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Where does rice come from?

Do we know where our food is coming from? Our interest is limited to which shelf we can find it on in the supermarket. But in reality, each product has its own story. During the meeting the participants will get to know Tor - a farmer from Thailand. They will follow his daily work on an organic rice farm, they will discover the various stages of rice production and they will see why it is worth to get to know the story of the goods we buy, whether they are produced in other continents or in our own country.


Author and translation: Anna Książek

Proofreading: Andrea Pucci


Main objectives:

  • Direct the attention of the participants toward global issues related to food (using rice as a case study).

During the workshop the participants will:

  • Get to know skills useful in changing the world.

  • Gain basic information about production, varieties, and nutritional value of rice.

  • Get to know the differences between organic and conventional production.


1. Story

Ask the participants: who, according to them, is a changemaker? How do they understand this word? What does it mean to change the world for better? What kinds of skills are needed to change the world? Today we will get to know one changemaker – Tor from Thailand. But before that, let’s pay attention to another changemaker - Martin Luther King, leader of the civil rights movement, activist for equality and elimination of racial discrimination. He said that before we finish eating breakfast in the morning, we’ve depended on more than half the world. Ask the participants how they understand this sentence. It refers to the fact that most of the goods we consume were produced in different parts of the world.

Participants will get to know today the story of the most popular staple foods. To discover what it is, invite participants to the task.

2. What we eat (work in groups)

Give the participants, divided into small groups, the picture of a rice field cut in pieces. If you think that guessing out of this picture could be too difficult, you can also use another one connected with rice production. Groups put the puzzle together and guess what it is the product you are going to speak about.

After the exercise, tell the participants that today they will face different kinds of tasks. Each task will be associated with rice and it will require from participants to demonstrate skills useful in changing the world. As a prize for every completed task groups can choose a food product. All the collected products will be used at the end of the meeting to prepare a meal together. The base of each dish should be rice.

Rice paddies – landscape around Sandeck village in Cambodia.

3. Task 1. Discussion in groups

Participants, in small groups of 4-6 people, discuss together what kind of dish they want to prepare (they can create one or use ready recipes, for example those below) and what kind of products they will need. They should check what is available among the goods provided by the leader. Among those goods you should have different kinds of rice. Let participants read information written on packages, so they can get to know what are the characteristics of this particular kind of rice (which kind of dish it fits best, what is its nutritional value) and choose which one they want as a prize for completing the task. Check if you can find on the package information about the origin. Try to bring organic rice for the meeting. Beside rice you will need other ingredients, like cheese, vegetables, fruits, spices.

Depending on the time you have, conditions and skills, participants cook meals or prepare cold dishes, for example salads (in this case bring rice already cooked).

Before each task, share with the participants part of Tor’s story (“Back to the roots”).

4. Story

Tor is a farmer from Thailand. After many years living in Bangkok, capital city of Thailand, he decided to quit his well-paid job in real estate and go back to his home village to lead an organic rice farm. It was not an easy decision to return to the traditional life of a village in the countryside, to his roots. It required a lot of courage and patience. But today Tor is happy in his farm, every day he can see the result of his labor – growing rice.

5. Task 2. Where rice is produced

This task requires an important changemaker’s skill which is collecting and analyzing information. Each group gets the names of 10 countries. The task is to select 5 of them, which are major producers of rice, and mark them on a world map. If the task is completed correctly each group can choose a product for cooking (can be vegetables, cheese, spices ...)

The countries which are major producers of rice in the world: China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Brazil, Pakistan, Cambodia, Japan.

6. Story

Rice is produced mainly in Asia. In many Asian countries there are mass production farms, which often use chemicals to make the rice grow faster. But there are still those farms where farmers cultivate rice without chemical additives. Sometimes, out of tradition, sometimes - as in the case of Tor - it is a conscious abandonment of chemical production and choosing ecological, healthier, and better solutions for the environment.

Tor sows rice twice a year. Rice grows in water, waiting for harvest time. Collected rice is stored at home, if it is grown only for family use, or delivered to the mill, if it is intended for sale.

An example of production mainly for home consumption are farmers from the Sandeck village, Cambodia (have a look at the pictures from „Be the spark”), who transport the rice by bike or wagons drawn by big cows. Tor uses a large van. He produces huge amounts of rice, which collected and stored into bags, waits in the warehouse for cleaning.

Farmers usually give their rice to the mill, which mechanically separates the grain from the husk, but Tor can’t use the mill as organic rice would be mixed with the conventional one. For that reason, Tor is doing everything himself, using old machinery. Separation of rice husks takes a lot of time and requires three different machines. The first carries out a coarse separation of rice from husk and dirt. The other two get rid of the remaining shells, refining the separation. The process occurs on the basis of their weight - rice grains are much heavier.

Separation of husks from rice with the machine used by Tor, organic farmer from Thailand.

7. Task 3. Construction of machines

After hearing this part of the story and seeing the pictures, the groups build the machines needed to separate husk from rice grains. This task will require another changemaker’s skill – team work. Groups can use materials prepared by the leader (e.g. bottles, cans, boxes). They need to build a machine that moves and explain its action. After the task is completed, groups can choose next food.

8. Story

When rice is separated from the shell, it is time for weighing and packing. With mass production everything is done automatically, but Tor also in this case does things manually. He uses a scale to weigh 1 kg of rice, then he pours it into the bag and seals.

Tor tries to come up with creative ways of packing rice, attractive to customers, eg. he mixes different colors of rice in bags or bottles. He also tries out new rice products, such as soap or ice-cream. He is constantly looking for new ideas which will allow him to reach more customers. Tor is very open and willing to listen to different ideas. He tries them all, checking which one will work.

