Please note: The Analysis and Assessment was done prior to the start of the transition from the commercial corn and rice operations to the Integrated Farming Permaculture Design utilizing Regenerative Agriculture Practices and Holistic Management Techniques with Animal Husbandry traditions.

Rak Tamachat Site Analysis and Assessment

This analysis and assessment is meant as a collection of all the information gathered in the analysis phase of this design project.  The information herein is primarily intended to be used as a tool by the designers to help them more accurately design an appropriate design for this site.

 The Analysis and Assessment is broken into a number of sections:

  1. Location
  2. Climate and climate change
  3. Local area demographics
  4. Land-form and geology
  5. Buildings and existing infrastructure
  6. Agricultural water systems (rainwater catchment, irrigation, and ponds)
  7. Patterns of access and circulation
  8. Permaculture zones of use and activity nodes
  9. Existing ecosystem types (vegetation and wildlife)
  10. Sun/shade and useful micro-climates
  11. Soil fertility and management
  12. Play/relax areas
  13. Aesthetics
  14. Tools and Existing Resources

Section 1. Location of Rak Tamachat

 

Latitude:     15.013 degrees NAddress: Nong Bua Noi, Si Khiu, Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Thailand

Longitude:   101.736 degrees E

Elevation:   235 meters

 

Map of Thailand in relation to neighboring countries

imagesCAPKIYOB

 

Map showing the location of Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) Provience

map-korat

Rak Tamachat Boundry Lines in Google Earth

Section 2. Climate and Climate Change

Summary:

Rak Tamachat is located at 15 degrees off the equator, the farm is firmly entrenched in the wet/dry tropics and monsoonal patterns. The sun (and the arid conditions that accompany it) and the rain are the primary climactic points of interest for this region.  Distinct seasons dictate a lot of the timing and nature of the agricultural activities at Rak Tamachat.  Because of the long dry season, Rak Tamachat is only able to produce one or two crops a year, while other parts of Thailand with irrigation from river and canal systems can produce two to three.

Rak Tamachat provience is classified as having the three tropical seasons of hot, rainy and cool (or sometimes dry). But the seasons overlap considerably, and the rainy and hot seasons occur almost simultaneously whilst the cool/dry season is quite short. Basically, it’s very dry and relatively cool (although daytime temperatures will still often exceed 30 degrees C) in November, December and January.

March, April, May and June are the four hottest months but there can be heavy rains during this time – particularly in May. The temperatures decrease slightly month by month as the area moves into the rainy season.

August, September and October are the wettest months but tropical storms may be experienced any time between March and October. The downpours quite literally end as October ends: the rainfall in November is five-times lower than that of October.

Seasons:

  •  Cool Season:  November – January

Temperatures: Average highs of around 30C (86F)

Average lows of around 17C (64F)

Rainfall – 27mm (Dec), 3mm (Jan), 6mm (Feb) on average

Generally less than 4 days of rain per month

 

Hot Season: February – April

Temperatures: Average highs of around 36C (97F)

Average lows of around 24C (75F)

Rainfall increasing each month from 17mm (Feb) to 63mm (Apr)

Generally less than 7 days of rain per month.

*this period has more rain than the cool season, but is much dryer as the arid conditions persist and temperatures rise.

 

Wet Season: May – October

Temperatures: Average highs dropping from about 35C(95F) to 31C(88F)

Average lows remain relatively constant around 23C (73F)

Rainfall averages 145mm per month with a peak of 221mm in September

Generally about every other day has rain during this time

Entire area turns from brown to green, peak planting season

 

 

Climate Change

As we are seeing around the globe, traditional averages and norms are losing their significance as global climate change affects local weather conditions.  The same holds true for the Korat region, where management at a local reservoir was forced to release excess amounts of water, destroying hundreds of farms, to stop the water from going over the dam wall.  The water at that reservoir was higher than ever recorded.  The rainy seasons tend to increase the water in a shorter period each year while extending the dry season. This can be a very devastating combination for the region and country. Rak Tamachat is taking steeps to help mitigate this trend by installing water harvesting and slowing techniques such as swales and ponds.

Conclusion: As we move forward with building resiliency into our agricultural systems, we need to take into account that we are dealing with a changing climate.  It is best to plant species that are hardy to extremes of the area.  Plants that can take extended drought from time to time, and plants that can take heavy water.

Expect: months and even years of drought, months and even years of unprecedented rainfall, even out of season. Plan to midigate these with water control and harvesting techniques.

