BASF (No. 25 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) and the Thai Rice Department today launched a project to improve safety for rice farmers in Thailand through the provision of Professional Farmer Kits. These specially designed safety kits, donated by BASF and distributed by the Thai Rice Department, are designed to help smallholder farmers minimize their exposure to crop protection products by following good agricultural practices.
The project was launched on the first day of the Sustainable Rice Conference, at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok. On this occasion experts from BASF's regional and global headquarters also presented the company's Clearfield Production System for Rice and its AgBalance sustainability measurement program, which can help rice producers in Thailand and around the world increase yields more sustainably.
"We know that farmers have the biggest job on earth – to grow more safe, healthy, nutritious food to meet the needs of the world's growing population," said Natenapis Sookbang, head of BASF's Crop Protection business in Thailand. "We want to help farmers meet this challenge, while making sure they take care of their own safety, and the health of the land on which they cultivate."
BASF's experts specifically created the Professional Farmer Kit to meet the needs of smallholder farmers. The kit consists of a pair of nitrile gloves, particulate filter masks, protective eyewear and an easy-to-understand, picture-based instruction leaflet. All of the kit's components comply with US or EU certification standards, and can endure rigorous use over a single season.
Ms. Ladda Viriyangkura, Government Officer and Expert on Rice Inspection and Certification, Thai Rice Department said, "Helping rice growers increase their productivity in a safe and sustainable manner is a very important issue. We applaud BASF for its efforts to encourage the safe use of crop protection products, and look forward to working with the company to bring more awareness about good agricultural practices to smallholder farmers in Thailand."
The use of good quality personal protective equipment is a requirement of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), a multi-stakeholder group which organized the two-day conference. As a sponsoring member of SRP, BASF is working to broaden access to its Professional Farmer Kit to more growers around the world through additional partnerships with other outside organizations.
In addition to the safe use of crop protection products, BASF's Clearfield Rice Production System, which combines conventionally-bred herbicide tolerant hybrid seeds with a purpose-designed herbicide, was highlighted as a comprehensive solution for helping farmers shift to direct seeded rice. Compared to traditional transplanted rice farming, direct seeding rice requires less water and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The system is already in use by rice farmers in Malaysia, and BASF is looking to bring the Clearfield Production System to Thailand and other countries in Asia in the future.
BASF's AgBalance method for measuring and assessing the sustainability of agriculture was also showcased as a model for policy makers and food producers. The evaluation program looks at over 69 indicators – such as soil health, water consumption, and production costs – to compare the sustainability of different agricultural systems and practices. This system has already been used in India to help quantify the sustainability benefits of direct seeded rice.