NSW rice farmer working for Laos

Imagine spending hours doing backbreaking labour in a rice paddy to plant what sometimes might only be a subsistence crop. That is the reality for many farmers in Laos who are now facing unreliable monsoon rains and a shrinking labour force. Source: ABC Rural

The growing manufacturing industry is drawing young workers away from agriculture there, a country still mainly reliant on manual labour. But one rice grower in southern New South Wales wants to change this and has teamed up with the Crawford Fund to buy basic seeders for foreign farmers.

After spending seven years studying Laos and other Asian farming systems, Nuffield scholar Leigh Vial said he was urging farmers to donate funds for the project.

“To plant a typical hectare of transplanted rice takes 30 people days, so 30 people one day or one person 30 days,” he said.

“That’s a system that’s worked very well for thousands of years.

“Now you have a situation where the labour, particularly young labour is just not there anymore, so there’s this profound need for change.

“We want to lift the standard of the seeding machinery just that little bit.

“That then leads to an instant improvement in what the farmers can achieve [and] other farmers will see what’s being achieved and doing their own experiments.”