Thailand is a Southeast Asian country located at the center of the Indochina Peninsula. It is the only country in the region that was never colonized by any Western power. Its capital is Bangkok. Thailand’s population in 2011 was about 69 million people. The country is divided into 76 provinces, which are gathered into five groups of provinces. Bangkok and Pattaya are two special governed districts, with Bangkok enjoying the status of a province. Each province is divided into districts, which are further divided into sub-districts. In 2006, there were 877 districts in addition to 50 districts of Bangkok.
The country’s northern region is a mountainous area while the centre region is predominantly flat river valley. The Chao Phraya and the Mekong Rivers are considered as sustainable resource of rural Thailand. The Andaman Sea is regarded as valuable natural resource due to its popular, luxurious lush island resorts and tourism is one of the pillars of the country’s economy. Thailand’s climate is tropical, where there is a rainy, warm southwest monsoon from mid-May to September, as well as a dry, cool northeast monsoon from November to mid-March. The southern areas remain hot and humid throughout the year.
During the last three decades, the agriculture sector of Thailand has been transforming from a labor-intensive farming activity into a more commercial food industry. This transition is evident from the fact that only 49 percent of the country’s labor force are presently employed in agriculture, which in 1980, was about 70 percent. The contribution of agriculture to GDP has declined to 9.37 percent over the years while exports of non-agricultural goods and services like textiles, footwear, fishery products, jewellery, cars, computers and electrical appliances have gone up. It does not mean, however, that the importance of agriculture in exports has declined. Thailand is one of the major, if not the top, exporter of rice in the world. Commercially processed foods such as canned tuna, pineapples and frozen shrimp are also exported. Black tiger prawns are another popular export item.
The average farm size in Thailand is 3.6 hectares. Although most of the farms are privately owned yet tenants still exist in considerable numbers. There are large commercial farms as well operated by business companies. About one-fourth of the total cultivated area of 21 million hectares is irrigated. Main crops are rice, which covers about 54 percent of the cultivated area, rubber, cassava, sugarcane and palm oil. Livestock and poultry are also important parts of farming.
Contract farming has been practiced in Thailand for quite some time with mixed results. The commodities which have been produced under farming contracts between producers and private companies include sugarcane, tobacco, fruit, vegetables, poultry, potatoes, shrimp, cashew nuts, baby corn, asparagus, broilers, hogs, tomatoes, sweet corn, eggplants, and maize seed. Contract farming became popular under the government’s agri-business policy aimed at promoting and exporting high-value commodities and products. In certain successful cases of contract farming, extension officers played an active role.
Two success stories of technology transfer and commercialization in Thailand are worth mentioning: the first is about orchid production. Orchid tissue culture work started at the Chulalongkom University in 1967, which was subsequently extended to the Kasetsart University and the Chiang Mai University. In 1994, the estimated area under orchid cultivation had reached 23,000 hectares. In 1997, the total orchid export value in Thailand was over US$ 32 million. The second success story is about the expansion of baby corn production in Thailand. Today, baby corn is cultivated in all regions of the country. Even though the work on increasing yield continues, baby corn has proven to be a good alternative to rice as, with some amount of irrigation, it could be grown as many as four times in a year.
History of extension and the enabling/disabling environment
Public agricultural extension activities started in Thailand in 1908 when the then Ministry of Land and Agriculture organized its first agricultural exhibition in Tanyaburi. Later, in 1937, the government created the Department of Agriculture with 50 extension staff. Some of this staff was sent to rice planting areas in the central region to give advice on rice cultivation, while the other staff was deployed to the northeastern area to assist in the cultivation of mainly fiber crops like cotton, silk, jute, and rattan. Two additional groups of extension workers were recruited in 1939 and 1940. During the period 1940 to 1960, as many as 20 national-level agricultural agencies were established within the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. However, only three of them, including the Departments of Rice and Agriculture, as well as the Office of Permanent Secretary, have agricultural extension divisions. Still extension advice coming from these three divisions created confusion among farmers regarding which recommendations were to be followed.
Having taken the decision to integrate scattered extension functions into a single agency, the government established a department of agricultural extension in 1967. Till 1977, main extension activities were establishing farmers’ institutions, demonstration plots, exhibitions, fairs and contests. One extension agent was responsible for covering about 4,000 farm families. From 1977 to 1986, the Training and Visit system (T&V) was adopted as the main extension approach under a World Bank-financed project. Under this project, one extension agent was required to cover 1,000 farm families. The project funds also provided physical facilities like vehicles and equipment, and promoted regular training of extension staff, as well as scheduled visits by extension agents to the farmers.