Section 3. Local Area Demographics

The closest large town to Rak Tamachat is Nakhon Ratchasima (นครราชสีมา), usually referred to as Khorat (โคราช), is the second largest city in the Isaan region of Thailand. Its proximity to Bangkok and Isaan make it a good stopping-off point for travelers who are heading into Isaan.

It has excellent transport links to the rest of the country and beyond. Highway 2 (Bangkok to Nong Khai) runs through the city as does the northeast railway line which splits in the east of the city: one line runs up to Nong Khai and the other, to Ubon Ratchathani. And there are buses which run to just about every city in the northern, northeastern and eastern regions. You can even get buses to Vientiane in Laos and to the Cambodian border at Aranyaprathet.

The city itself has a population of around 200,000 (Nai Muang district), but the entire urban sprawl of the Nakhon Ratchasima metropolitan area (Muang Nakhon Ratchasima) has a population of approaching half a million. Despite the size of the city, it is not a favored holiday destination for the average foreign traveler. Instead, visitors are more likely to base themselves in the city as they visit nearby tourist destinations such as Khao Yai national park, Phimai and Phanom Rung.

The vast majority of people in the korat region (Issan) are farmers, and more specifically, rice, corn, cassava, and sugarcane, and to a lesser extent rubber.

There is a recent migration of upper middle-class Thai’s to an area nearby, as the climate near a small mountain range is more agreeable than many other areas this close to Bangkok.  There is also one of Thailand’s largest national parks, Khao Yai National Park, located not to far to the south west of the farm.

This is causing the farm land prices to rise as pressure is put to convert the land from farming to other usage types such as housing, factories and small businesses to support the increasing population.

 

History

The modern-day city can trace its roots back to the late seventeenth century when King Narai of Ayutthaya ordered the construction of the city to protect the Ayutthaya Kingdom’s northeastern frontier from Laotian or Khmer attack.

It was just such a Laotian attack that was defeated by local heroine Thao Suranaree in 1826.She, and her army, are credited with freeing the city from King Anouvong’s Laotian forces.

These exploits have lifted ‘Yamo’ to almost god-like status in Korat.

Her statue, in the centre of the city on Ratchadamnoen Road, is the most visited attraction in the city. The city continued to grow, helped by the arrival of the railway in the early twentieth century, and, today, is a typical Thai mix of chaos, pollution and tradition.

Section 4. Land Form and Geology

Located in the southwest corner of the Isaan Plateau, and in the eastern part of the Khorat Basin, the farm sits in the flats just to the east of the Sankambeng Range.  The locality to this mountain range helps the climate of the whole area to be a bit cooler and to have more water (both is terms of precipitation and ground water) because of the effects on the water cycle that that mountain range has.

The local area is a series of very slight undulating hills, so slight that most people are still farming in the level paddy system so commonly used for rice.

The soil in the area is rich in clay, but also is more fertile and slightly more dark in color that most soils in the Isaan area.

Rak Tamachat has a 8 meter drop from the NE corner to the SW corner, an incline of almost 1%, with a slight peak near the South east side before it drops off about a meter to the SE corner.

 

Water

The land to the east (uphill) from the houses and ponds, tends to have a drier soil.  The water both runs off and infiltrates beyond the surface, whereas the Rice Paddy Area, downhill from the houses and ponds, tends to retain more moisture, primarily for two reasons. First, the paddies are terraced, so they are built on contour and leveled on the surface, with a lip to keep the water in.

This leads to near 100% infiltration (until fully saturated), and second, the paddies themselves are much closer to the level of the water table so more water can be wicked up from the underground source.

There is a well drilled which found a artisian spring at 60 meters, the water is a hard water with heavy menerial deposits, while this is good for the watering it is not ideal for drinking, so Rak Tamachat has installed extensive rain water harvesting systems on each of the major building to use the monsunal rains to keep fresh drinking water year round.

  Sections 5. Buildings and Existing Infrastructure

As of the writing of this report, the following buildings and infrastructure are in place.  \

 

A – All brown lines represent roads / truck access paths (some are grown over, but would be easy to make then usable again.

B,C – Large ponds that currently contain fish, and very little other aquatic life.  Very steep sides.  Pond B is estimated to hold 20 million liters of water when full, and currently has a 3 inch 3HP water pump hooked up to it that is used for irrigation of the orchard and corn fields. Pond C is estimated to hold 7 million liters of water when full.  Both are about 5 meters deep, and are down into the water table, so replenished by ground water when drawn down.

