Rubber Cash Crop and Changes in Livelihoods Strategies in a Village in Northeastern Thailand

  •  Maniemai Thongyou    


This research article aims to explain the changes of livelihoods strategies in a village in the Northeast region of Thailand after the introduction of rubber as cash crop. Northeast region is considered a new rubber growing area of Thailand, the world’s largest rubber exporter. A village in Udornthani province was selected as a case study for a qualitative research conducted in 2012-2013. In order to get a full understanding of these changes, the research studied livelihood changes in the village over the last 62 years or since the village establishment. We have classified livelihood strategies into three periods, based on the dominant mode of production and livelihoods. The first period was the livelihoods before cash crops, in which people were involved in subsistence mode of production. The second period was marked by the introduction of cash crops and market economy into the village in the early 1960s. During this period, subsistence economy had been transformed into market oriented. Forest lands were changed into cash crop farms, so much that the natural capital lost its balance and became less dependable. The third period, starting in 2001, was the rubber period, the focus of this research. Rubber came to the northeastern region as a result of the promotion of the state. Strong research, development and extension supports that used to work well in the Southern region were applied to promote rubber growing here. However, the adoption of rubber was not without problems. People had to adjust themselves to the capitalist standardized farming practices of rubber. In addition, there was a misbalance of and unequal access to capital assets, particularly financial capital. Within the changing socio-economic context and constraining status of capital assets and access, rural households adopted integrated livelihood strategies, including 1) economic diversification or pluri-activities to reduce risks and increase income 2) maintaining rice cultivation to guarantee food security 3) keeping the ownership of agricultural land as an important capital asset 4) investment in higher education of the younger generation of the household. The article also discusses the implication of these livelihood strategies on rural society, and provides policy and research recommendation.

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