Starting 1987, adjustments were made to the T&V approach, specific farming areas were analyzed, and more emphasis was laid on the development of small-scale farmers, as well as on marketing aspects. Around 1993, extension workers started following a participatory extension approach and increasingly learned how to recognize the value of farmers' indigenous knowledge and capability. Modalities like contract farming, organization of promotion events and decreasing of unsecured market commodities were then followed.
In 1999, the government established sub-district level Service and Technology Transfer Centers (STTCs) nationwide with the aim to transfer agricultural knowledge and provide one-stop services of the Ministry to the farmers. Micro-enterprises of the community were promoted, local volunteers were brought onboard, and learning centers were established. Currently, farmers’ participation is encouraged both decision making and in the formulation and management of farm plans. Activities deemed successful are promoted throughout the sub-districts. The STTCs are managed and operated by community representatives. Recently, the STTCs are following a particular strategy for developing the capacities of communities through community-based projects. Each community has to identify its own capacity and assets and develop its own project with the assistance from the extension agents who now play the role of facilitators. Needs for further improvement have been felt in the areas of district teams’ skills in analysis for developing appropriate agricultural development plans; linkages between the STTCs and the local administration; and integration of expertise and resources. Lately, district level subject-matter specialists (SMSs), placed in “Mobile Units”, have been providing extension support directly to their farmers.
The main problems currently being faced by small-scale men and women farmers are low productivity; low farm price with high production cost; decreasing availability of family farm labor; land ownership issues; loss of farm land due to indebtedness; and the deterioration of natural resources. The government's policy of encouraging mountain farmers to grow coffee, apples, strawberries, kidney beans, and other temperate crops instead of the lucrative opium poppy and marijuana is praiseworthy, but has met limited success.
Given Thailand’s status as a middle-income country, most donors do not have traditional assistance programs in this country. The current development assistance focuses on specific projects and programs based on partnerships and cooperation. A few examples of donor-focused areas are: cooperation for education, research and institutional development; improving small- and medium-enterprises competitiveness; support for women and gender issues; and cooperation for improving competitiveness of agricultural products for international markets in line with the requirement of WTO/SPS (sanitary and phyto-sanitary) standards; and support for the improvement of land and water resources in order to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters, and to enhance productivity.
Almost all UN development agencies have their representations in Bangkok while some of them, like FAO and ESCAP (UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) have their regional offices to cover Asia and the Pacific region. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) also have their offices in Bangkok, which have made significant contributions towards agricultural and rural development including strengthening agricultural extension in Thailand. Among the bi-lateral donors, JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) has been providing assistance in the areas of community leadership for agricultural cooperatives, institutional capacity building, human resources development, and some non-agricultural topics. Thailand also has a large number of international and local NGOs including those which work in rural areas. Like many donors, NGOs were especially active in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster.
Major institutions providing extension/advisory services
Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, MOAC
Department of Agricultural Extension DOAE
The Department of Agricultural Extension of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is the main public organization responsible for providing extension services to the farmers. The DOAE undertakes the tasks of increasing agricultural production capacity, processing, increasing agricultural goods’ value, establishing measures and guidelines in agriculture promotion, controlling goods’ and products’ qualities, as well as transferring agricultural technology to the producers with the aims of enhancing their income generation and production security, as well as developing agricultural careers.
Specific duties of the DOAE are as follows:
Promotion and development of the producers and agriculturist organizations;
Provision of vocational training and agricultural services to producers;
Development, promotion and coordination of the transfer of agricultural knowledge, and of the management of crop, fishery and livestock productivity by the producers;
Performance of any other tasks as designated by the ministry or cabinet.
The DOAE has five Bureaus and seven Divisions at the national level. It has six Regional Offices, 879 District Offices and 48 Operational Centers. Although extension tasks have supposedly been decentralized to provinces, districts, and sub-districts, and are to be supervised by the provincial offices, yet extension program planning remains central.
Other public organizations
Other public organizations carrying out subject-specific extension activities include:
Royal Forestry Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Department of Livestock Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives
Department of Community Development, Ministry of Interior
Table 1: Human resources in extension in Thailand as of 2010
Sector and staff
Number of extension staff
Agriculture (crops, livestock)
Total extension staff
Female extension staff only
Total extension staff
Female extension staff only
Fishery (marine & aquaculture)
Total extension staff
Female extension staff only
In spite of the promotion of high-value crops, agro-processing and agro-industrialization by the government, there are few private companies in Thailand that provide regular extension advice to the farmers on fee basis. The farmers still enjoy, in general, free public extension services. The involvement of the private sector in extension is mostly limited to contract farming. Private international and national companies sign contracts with the farmers and advise them on pricing matters and on how to produce good quality commodities such as crops, vegetables, fruits, poultry or fish. Some of these companies have a small number of extension staff for this purpose. Many companies from Taiwan and Japan function under joint ventures. A few examples of the companies which have been active under such arrangements in Thailand are:
Thailand Pineapple Company, Ltd. (TIPCO)
Siam Food Products Company, Ltd. (SIFCO)
Siam Cement Group (SCG)
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
There are a large number of local and international NGOs in Thailand. Many of them perform extension or extension related activities in support of government programs. Others work directly, funded by certain donors or their projects. Main subject areas covered by NGOs include community development, environment, HIV/AIDS and women. Certain NGOs have been promoting organic farming and alternative agriculture practices.