D – Despite the misleading image, this is not a pond for much of the year.  This is part of the rice paddy, which is then used for rearing ducks in the dry season.  For all intensive purposes it has the qualities of rice paddy at this time.

E – This is the home the local family of 7 persons.  At the time of this writing the house is about 90% done.  It is approximately 3000 sq ft, has four bedrooms, three baths, and 20,000 liters of rain water storage. It is located just south of the smaller of the two existing ponds, and has a great view to the south-southwest that would like be best preserved.

F – This is a large cleared and leveled area set for the construction of the new Main Communal Sala.  By the time this design is complete that building should be in place.  See appendix for a sketch of the plans.

G – This is the water tower, and drilled well.  The tower provides water pressure to all the structures on the land.  There are four 1000 Liter tanks boosted up to 6 meters, so plenty of pressure. The well is a 4 inch casing, 60 meters deep, with a 2 inch stainless in-line submersible pump (which could be upgraded to a 4 inch if needed) and the pump has been run for 24 hours straight without drying up.  Currently barely used, as the family prefers to use rain water for showers, and indoor use, and pond water for irrigation.

H – Turkey Pen. 6 x 6 meters in size, non permanent structure.  Currently houses 20 turkeys.

I,J – Have been removed from this image.

K – The Ktichen Garden and some landscaping plants occupy this area currently, with irrigation pipes already in.

L – “The Canteen” This structure houses the current kitchen, bathrooms, showers, and two bedrooms, occupied by the hired farm hands.  On the southwest side is an open air canteen area where people gather for food and drink.  Beautiful setting sun view to the west.  This building has 2,000 square feet, three bedrooms, one large bath and has 15,000 liters of rain water storage.

M – Machine Shed (Godong in Thai).  3,600 square foot, cement block and metal roofing structure which holds most of the tools on the site, including the tractor.  This is also where feed and harvested rice is stored.  It also has four -8,000 liter tanks for rain water storage (total of 32,000L capacity).

N – Open compacted and graveled area outside the machine shed.  Currently used as a work area when the sun is not to hot, or as a parking area.

O – An open area with the road running down it.  Trees planted on the west side. Not currently used for agricutlture, open area.

P – Turkey and chicken shed.  Non – permanent structure. Chicken Coup = 12 x 12 meters.  It currently houses around 100 free range chickens, 50 meat ducks, 50 egg laying ducks, 10 geese, 20 guinea hens

Q – Pig shed, built with cement floor and cement block half walls.  Four chambers each 3 x 6 meters in size.  Has 1000L rainwater catchment tank.

    Section 6.   Agricultural Water Systems

The most striking features about agricultural water systems are the two large pods and the terraced rice patties in the SW part of the property.

Ponds

The ponds together hold an estimated 27 million Liters of water, and their pumping capacity is far greater than that due to the fact that they are set down into the ground water, meaning that the farm could basically pump all the water it wants and the ponds will refill from water in the ground.  Currently the northernmost post (labeled B in the diagram above) has a 3 inch diameter pump with a 3 HP engine connected to it.  This pump is used to irrigate the orchards during the dry time of year.

Orchards

Each tree in the orchard is individually irrigated so they are showing significant growth, even through the dry season. The orchard was planted to be a mixed orchard with appoxiamtly 30 different species of fruit trees at the time of this wititng, their are appoximatly 300 trees.

Terraced Rice Paddies

Currently, rice is only produced at this farm duing the rainy season, so no irrigation is used, as there is plenty of precipitation falling to meet the needs of the rice production.

Kitchen Garden

There is a kitchen garden that has piping running to sprinklers that feeds the needs of that area. The garden is done in a wild Thai Style. Lots of mixed planting with fruit trees, bananas, papaya, Thai herbs, etc.

Corn Fields

The corn fields do not currently have an irrigation system set up with them.  There is enough slope through this whole section of land to beneficially employ swales to help sink in and distribute water more evenly through the land.

 

    Section 7.   Patterns of Access and Circulation

By looking at the image below you can clearly see the paths that are (or could easily be made to be) accessible to vehicles.  They are represented by the orange lines.

There are a number of foot tracks that weave through the centers of activity, namely buildings L, N, P and E in the map above.  But all are dirt paths that are easily changeable and movable depending on the dictates of the final design.

 

    Section 8.   Permaculture Zones of Use and Activity Nodes

If we were to apply the idea of permaculture zones of use to this property, it would currently look something like this:

Zone 1: Represented by the red polygon, is the area that represents most of the time spent on the farm.  In that area is the “Canteen” which also currently houses the four permanent residents.  This structure also has the primary showers and toilets for the land.

