Organic village scheme set for expansion
The government has pitched the idea of developing the organic village scheme in a move to strengthen local communities and farmers.
The scheme, organised through a partnership with the Organic Agriculture Association of Thailand, will launch in five provinces: Chiang Mai, Surin, Lampang, Phetchabun and Nakhon Pathom.
According to Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn, the scheme will cover not only organic vegetables but also fruits, livestock and other processed products.
The organic villages will later be promoted to become new health tourism destinations in the same way as Mae Kampong village in Chiang Mai's Mae On district.
Mae Kampong, a small village situated about 1,300 metres above sea level in Chiang Mai's Mae On district, generates electricity from water, uses herbs as medicine and creates tourist activities from natural resources to entertain visitors staying overnight at villagers' homes.
In 2010, Mae Kampong won the Pacific Asia Travel Association's Gold Award in the culture category. It also received an award from the Tourism and Sports Ministry as the best role model for Thailand homestays.
In addition, many scenes from the Chinese box-office hit film Lost in Thailand were shot there.
Community-based tourism began in Mae Kampong in 1999 to deal with a decline in demand for fermented tea, providing an alternative source of income for villagers who otherwise earn a living growing coffee and doing other manual labour.
The onset of tourism coincided with the state's plan for local communities to present an outstanding item under the One Tambon One Product scheme.
Mrs Apiradi said the Commerce Ministry was also developing farm outlets that would enable farmers to sell their produce, simply processed food products and handicrafts directly to buyers.
The ministry is also establishing central markets nationwide for agricultural products.
The ministry's officials will also be tasked to forge closer cooperation with governors to survey old community sites in each province to develop into shopping centres or tourism spots.
For existing community markets, the ministry is committed to promoting and developing them to become new tourism destinations.
The developments will help create income for local people, Mrs Apiradi said.