Vulnerable households are not only those who are currently poor, but also those who are exposed to risks to become poor in the future. Rural agricultural households are perceived as being exceptionally vulnerable due to limited ability to cope with shocks and higher risks triggered by susceptible agricultural sector but it can also provide possibilities to cope with risks and shocks from other sectors. Understanding the characteristics of rural agricultural households provides a better insight to vulnerability to poverty and more efficient poverty reduction. To deal with this problem, 970 rural households were interviewed in 2007 in Ubon Ratchathani in Northeastern Thailand and found that 873 of them engage in some form of own-agricultural activity. Based on 873 (100%) rural agricultural households surveyed, about 7% depend on cropping and livestock production with support from remittances and public transfers, while the other 93% undertake more diversified occupation of on-farm activities simultaneously with off-farm, and/or non-farm activities to reduce the risk of income shortfall. However, roughly 30% of rural agricultural households are already caught in poverty whereas another one-third earn less than twice the provincial poverty line and thus can slip into poverty should an unexpected shock occur causing substantial income loss. Indeed, diverse types of shocks frequently occur in the area as 70% of rural agricultural households experienced at least one shock during the previous 5 years. These households were primarily affected by covariate shocks of flood and drought as well as idiosyncratic shocks of illness and death of household members. Regarding production system, half of the agricultural households engage primarily in cropping whereas the other half also raises livestock for commercial purposes. Approximately 60% of rural agricultural households report agriculture as main occupation of at least 60% of their active members. To construct a basis for modelling the rural agricultural households and their behaviour regarding effects of shocks and coping strategies, income, main production system and occupation are taken as major criteria and 8 typical farm types are identified. Statistical tests show significant differences in household size, allocation, yield and subsistence and commercial production.
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