Also to the NW edge of Zone 1 is the site of the family house that is currently under construction.

Between the new house and the canteen in the kitchen garden.

At the southernmost boundary of Zone 1 is the tool shed, housing the tractors, tools, seeds and other storage for the site.

Just to the NE of zone 1 is a large leveled area which will soon be the teaching facility for upcoming courses.

Zone 2: Represented by the pink polygon, Zone 2 here is home to the chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, turkeys, and pigs.  The NW section of this area is also used to cultivate rice in the rainy season, but for the rest of the year is used as a duck pond / grazing area.

Zone 3:  There are three distinct parts of Zone 3 on this land.

  •            Represented by the orange polygon, the SW section of the property, encompassing about 18 acres of land, is currently devoted to growing rice.  This activity happens only once a year, during the rainy season and the rest of the year it sits fallow.  They harvest approximately 40 tons of rice from this area.
  •           Represented by the dark green polygon, the Northernmost section, overing about 8 acres of land has been planted as a mixed orchard, with over 30 varieties of fruit planted on a grid.  Each tree is irrigated, and there is room to mow in between each row.
  •           Represented by the light green polygon, and covering over 18 acres of the land is the area used to grow crops, mainly corn.  They harvest approximately 20 tons of corn from this area.

Zone 4:  There is no distinct zone 4 area on this land, but there are over 1000 teak trees around the perimeter of the property which could be considered the timber zone.

Zone 5:  Currently there are two small sections of land that have basically been left, with the result of having nature take them over!

To the easternmost section of the land, there is a narrow piece of ground that is a bit too tight to allow the tractor to turn, so consequentially it has laid fallow for some years (looks like maybe 2 or 3).  This are has a slight slope to the east as well, different from the rest of the land.

In the terraced rice paddy area there is another section that may have been mounded up about a meter higher than the area around it, for a building site at one point, which makes it impossible to use for growing rice.  This area is full of brambles and trees which are maybe 10 years old.

There is some undefined area left between zones 1 and 3. This area is kept mowed and cleared, and has also had some leguminous flowering trees planted in for shade and beauty.  This are also has a large leveled and compacted area which is the future site of the Main Communal Area and Teaching Facility.

 

  Section 9.   Existing Ecosystem Types (Vegetation and Wildlife)

There are four primary ecosystem types at this farm, very much in line with the permaculture zones from above. Please refer to the Permaculture Zones of Use diagram.

Ecosystem 1:   Terraced Rice paddies

This area experiences two very distinct times of year, with a gradual transition from wet to dry.  During the wet season, these contoured, level terraces hold water, creating the perfect growing environment for paddy rice.  This environment is also home to fish, snails, and a welcome snacking ground for a number of birds.  When the rainy season comes to an end, and the rice is harvested, the water drains out, and there is a slow transition time where the land goes from being a waterlogged paddy situation to a dry and cracking, arid zone.  And during the hot, the farm has generally just let this land go fallow as it would need irrigation to grow anything.  The soil is extremely anearobic during the wet season, so does not create the best growing conditions during the dry even if you did have irrigation.

Ecosystem #2: Pond and Aquaculture Systems

The two large ponds are their own ecosystems, though very undeveloped at this point.  During the rainy season these ponds fill to the brim and are up to five meters deep.  As the dry season comes on the pond slowly drops to about 2.5 meters deep at which point it goes up and down depending on ground water levels.  The ponds at this point have very little in terms of diverse ecosystem elements, but show great potential for being an important element in the final design

Ecosystem #3: Orchard System

The north central part of the land (and eventually the whole north strip of land), has been planted as a mixed orchard.  The trees are still young, so the area is still hot and sunny, without much shade, but this area will certainly fill in over time and distinguish itself as a clear unique ecosystem.  There are over 30 varieties of fruit planted in that orchard along with a number of flowering or otherwise useful trees.  The future sees and expansion of this orchard, and an interplanting more in the lines of a food forest / edible forest garden, so will mimic natural ecosystem functions to a greater degree.

Ecosystem #4: Conventional Style Agriculture

The Zone 3: Corn Field area from the map above is managed in a conventional plow agriculture fashion, halting any succession that is attempting to take place on the land, and disturbing it back into the correct conditions for annual vegetable cultivation.  There is a strip of trees through the middle of this land, but for the most part it is 100% exposed to the elements, and has poor to fair soil to show for its management.

