thailand are leading their own organic farming revolution to escape centralised food systems, according to the co-founders of the Pun Pun Center for Self-Reliance, an organic farm and teaching center, Jon Jandai and Peggy Reents.

The predominant agriculture model in Thailand is contract farming under which farmers receive huge quotas they must meet by the end of a season to be paid a set rate.

Two thirds of agricultural households grow monoculture cash crops – crops that are grown mainly to be sold – and depend on market-bought seeds and chemical inputs, according to Jandai.

“We trained the mindset of people to believe that if you have no machine, no fertiliser, no chemicals, then you have no farming. That is really limited thinking – that is why we have a crisis now,” he said.

If farmers grow cash crops, pests and fertiliser use cannot be avoided, and while input prices have soared output prices have not, which results in growing debt cycles for farmers, Jandai added.

A network led by training enterprise for self-reliant agriculture, Thamturakit, meaning fair business in Thai, now buys farmers’ produce at a higher price and then sells it at a lower rate than the regular consumer market.

Thai farmers who are part of the network cultivate a diverse variety of crops for, first and foremost, their own self-sufficiency, and can then sell their surplus to registered consumers and entrepreneurs.

Through the network’s direct market approach, farmers can avoid significant middlemen fees and input costs, as conventional dependencies on both agri-businesses and brokers are eliminated, Jandai, who is also co-founder of Thamturakit, said.

“Normal farmers here will be hungry, because they only produce for sale. They don’t eat what they grow. But our policy is that they grow for themselves, for their own consumption first,” he said.

Reclaiming food sovereignty in Jordan

Jordan currently imports 97% of its food grain, although the country was 200% self sufficient in wheat production up until the late 1960s, co-founder of Zikra Collective, and the Al-Barakeh Wheat Project, Lama Khatieb said.

A growing collective of farmers and people in the local community of Amman now aims to reclaim its food sovereignty of what once was the country’s most suitable landscape for rainfed agriculture.

Over the past 50 years, Jordan has lost most of its local wheat cultivation when foreign aid, urban development and cheap American wheat flooded its markets.

This was compounded by international financial institutions which restricted the government from subsidising its own wheat, according to Khatieb.

The Zikra for Popular Learning project includes 165 families and three schools, which cultivate native wheat varieties across 17.3ac of Amman, connecting small-scale local farmers directly with bakeries and restaurants.

This approach yields better prices for farmers’ locally grown, chemical-free wheat. However, nitrogen needs to be reintroduced back into the soil after harvest.

“You do this by growing chickpeas, fava beans or lentils – it is an agricultural cycle. We do not grow wheat in the same piece of land two years in a row. In rainfed agriculture this means you will not be using fertilisers or any kind of chemicals.”

An area of 12.8 million acres is suitable for agricultural production in Jordan, while only 1.5 million acres would be needed to meet its national demand, according to Jordan’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Diversifying rice production in India

Micronutrient profiles of 500 indigenous species of rice in India, which are more nutritious, climate resilient and more equitable for farmers, have been published by the founder of Basudha Farm, Vrihi Seed Bank, Debal Deb.

The rice conservation farm conserves 1,485 varieties of rice on an 1.7ac plot, and has already shared the indigenous seeds with 1,300 small farmers so far this year, Deb said.

Some varieties have climate-resilient properties including 18 salt-tolerant varieties; 16 drought-tolerant varieties; and 20 flood-tolerant varieties, including three submergence-tolerant varieties.

Commercial hybrid seeds are dependent on patented inputs that result in farmer debt, he explained. However, the Indian government recently mandated that all rice supplies must be fortified with iron and other supplements by 2024.

“In the name of smarter agriculture, we are losing these climate-smart varieties, and the farmers are trained to become puppets of agro-industry.

“Experts are spending billions of dollars to fine-tune genetic engineering, while these resilient varieties already exist,” according to Deb.