Interview with Kanang Kantamaturapoj and Natapol Thongplew

Kanang Kantamaturapoj and Natapol Thongplew introduce the Thailand Hub

In the fourth installment of our video series Ashley Colby of SCORAI sits down with Natapol Thongplew and Kanang Kantamaturapoj, two leads of the Thailand hub for the Co-SFSC project. Ashley, Natapol and Kanang discuss the Thai context for sustainable food supply chains, the role of organic food in Thai society, and how to conduct transdisciplinary research for busy restaurant owners.

The focus of the Thai hub is on the food supply chain for organic restaurants in both Bangkok and Phuket. They are working with TOCA, the Thai Organic Consumer Association, which is an organization whose aim is to bring together organic farmers, consumers and other civil society actors to expand market access to organic food in Thailand.

Kanang explains that organic food in Thailand is a niche market, specifically urban and well-educated consumers tend to buy organic food, partially out of a concern for the environment and health. However, these consumers tend to buy already prepared foods, so the Thai team decided to focus the project on organic restaurants to try to understand an influential point for organic foods.

The Thai hub has three phases of their project:

  1. Assess the sustainability of the supply chain by speaking with stakeholders and key informants
  2. Conduct visioning workshops for local practice partners to think through how the local supply chain can transform
  3. Conduct a transition workshop, where researchers will show sustainability ideas from the visioning workshop and ask stakeholders to work on creative and practical interventions for the food supply chain in Thailand

Something innovative that already exists in Thailand is a farmer network that does peer to peer certification of organic practices on each other’s farms, which can be understood as a kind of cooperative governance mechanism. The alternative is state certification, which is expensive and bureaucratic for farmers, so this network is a demonstration of bottom-up power of farmers to self-organize and self-regulate standards of practices for consumer labeling.

Natapol suggests the best case scenario for the project would be implementing transformations envisioned by all stakeholders in a way that suits everyone’s needs: the farmer, restaurant owner, and the consumer. For the future of the Thai food system, Natapol hopes for a system that prioritized local food, organic, and seasonal; “If we can initiate a thought about local food systems for the consumer, I think there would be lots of benefits for farmers, consumers, for everyone…It’s good for health and the environment.”