 

   Section 10.   Sun/Shade and Useful Micro-climates

Rak Tamachat is located 15 degrees north of the equator, we have a tropical setting with a sun that is in the southern sky most of the year, but does come directly overhead (April 30) then proceeds to be slightly in the northern sky (though never reaches farther than 8 degrees north at midday. Farthest north on June 21, before it starts heading south again.  The sun returns to directly overhead on August 12, before it makes the long journey south, peaking on December 21.

 

The longest days of the year (and the days when the sun is directly over head at midday) is April 30 and August 12 (exactly 52 days either side of the solstice June 21)

 

 

Rak Tamachat does not have many micro-climates as it has primarily been used for agricultural purposes. Over the past few years, the family has put in ponds and planted trees that are starting to create interesting micro-climates.  Certainly the areas in and around the pond have a unique climate to anywhere else on the land.

There is one tall strip on trees running north-south in the middle of the corn field.  This surely creates its own micro-climate in comparison to the rest of the corn field.  And then there are two areas that have been left along in terms of agriculture.  All the way to the east is a small outcropping of land that is too small to turn a tractor around in, so it has a few years of successional growth happening. And there is a piece of land in the rice paddy area that was backfilled at some point in the past, and is now partially used to thresh rice, but for the most part it is covered in young shrubs and trees.

 

    Section 11.   Soil Fertility and Management

At the time of this writing, a soil test has not been performed, but is planned.

From observations of the site, the soil looks to be above average.  The farm has been farmed in a pseudo-organic fashion for the last couple of years, using a minimal amount of chemicals, namely herbicides to fight weeds in the corn fields.  The young trees are growing well, and the family gets a good harvest of their rice and corn each year.

The family does have animals. The manure is collected and added to the kitchen garden and the orchard.  There is a septic tank connected to the pig pens, where are the solids drop out.  The liquids continue on to the rice fields to add their fertilizing affect.  When the septic tank is full, the pig manure is collected, dried and used as fertilizer.  The manure in the chicken and duck pens is scraped up, put in bags, and used when needed.  The ducks live in the rice paddies during the non rice time of year, so certainly all the fertilizer from their manure is added back into the rice system.

Nothing further has been done in terms of soil improvement.

 

    Section 12.   Play/Relax Areas

There are a few areas which people use as relaxing areas.  The most used in the canteen, which is the natural place for people to gather for food and to relax.  It also has an amazing sunset view, and a television which people enjoy into the evening.

There is also a gazebo built over the smaller pond near the big house.  Its only purpose is for being able to hang out near the water and relax.  Fish off of it, or jump in the water on a hot day. There are plenty of spots which have potential to be a nice place to relax and kick back, including some within the zone ½ area as well as some out on the land.

 

   Section 13.   Aesthetics

There have been a couple hundred acacia and other flowering trees added to the land, along the roads, near the entrance, and around the ponds, primarily placed there for aesthetic purposes.  They are  still young at this point, but are growing fast, and will shortly make a beautiful statement with all their blooms.

The ponds also make an amazing statement just as a person in entering the farm.  Currently they have young coconuts planted around them.  When those mature and start giving a bit of shade to the ponds, as well as the pond ecosystems themselves become a bit more developed, the potential is there for a very striking aesthetic upon entrance.

There has been some landscaping and aesthetic planting done around the canteen.  The whole area between the new house and the canteen is filled with both kitchen garden and aesthetic plants, making it a very nice, bright green, cool area to be in.

A lot of building, and earthmoving has happened at the farm over the past couple years, so the aesthetic is waiting a bit for some of the lush growth to return, but the potential is very much there.

 

    Tools and Existing Resources
  • CEB – Compressed Earth Block press with extra tank block mold. It will also us to make water tanks 2 meters in diameter 3 meters tall, so six thousand liters of water storage each. Also have molds for building, and for paving stones.
  • 200 L cement mixer
  • Tractor 60 Hp Ford 6100 with push blade, 7 and 3 blade plows, corn planter
  • Kubota 30 HP with front end loader, Rice Field Steel Wheels, 7 and 3 blade plows, Post Hole digger, tiller
  • Lawn Tractor 23 HP with 60” belly mower
  • Iron Buffalo (walk behind two wheel tractor) 14 HP with trailer and plow for rice field
  • Tuk Tuk farm truck with 14Hp
  • Nissan Farm Pickup truck with Animal moving rack
  • 1,000 liter water tank for watering trees.
  • General Hand Tools for Mechnic
  • General Hand Tools for Gardening

 

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