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Nang Rong District Study Area

The Land

Nang Rong district occupies approximately 1300 square kilometers in Buriram province, in northeast Thailand.  The region is noted for its undulating landscape.  It is classified as a tropical dry forest characterized by dry dipterocarp forest and woodlands.  The environmental setting is one of marginality -- low soil fertility, insufficient and unpredictable precipitation, insufficient drainage, and generally limited natural resource base.

The People

Until the middle of the 20th century, Nang Rong was a frontier area, populated through migration combined with high rates of natural increase in the 1950s and 1960s.  Even after the frontier closed in the early 1970s, the population continued to grow until the early 1990s.  Deforestation has been extensive.  Initially, farmers converted lowland forest to paddies for intensive rice cultivation.  In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, in part because of changed import regulations in Europe, cassava cultivation became profitable, and dry upland forest was cleared for drought resistant field crops.  At approximately the same time, a paved road linking the district to Korat (a regional city) and ultimately Bangkok was constructed (for military reasons related to the Vietnamese War and to communist insurgencies from nearby Cambodia).  The interaction of population and environment through forces within and outside the region has created a dynamic landscape mosaic.

The Crops

Most villagers today are farmers, growing rice in the extensive lowlands and more recently upland crops such as cassava, sugar cane, kenaf, and corn.  Relatively small variations in elevation result in major differences in crop suitabilities in this setting.  The timing and amount of the yearly monsoon is of particular significance.  Most of the year's precipitation in Nang Rong occurs as unevenly distributed torrential rains during June to November.  Rain almost never falls in December.  Rice must be harvested soon after the rain stops and before the fields dry out.  This is a period of peak labor demand in Nang Rong.  Migrants tend to leave the district after the rice harvest.  It appears that many migrants are seasonal, returning in the summer to help with rice planting.  Seasonal pulses in rainfall thus inspire a seasonal pattern in migration. 

Nang Rong at a Glance
  • Northeast Thailand
  • Approximately 1300 sq. kilometers
  • Relatively poor district
  • Rainfed rice farming
  • Open canopy forest
  • Relatively isolated until the late 1960s
  • Cash crops include cassava, kenaf, and sugar cane
  • Experiencing rapid social and economic change
  • Experiencing substantial out migration of young adults
  • Clustered housing units within a village,
    surrounded by agriculture and forest lands
Nang Rong Study Area

  Last Modified: 09/23/2004 UNC Carolina Population Center