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Thai smallholders use new technology for sustainable rubber and transparent supply chains

By Preferred by Nature

An App designed by Agriac allows the rubber farmers to pool their crops, thereby increasing their capacity to deliver larger orders, strengthen their negotiating power and enable them to cut out expensive middlemen. 

Surat Thani, Thailand: “This is healthier, more sustainable and we receive a better price for our rubber,” says Wanida Heedyim, 42, as she moves from tree to tree, collecting the rubber sap.

Wanida - or “Da” - is one of Thailand’s 1,7 million rubber smallholders, who are deeply affected by global market forces currently driving down the price of their crop.

Lately however, Wanida has been cooperating with Preferred by Nature and local non-profit Agriac, which is building capacity and introducing new technology to empower smallholders across Thailand.

An App designed by Agriac allows the rubber farmers to pool their crops, thereby increasing their capacity to deliver larger orders, strengthen their negotiating power and enable them to cut out expensive middlemen.

“We used to sell the rubber for 20 baht per kilogram. Now we can sell it for 22 baht. The price attracts new members to our cooperative, because they get two baht more,” explains Wanida.


  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reduced use of water resources
  • Improved biodiversity
  • Higher income and improved livelihoods for smallholders
  • Transparent supply chains

Market access

The Agriac App also empowers the farmers by giving them access to valuable market data:

“Before we usually didn’t know the DRC rates (Dry Rubber Content rate), when we were selling the hard rubber. So the benefits are that now everyone can cooperate, we get a better price and we know the rates,” said Wanida.

Supported by Preferred by Nature, the rubber smallholders joining the Agriac-project are all certified for sustainability by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). With FSC certification, the smallholders have to observe a wide range of sustainability criteria ensuring the rubber is produced without damaging the environment and not linked to deforestation:

“Our members stop burning trash and using weed killer, which is good, because earthworms that give moisture to the ground come back. And for wild animals, our members preserve them because they are rare. For example slow loris, civet, wild chicken and some birds,” 

Wanida Heedyim, Rubber smallholder

Premium for certified rubber

While competition from China, Indonesia and other rubber producing countries is driving down the rubber prices, Wanida and her friends are now able to charge a premium for their FSC certified rubber.  

The Agriac App also ensures complete transparency of the rubber supply chain and allows buyers to find the geolocation of Wanida’s rubber plantation by a simple push on the screen of a smartphone.

With the EU currently introducing the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), which requires European importers to document the exact origin of their rubber product, the Agriac smallholders will gain a competitive edge, says Mai Loien, Co-founder of Agriac:

“The regulation will have a significant impact on rubber smallholders unless they can prove they are in compliance with the sustainable standards. Our work will position them to meet these challenges,” said May Loyen.

3.000 members across Thailand may be a relatively small share of Thailand’s many rubber farmers, but Loyen’s organisation is expanding quickly and she believes there is strong potential for scaling up - perhaps even to include smallholders working with other commodities:

“Our approach involves a combination of technical assistance, training and market access support. This can of course be tailored to other regions and commodities, such as cocoa, coffee, rice and others,” said Mai Loyen.

Mostly farmed by smallholders, rubber has not been linked to the large-scale environmental degradation and social impacts usually associated with commodities such as oil palm and soy.  

But rubber production also comes with an environmental price tag, says Indu Bikal Sapkota, lead for rubber and policy advisor for Preferred by Nature.  

“Rubber production can be just as damaging as any other crop. Of course the risk of monocultures destroying local biodiversity is greater with crops grown on a larger scale, but 1,7 million smallholders using conventional methods clearly have an impact - and it is not always sustainable. Luckily, we are now seeing a strong drive towards more sustainable methods such as Agriacs work with smallholders in Thailand,” said Indu Bikal Sapkota. 


  • Thailand supplies 35% of the world’s natural rubber (2022)
  • The large majority of rubber farmers (85%) are poor smallholders deeply affected by a highly volatile market.
  • The use of pesticides in conventional rubber farming is severely impacting on biodiversity, soil quality and the health of farmers.
  • In certain regions, land grabbing from indigenous peoples has been particularly prevalent.

Source: Statista, Agriac, Partnership for Forests

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