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FARMERS

Isan is an agricultural area with many paddy fields. Its farmers (ชาวนา) are called "the backbone of the nation".

Working in paddy fields
Working in the paddy fields is a hard job. Only 70 to 100 Baht per day. Farmers have to get up early at 6 AM. During the day they are working in a hot muddy water. During the day their back is bent because they are planting rice. They wear big hats to protect them-selves against the sun.
Working in paddy fields

Thai mothers often remind their childen that no rice seeds shall be left in a plate when eating. They shall not forget the hard work of Thai farmers in the paddy fields.

Paddy fields are filled with 30 centimetres of water. A soil border closes each field in order to keep the water. There are no snakes but leeches, which can be as long as a human finger and as wide as three fingers if they sucked blood. There are also fishes. Farmers use a specific motor cultivator in order to smooth the soil.
Rice fields
Rice fields
Motor cultivator
The motor cultivator is used in the paddy fields but also is used as a vehicle when tyres are added to drive on the roads.
Motor cultivator
Buffalos are not used anymore in the fields. They have been replaced by the iron buffalos (ควายเหล็ก) or motor cultivators.
Buffaloes
Buffaloes
Rice seedlings
Rice seedlings are gathered in one field where they grow. When they are big enough, they are moved to another field and planted with enough space to grow.
Rice seedlings
Before transplanting, the rice seedlings are pulled up, tied in bundle and planted. It is always done by women.
Rice seedlings
Rice seedlings
Transplanting
The farmers make holes in the mud and put inside the rice plants. If the weather is too hot and water disappears from the fields, harvest is bad.
Transplanting
At the end of the day all farmers gather together around a Mekong bottle and an energising potion in order to give force.
Lunch breaks
Lunch break

The rice season is from may to november. When the rice is yellow and mature enough, there are some harvesters to extract it from the paddy fields.

Harvester
Those machines are very expensive, about one million Thai Baht. Some Thai farmers rent them in exchange of a part of the harvest. People who possessed such a machine became rich.
Harvester
Threshing, process to separate the grain from the chaff, used to be done by hand.
Threshing machine
Threshing machine
Threshing mobile machine
Threshing was a laborious process. Nowadays the job is done by a machine in a few hours.
Threshing mobile machine
Hom Mali, the famous Thai naturally fragrant rice is certainly the world's best rice. Hom Mali rice is grown throughout the dry and salty Thung Kula Ronghai plain, which spreads across the provinces of Roi Et, Surin, Si Sa Ket, Maha Sarakham and Yasothon.
Rice fields
Rice fields

Despite the fact that Hom Mali rice can only grow once a year and despite the lower yield than other rice varieties, it became popular within north-eastern farmers due to its attractive selling price. It is also grown in other areas of Thailand. This rice yields about 350kg of grain per rai in the Northeast, 500kg per rai in the North and about 450kg per rai in the Central Plains.

Green rice fields
In 1998, Thailand produced about 18.5 million tonnes of rice and exported some 6.37 million tonnes. Rice is cultivated on 56 million rai of land in Thailand. Of this, 30 million rai is in the "ISAN" with Hom Mali rice accounting for two million rai. In 1999 estimation are about 23 million tonnes but only 5.3 million exported due to competition with other countries.
Green rice fields

In 2003, Thai farmers were bitter about the effort to develop jasmine rice or Hom Mali flagrant rice from Thai varieties for cultivation in the USA. For them, this was a case of bio-piracy.

In 2008, rice price increased sharply but it couldn't offset the doubling of production costs (fertiliser, cost of diesel...). Farmers' living standards and way of life are still the same but rice has become so precious that farmers now have to guard their paddy fields day and night against theft.
Rice fields
Rice fields
Shelter
A "HANG NA" ( ห้องนา) is a shelter used by Thai farmers. At noon, they have a rest there as weather can be very hot. It is also the place to have lunch together, a shady spot to smoke, to talk. Such shelters disappear slowly as more machines are used so less farmers are needed to take care about rice fields.
Shelter


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