What to do with the farmland? Coping with ageing in rural Thailand

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Abstract

As Thai farmers get older they need to plan what to do with their farm business and land given younger people tend to out-migrate to urban areas and shift their interests away from farming. Such demographic trends may reduce agricultural productivity and increase food insecurity, both among farmers and in the region. Using data collected through interviews with 368 farmers in the Prachin Buri province of Thailand, this research aims to examine how ageing is affecting farm activities of older farmers (60 years and older) and how they are adapting. We found that, while a small percentage of older farmers intended to continue farming without making any changes over the next five years (~9%), most were concerned about their health and farm work capacity, and were looking to leave farming and implement strategies to reduce both work intensity and time. Most farmers intended to stop farming and transfer farmland to their children (~40%), or continue farming while making some changes (~30%), such as employing additional workers or switching to less labour intense crops. Some intended to stop farming altogether and dispose of farmland outside their family (~21%; e.g. leasing out or selling or returning farmland to owner if leased). As expected, the chosen strategy depended on personal (old-age income security and gender) and farm characteristics (e.g. successor, farm activities, and subsidy). Having a dedicated successor had a substantial impact on transferring land to the children, reflecting the importance of commitment for farming by the next generation, which will be challenging. A pension higher than the widely available old-age allowance could support farmers in maintaining a better living standard after retiring. However, only a fraction of farmers currently had access to a pension. Both short- and long-term policies are, therefore, needed to support elderly farmers, improve their living standards after retirement, and attract young people back to farming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Volume81
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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