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Cultivating greater well-being: the benefits Thai organic farmers experience from adopting Buddhist eco-spirituality

By A. H. Kaufman, J. Mock

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Abstract

Organic farming is spreading throughout Asia, including in Thailand. Little is known about whether farmers' values change as they make the shift from conventional farming to organic farming. The benefits farmers perceive from making the shift have also scarcely been studied. We investigated these factors in Northeastern Thailand by conducting observations, key informant interviews, semi-structured interviews and questionnaire interviews. We found that as Thai farmers adopted organic methods, they developed an eco-consciousness. In comparing members of a Buddhist temple-based organic farmer support group with members of a non-profit organic agriculture support group, we found that the temple-based group adopted deeper Buddhist eco-spiritual values while the non-profit group remained more commercially oriented. Farmers who adopted Buddhist eco-spiritual values enjoyed greater financial and health benefits from making the organic shift. A higher proportion of the temple-based group eliminated their debts after making the shift ( p>0.001). Additionally, a higher proportion of members in the temple-based group felt that their physical health improved after becoming an organic farmer ( p=0.003). Interestingly, the less debt farmers carried, the healthier they felt ( p>0.001). Participants believed that eliminating the use of agro-chemicals, using organic fertilizers, consuming organic food, and increasing biodiversity on their farms also contributed to improving their health. We conclude that for Thai farmers who are devoutly committed to Buddhism, temple-based organic support programs provided an effective pathway to improving their finances, health and well-being. For Thai farmers generally, a fundamental adoption of eco-conscious values is integral to experiencing deeper non-commercial benefits from organic farming. Findings suggest that the expansion of organic farming systems depends on changing perspectives about well-being.

Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 27
Issue 6
Pages 871-893
ISBN/ISSN 0893-4282
Publisher Springer
DOI 10.1007/s10806-014-9500-4
Language English
Author Address Research Group on Wellbeing and Sustainable Development, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Khon Kaen University, 123 Mitraparb Road, Muang District, Khon Kaen Province 40002, Thailand.lex_int@yahoo.com jeremiah.mock@gmail.com
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Tags
  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal husbandry
  3. APEC countries
  4. ASEAN Countries
  5. Asia
  6. Crops
  7. Developing countries
  8. Farms
  9. Finance
  10. Health
  11. Hygiene
  12. organic farming
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Religions
  15. Social psychology and social anthropology
  16. social values
  17. Thailand
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  1. peer-reviewed