IN THIS INTERVIEW, PEPSICO VICE PRESIDENT OF SUSTAINABILITY CHRISTINE DAUGHERTY SPEAKS WITH DEMONSTRATION FARMER KETSARIN BOONKERD ON HOW PEPSICO IS SUPPORTING SMALLHOLDER FARMERS AND HELPING THEM FLOURISH.
Christine Daugherty, Vice President of Sustainability, PepsiCo:
I recently had an opportunity to connect with Ketsarin Boonkerd, who runs one of PepsiCo’s more than 230 demonstration farms. Ms. Boonkerd is a potato farmer in Thailand. By adopting sustainable farming practices such as drip irrigation, with PepsiCo’s support, she grew her yield by 45% and reduced her water use by 28% in just one year. She also increased her income by $1,500 per acre. Today, Ms. Boonkerd helps farmers in her community and beyond to see the value in these more-sustainable farming practices and adopt them on their own farms. Below you can find our interview, which has been edited for clarity and length.
Thanks for agreeing to speak with us, Ms. Boonkerd. To get us started, could you share how you got into agriculture?
Ketsarin Boonkerd, Demonstration Farmer:
I started my career in a mobile phone factory and worked there for 20 years, but when my father passed away in 2009, I moved back home to support my family. PepsiCo has been a huge source of support for my family. I’ve been working with the company for 12 years, and it has been very good for my family.
Sounds like it was a big life change, what can you do now that you couldn’t before?
When I was working at the mobile phone factory, I was given room and board but just barely enough for my personal expenses. Now, my financial situation has changed completely. I’ve been able to provide for my family, buy a car, start saving, buy my own land, and invest in new equipment and inputs for my farm to improve productivity.
That’s wonderful, and how has PepsiCo helped you during your transition?
Most recently, PepsiCo helped me switch to drip irrigation, which has completely changed the way I farm for the better. It has extended my harvest from 90 to 110 days, helped me save on electricity, fuel, and chemicals, and reduced the amount of water I use while increasing the amount of potatoes I grow. It’s also been an enormous time savings. Instead of having to go into the field to water, I just flip a switch. This has given me more time at home for housework, but it has also allowed me to better use my time inspecting and monitoring my field while learning more about how to improve the potato crop. Next year, I plan to install more drip irrigation and work with about 18 farmers to add it to their fields.
You’ve been sharing what you have learned with other nearby farmers, how is that going?
It is going very well. This year, we will have two days where about 20 local farmers come to my farm to see how drip irrigation works and learn how it has transformed my business. I expect 18 of them to start using drip irrigation next year.
That is great and exactly what our demonstration farms are designed to do. It’s so wonderful to hear your story, thank you for making time to speak with us. Any parting thoughts?
Yes, two things.
First, I want to thank PepsiCo for being a company that understands the importance of diversity and respect and for giving equal opportunities to both male and female farmers. In the past, women were seen as weak and unable to farm large farms. But we’ve proven that’s not true with the technology you have provided to us. Now, a single woman can comfortably manage a larger farm. I don’t have a degree. I never studied agriculture. But with PepsiCo’s help, I can be among the best farmers – male or female – and an inspiration to other women in the community. I like to say, women can do just as much as men, and some men can’t do as much as me.
Finally, I would encourage people in my community to start growing potatoes. You make a good, steady income and it can help improve the economy and environment in my community forever.