Population and Community Development Association (PDA)
The best example of an NGO which has earned excellent reputation for rural community development and extension initiatives comes from the PDA Association in Thailand. The PDA, which earlier gained fame due to its bold as well as very successful community approach to family planning, has been operating Sky Irrigation System (also known as Vegetable Bank) since 1990 at several rural locations. The Sky Irrigation Scheme is a gender-sensitive participatory program based on public-private partnership, managed by the Village Water Management Committees. Two well known schemes under the program are located in Wang Hin and Nong Bua Dimi villages. The membership is voluntary and all members are required to make both financial and in-kind contributions to their respective projects. In 2003, there were 126 Sky Irrigation Schemes benefiting about 3,280 farmers. Apart from growing organic vegetables year round, the poor farmers have been earning additional income from joining a “vegetable bank”.
Farmers-based associations, cooperatives and societies
There are many farmers associations in Thailand; the main ones are:
Thai Rice Exporters Association
Thai Rice Farmers Association
Thai Farmers Association
Thai Poultry Farmers Association
Thai Tapioca Trade Association (promotes and protects organic trade)
Thailand has a vast network of agricultural cooperatives (societies) of the following types:
General agriculture cooperatives
Water user cooperatives
Land reform cooperatives
Special cooperatives (covering livestock, milk and milk products)
National security command cooperatives (help in improving living conditions of people residing in remote areas)
In 2006, the number of primary agricultural cooperatives was about 2,200 with about 1,909,000 farmer participants. Including other types of agricultural cooperatives, the total number of cooperatives was 3,748 with a total membership of about 5,340,000 individuals. Many of these cooperatives provide extension and other services to the farmers at reasonable fees.
List of Extension Providers
The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Thailand. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.
Training options for extension professionals
Pre-service education in agricultural sciences may be obtained in any of several universities in Thailand which have faculties of agriculture. Some of these universities are:
Kasetsart University (the first and the oldest agricultural university in Thailand) It should be noted that they have a major National Agricultural Extension and Training Center on Kampaengsaen Campus in Nakornpathom Thailand (about 50 km from Bangkok). They sponsored the Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education (AIAEE) conference in May 2012 and plan to sponsor this conference again in 2017.
University of Khon Kaen
Ubon Ratchathani University (relatively new institution)
Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) ) (an international institution, which is not a traditional agricultural academic institution but has advanced degree programs and promotes technological change and sustainable development through higher education, research and outreach.
In-service training for extension professionals may be arranged at:
Any of the above mentioned academic institutions, especially Kasetsart University as well as the Asian Institute of Technology;
Agricultural Technology Transfer Centers (TTCs) located in various provinces, with residential training facilities and subject-matter specialists;
Lampang Agricultural Research and Training Center (LARTC)
Agricultural Extension Association of Thailand, AEAT
Info-mediaries and information and communication technology (ict) for agriculture and extension
According to the World Bank, in 2010, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Thailand was 103.61. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was 21.2. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), which is responsible for ITC development in Thailand, has taken a number of initiatives in this regard.
The government formulated an ICT policy for 2001-2010, which prioritized the role of ICT in developing a knowledge-based society. Within the context of this policy, the First ICT Master Plan (2002-2006) was prepared and adopted by the government institutions. The Plan was later extended to 2008. Thereafter, in 2009, the MICT, in collaboration with the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), prepared the Second Thailand Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Master Plan (2009-2013). The vision of the Plan is “driving toward Smart Thailand through ICT” to create a “Green and Happiness Society”. Under the Plan, agriculture is one of the sectors which will particularly benefit from the ICT drive.
In 2002, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives initiated the Agricultural Information Network. It makes use of the infrastructure developed under the Internet Village Project for providing access to this particular network.
The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), a government institution with 14,000 staff located in many parts of Thailand, runs its radio and television programs to link farmers to the outside world. Farmers’ associations discuss their issues. The famous BAAC television programs include “The Villagers’ Stage” (weekly), “My Little Farm Project” (daily), and “Thai Agricultural Heart Program” (on weekdays).
