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Improving the economic sustainability of small-scale rubber farms in Thailand


Harper Adams University is working in collaboration with Kasetsart University Thailand in this Newton Fund Institutional Links Grants project. The project will investigate how to improve the economic sustainability of small-scale rubber farms, to increase resilience against volatility in rubber prices.


Thailand is the world’s largest natural rubber producer and exporter. Nearly 3.5 million hectares are planted with natural rubber in Thailand and of the 1.1 million Thai rubber growers, 79% are small-scale farmers with landholdings below 2.4 hectare. The monthly income of Thai rubber growers averaged 9,236 THB (£215) per month in 2015, but some 40,000 rubber growers face poverty with a monthly income of only 2,341THB (£54, poverty line defined as 2,667 THB or £62, NESDB 2015).

The major threat to livelihood derives from rubber price volatility on world markets. When the price of rubber is low income declines, partly because a large majority of farmers have not adopted on-farm practices to minimise this risk. For example, whilst research has demonstrated the economic benefits of tree-crop diversification (intercropping), nearly 90% of Thai rubber plantations are still monocropped.

The project will be carried out in 4 stages:

  1. The first stage will gather and collate published and grey literature, through the production of 2 'systematic maps' to identify: What practices are currently used by rubber farmers to improve on-farm economic sustainability; On-farm agroforestry practices to improve economic sustainability that may be of relevance and benefit to rubber production. 
  2. The second stage will involve focus group discussions and one-to-one interviews with local rubber farmers and agricultural extension officers, to explore what is currently being practiced and the barriers, enabling factors and support needs for the growers to implement sustainable rubber farming practices.
  3. Evidence collated in stages 1 & 2 will be used to inform scenario-based linear programing models, to set small-scale rubber farmers on a pathway to strengthen their business management, performance and sustainability.
  4. Finally, a training programme and toolkit to train the agricultural advisers will be developed to disseminate the models of agribusiness optimisation, to enhance small-scale farmers’ decision making.

Funding Body

British Council Newton Fund Institutional Links Grants

Lead Organisation

Harper Adams University


Kasetsart University

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