Tor sells white and brown rice in packages and bottles, as well as processed products, such as handmade soaps.

9. Task 4. Promotion and sale

The task for the groups is to come up with ideas which can help Tor to sell his organic rice. It may be a new way of packaging, a new product, even a slogan. What counts is creativity - another changemaker’s skill. After fulfilling the task, let the groups choose next food product.

10. Story

For organic farmers it’s really difficult to sell rice. Due to the bigger effort in the production process, it is more expensive than standard commercial rice. However, it is much better for our health and environment.

Tor, as well as other organic farmers in Thailand, gets support from an organization called Pookpintokao (“Rice weddings”). It connects together farmers with customers interested in buying organic rice. But it isn’t just about exchanging phone numbers. Pookpintokao helps to build a true relation between the two sides. Funnily enough, they don’t use the terms “customer” and “seller” but “groom” and “bride”, to emphasize how important is the relation. People who buy the rice visit the farmer, they get to know his family, make friendship. When something on the farm goes wrong, for example there is a flood, they will continue to support the farmer, even if he/she is not able to deliver rice on time. On the other hand, if the person who buys the rice has problems and is not able to pay on time, the farmer will also be patient. And this is thanks to the fact that both sides know each other, they talk regularly and build strong relationship.

11. Task 5. The relationship

Good relationship is based on appreciating our differences, as well as knowing what we have in common. Building relationships, empathy and listening are other changemaker’s skills.

Suggest to the participants the game "Everybody who". One person is in the middle and tries to find something that the greatest number of people has in common. He/she builds the sentence: "Everybody who (e.g.) likes chocolate." Then all the people who like chocolate stand up and change place. The person in the center also seeks for a place, which means that there will be not enough places for everybody. The one who doesn’t manage to find a seat proposes another sentence beginning with the words "Everybody who…".

Repeat this game several times, and then move on to the second part. This time the task is to finish the sentence "Only me". The task of each participant (or one person from each group, depending on how many people are on the meeting) is looking for something which distinguishes him/her from other people, for example. "Only I have three sisters." If another person from the group has three sisters, he/she stands up. In that case the person in the middle has to propose another sentence, till the moment nobody stands. After the game the groups choose the last food product.

12. Cooking

Each group prepares a dish based on rice using the goods gained along the game. Encourage groups to exchange their products if they need it. Then, eat all together. Remember to take care that there’s enough food for everybody!

The inhabitants of South East Asia eat rice – with different side dishes – even three times per day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Additional tasks for group:

  • Get to know the story of another food product you use, as well as other goods, e.g. clothes, equipment, etc.

  • Prepare an information campaign: Where does our rice come from? Share the knowledge you gained during the workshop together with other information you find later on.

  • Go to the nearest shop. Read carefully labels on products. What information can you find? Where do products come from? Prepare a map showing where daily use products come from. Calculate how many kilometers they travel before reaching your country. Which products are produced locally? Think together why it is worth to buy local products.

  • Which products (fruits, vegetables) in your country can be produced organically? Get to know where in your neighborhood you can buy local ecological products.

  • Visit an organic farm.



Recipes for dishes with rice

Rice salad with champignon


  • Rice (125 g – package)

  • Marinated champignon (1/2 jar)

  • Peas (can)

  • Maize (can)

  • Mayonnaise

  • Marinated onion (3-4 piece)

  • Salt

  • Pepper


  1. Drain maize, peas, onions and champignons, put in the bowl and mix.

  2. Cook the rice according to instruction on the package.

  3. Cool down the rice and mix it with the other ingredients, add mayonnaise and spices to taste.

Rice with cinnamon


  • Rice (one glass)

  • Milk (0,5 l)

  • Sugar (4 spoons)

  • Cinnamon

  • Butter (2 spoons)


  1. Cook the milk with sugar and butter till it boils.

  2. When the milk is boiling, add a glass of rice and cook, always mixing so the rice doesn’t burn.

  3. When it starts to bubble, put the pot aside and wait when the rice is ready.

  4. Put the rice on the dishes, add cinnamon. You can also add sugar, apple mousse or other fruits and decorate with cream.

Rice salad with chicken


  • Rice (100g)

  • Baked chicken fillet (250 g)

  • Eggs (4)

  • Pickled cucumber (4)

  • Red, yellow and green paprika (one of each color)

  • Maize (1/2 can)

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Horseradish or mayonnaise


  1. Cook the rice, drain it and cool down.

  2. Prepare hard-boiled eggs, cool down and cut in cubes.

  3. Cut paprika, chicken fillet and cucumbers in cubes.

  4. Drain the maize.

  5. Mix all ingredients together with horseradish or mayonnaise.

  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  7. You can serve the salad inside a hollow half paprika.

Salad with rice and surimi


  • Rice (100 g)

  • Surimi (crab sticks)

  • Apple (1)

  • Red onion (half)

  • White beans (1/2 can)

  • Hard-boiled eggs (2)

  • Mayonnaise

  • Salt

  • Pepper


  1. Cook rice according to instruction on the package.

  2. Peel the apple and cut it in cubes. Cut the onion in small pieces, drain the beans.

  3. Prepare hard-boiled eggs, cool down and cut in cubes.

  4. Add apple, onion, beans and eggs to the rice.

  5. Cut crab sticks in slices and add it to the mixture.

  6. Add mayonnaise, a little bit of salt and pepper to taste.

  7. For a more exotic touch, instead of beans and eggs add pineapple, cheese and celery.


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