Thailand helped celebrate IYAFA 2022 with the theme “Elevating Security, Prosperity and Sustainability”

On August 2, 2022 at the Thailand Department of Fisheries Headquarters in Bangkok, many people gathered to participate in the IYAFA 2022 celebration that the Department organized to recognize the contribution of small-scale fishers and small-scale farmers to food security, jobs and employment and resource sustainability. This was the hybrid event, with several other participants joining virtually, as well as viewing the live-broadcast through YouTube.

The event’s highlight included a launch of a video about the artisanal fisheries and small-scale farmers in Thailand and a designated webpage to celebrate IYAFA, an introduction of a 'Fisherman Shop' selling products from fishing communities and women's groups, and a panel discussion on "Challenges facing artisanal fisheries and small-scale farmers in the era of change", with perspectives from a small-scale fisher and a small-scale farmer, environmental organization, community-based organization, research community, and government. The panel discussion was moderated by Kungwan Juntarashote, Chair of TBTI Global Foundation.

Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee, TBTI Director, was the first to speak. She provided the history and background about IYAFA 2002, and presented the 7 pillars (environmental, economic an social sustainability, governance, gender equity, food and nutrition security, and resilience). Mr. Chalermchai Suwannarak, Director General of the Department of Fisheries, was next to speak and he explained the work that the Department is doing to address the 7 pillars, stressing the keen attention and recognition of small-scale fishers and farmers and noting the particular attention on their participation in governance among other things. Dr. Tuanthong Jutagate, Faculty of Agriculture, Ubon Ratchathani University, followed with a summary of key research to understand and address impacts of climate change in small-scale fisheries, emphasizing the importance of data and technological innovation (especially in small-scale farming) to help with the prediction and the mitigation, including an early warning system.

The next speaker was Mr. Damrong Dangchote, a small-scale fisher and a vice president of the Small-Scale Fisheries Association of Prachuab Kiri Khan Province. Mr. Dangchote started by reiterating the importance of the community fisheries organizations program that the Department of Fisheries is initiating, as a mechanism to support small-scale fisheries and enhance their participation in the decision-making process, given that they are the rightful owners of the resources. He urged the government to recognize that changes in fisheries resources are due to many causes, including climate variability and environmental degradation, not necessary because of overfishing. From the fisher’s perspective, they take part in conservation effort and since they cannot catch more fish, they are trying to improve the price of the fish and their revenue through value addition and better marketing.

Mr. Prawat Piriyasart, a recipient of this year’s national outstanding farmer award, spoke next about changes in the farming sector, noting the increasing fish trades, which has led to the improvement in the farming technology and the transportation system. Both have contributed to better prices, to offset the rising cost of farming. The next speaker was Ms. Aomboon Tipsuna, who represents the Network Association of Mekong Community Organizations. She started from the major biodiversity loss in Mekong River, due not only to climate change but also upstream development such as major dam construction in China. She emphasized the diversity and the complexity of Mekong ecosystem; thus the need to integrate local knowledge in the management of the fisheries resources in this valuable freshwater system. The final speaker, Mr. Somkiat Samathakarn, representing the Association of Natural Resources and Environment, Trat Province, east coast of Thailand, reiterated the importance of multilateral partnership and collaboration between fishers, farmers, government, researchers, and non-governmental organizations in addressing fisheries and environmental problems. He also stressed how conserving habitats and ecosystems could help deal with changes.

Several questions were raised during discussion period, related mostly to the impacts of environmental and climate change on small-scale fishers and famers, and what need to done to prepare for it. Towards the end, Ratana asked the Department of Fisheries to consider making the Thai small-scale fisheries a successful model in meeting the seven pillars of IYAFA, which was enthusiastically endorsed by the Director General, and other panellists. Kungwan closed the discussion with a hopeful message that there is a future for small-scale fisheries of Thailand after all.

More information about Thailand’s celebration of IYAFA 2022 can be found here.