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Fearing more floods, Nakhon Pathom farmers make changes

Orpin Boonta, a 60yearold orchid farmer in Nakhon Pathon

Orpin Boonta, a 60yearold orchid farmer in Nakhon Pathon

Farmers in Nakhon Pathom have changed their ways in anticipation of more flooding this year and are worried that that the government's floodprevention measures will likely not protect their farms from severe inundation.

Last year, many areas in Nakhon Pathom, 56 kilometres west of Bangkok, were severely affected by flooding and were under more than one meter of water. Many flower and vegetable growers could not reestablish their farms and have abandoned their lands.

Those farmers who have survived have been struggling to restore their damaged fields and adjust their cultivation methods to deal with more floods.

"I am not so sure that the government's floodprevention measures, such as building dykes and dredging shallow canals, will protect my sevenrai orchid farm," says Orpin Boonta, a 60yearold farmer in Lam Ta Harn village. She was carefully sorting through her precious plants, which were laid out on wooden shelves after her farm was flooded last year.

For more than eight years, Orapin has planted the dendrobium sonia earsakul, a delicate purple variety of orchid. Her plantation covered 14 rai but that was cut by more than half after her land was submerged by two meters of water in last year's flood. She estimates the cost of damages at Bt6 million.

"The only thing that I could do at the time was accept the situation," she says.

She had invested about Bt600,000 per rai for planting her orchids but the government's flood compensation came to only Bt70,000 per rai. She is also in debt, owing Bt400,000 to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.

After cutting all her expenses, she was able to save enough money to reestablish her orchid farm on five rai.

With not enough money to build a dyke to protect her farm, she has changed her method of growing orchids, using string to connect multiple plants together. If the floods threaten this year, she can simply snip the strings with scissors and carry the plants to safety.

"Now I am waiting for my orchids to bloom in the next three months, but I am afraid that my farm will be flooded again," she said.

Not far from Orpin's orchid farm, vegetable grower Nanta Prasarnwong has changed to rotated crops - balsam apple and angled gourd, which can better withstand floods - instead of perennial crops.

Last year, the 42yearold Nanta's 10rai farm was totally damaged after being submerged under two meters of floodwater for more than three months. She hopes that her land will not be inundated again.


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