During the 33rd APAN (All Partners Access Network) Meeting held from February 13 to 17, 2012 in Chiang Mai, Thailand, organized by the NECTEC, a Power Point presentation was made on “Smart Farm Flagship”. The presentation listed the following as smart farm activities:
National ICT 2020 (Smart Agriculture)
NSTDA (National Science and Technology Development Agency) Food & Agriculture Cluster
SIG-AG (Special Interested Group)
SRI Platform (Services Research Innovation) agriculture model
Community that Learn – case study
In spite of all the progress, the number of ICT users in Thailand remains relatively low. According to a survey conducted by the NECTEC in 2007, only 23 percent of the country’s population goes online to search for information, just 21 percent to send email, and about 10 percent access the Internet to play games. At present, the use of ICT in support of extension programs is not much. However, it is expected that with the ICT initiatives now underway the extension organization would be able to strengthen its programs and reach a far larger number of farmers.
Key Statistics and Indicators
Agricultural land (sq km)
Agricultural land (% of land area)
Arable land (hectares)
Arable land (% of land area)
Arable land (hectares per person)
Fertilizer consumption (kg per hectare of arable land)
Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)
Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)
Food exports (% of merchandise exports)
Food imports (% of merchandise imports)
GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)
Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)
Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)
Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)
Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)
Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)
Internet users (per 100 people)
Population density (people per sq. km of land area)
Rural population (% of total population)
Agricultural population (% of total population)*
Total economically active population**
Total economically active population in agriculture*
Total economically active population in agriculture (in %
of total economically active population)
Female economically active population in agriculture (% of
total economically active population in agriculture)*
Sources: The World Bank; *FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ; ** http://nationmaster.com
resources and references
Chingprapa, A. (no date; probably 2008). Agricultural Extension and Its Development in Thailand; PowerPoint presentation; Department of Agricultural Extension.FAO (2010). Survey (filled-in questionnaire) of Agricultural Extension in Thailand; prepared for the Investment Assessment Project. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Geal, G.G. (2007). A Study on the Identification and Characterization of Promising Agricultural Extension Practices I Thailand during the Green Revolution Period. Consultancy report prepared for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Isvilanonda, S. (2010). Thailand Agriculture: The Country’s Profiles and Current Status; PowerPoint presentation made at the Agri benchmark Cash Crop Conference held in May, 2010 at Perth, Australia. Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Thailand (October 2009). The Second Thailand Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Master Plan (2009-2013) National Electronic and Computer Technology Center (2012). Smart Farm Flagship; PowerPoint presentation made at the 33rd APAN Meeting held from February 13 to 17, 2012 at Chiang Mai, Thailand. Bangkok: National Science and Technology Development Agency.Qamar, M.K. (2007). Agricultural technology Management, Transfer and Commercialization: An Overview with Focus on Asia-Pacific Region. Resource Paper presented at the international seminar, Best Practices in Agricultural technology Transfer”, held from 5 to 9 November, 2007 at Colombo, Sri Lanka, organized by the Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo Rassameethes, B. (no date; probably 2008). New spark in collaboration through e-Agriculture. Bangkok: Operations Department, Kasetsart University.Schwartz, L.A. (July 1994). The Role of the Private Sector in Agricultural Extension: Economic Analysis and Case Studies; Network Paper 48. Ithaca, NY: Department of Agricultural Economics, Cornell University Sharma, V.P., editor (2006): Report of the APO Seminar on Enhancement of Extension Systems in Agriculture held in Pakistan, 15-20 December 2003. Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo.
Thailand, pg. 169-172
Sriboonchitta, S. and A. Wiboonpoongse (July 2008). Overview of Contract Farming in Thailand: Lessons Learned. Bangkok: ADB Institute Discussion paper No. 112.Thuvachote, S. (2006). Agricultural Cooperatives in Thailand. Paper presented at the 2006 FFTC-NACF International Seminar on Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia: Innovations and Opportunities in the 21st Century, held at Seoul, South Korea; 11-14 2006.Taweekul, K. (2006). Thailand Country Paper; presented at the APO Seminar on Enhancement of Extension Systems in Agriculture, held at Faisalabad, Pakistan; December 15-20, 2003; in V.P. Sharma (ed.) Enhancement of Extension Systems in Agriculture; Tokyo: Asian Productivity Organization (also available as an APO e-book on the Internet) Weerapat, P. (2010). FAO Consultancy Report on Thailand prepared for the Investment Assessment Project. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations World Bank (2012). "Module 8: Farmer Organizations Work Better with ICT” in ICT in Agriculture Sourcebook.
Authored by M. Kalim Qamar (September 2012)
Edited by Burton E. Swanson