Restrictions linked to the on-going coronavirus pandemic have devastated the taxi industry in Thailand. Many drivers left big cities to return to the villages they come from, so one Bangkok-based taxi company has transformed its fleet of idle cars into a giant vegetable garden.
"This is our last option. We need to grow vegetables on the roof of these taxis. We still have loans on some taxis, sometimes amounting to [about $21,000], that we took out in 2019 or 2020. These cars are just sitting here, so we figured we'd grow vegetables on them," explained Thapakorn Assawalertkun, the man who helps run the vegetable-growing Ratchaphruek Taxi Cooperative, in an interview with France 24.
Bangkok's taxi companies are heavily dependent on tourism, and the industry stalled as restrictions kept travelers at home throughout most of 2020. Some countries are gradually easing coronavirus-related travel bans, but the recovery has been slow and many drivers left to find work elsewhere, usually in the countryside. Assawalertkun said that the remaining employees all contributed money to start the garden.
The taxi fleet in Bangkok primarily consists of late-model Toyota sedans. Workers turned a Camry into a garden by spreading a plastic tarp over a bamboo frame and placing it on a flat panel, like the hood and the roof. Their crops include chili peppers, eggplants, and zucchini. They're raising frogs as well; putting an old tire on a tarp and filling it with water creates a makeshift aquarium that frogs can develop in.
Vegetables grown and frogs raised by the taxi company will be used to feed its employees. Assawalertkun hopes to sell the surplus to local food markets to help keep his company and its workers afloat until tourism resumes. In the meantime, the garden keeps everyone occupied.
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