In 2006, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn asked the Mae Fah Luang Foundation to cooperate with Chaipattana Foundation, in partnership with Siam Commercial Bank Plc, on the Tea Tree Oil Research and Development Project at Terd Thai sub-district, Mae Fah Luang district, covering the area of 5,011 hectares. She recognized that tea tree oil was an economic plant with huge potential owing to a high market demand. She acquired sample seeds and saplings of tea tree (Camellia oleifera) from the People’s Republic of China which were planted in three trial plots in Pang Mahan and Puna villages.
The MFLF was responsible for the study and development of the quality and quantity of the yield, while the Chaipattana Foundation was responsible for the value-added processing and marketing under the brand PatPat.
The project helped to increase income for the communities – the annual family income increased over five-fold within five years – who were taught relevant skills from planting and nurturing to harvesting the seeds, and also how to manage land for mutual benefits. The project also helped to improve irrigation systems and occupation development that served to reduce household expenses and provide income in the short-, medium- and long-term as a sustainable alternative for local communities, allowing them to live in harmony with forests. They were also encouraged to protect the plantations by setting up a fire precaution system during the dry season, and growing banana trees as a natural fire break. Meanwhile, indigenous plants also increased by 245 species within one year.