Mae Fah Luang Foundation joined “Pa Khun Nan’s Forest Guardians Homage Ceremony” to preserve the forest through local beliefs
Since 2013, The Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage has been cooperating with local communities in Nan province on the project named “Replanting forests, Nurturing the people on the path of sufficiency, Preserving Watersheds and Reducing Floods” in three river basins: Sobsai River in Tha Wang Pha District, Upper Yao River in Song Kwai District and Upper Nan River in Chalerm Phrakiat District, covering an area of about 40,000 hectares.
In the past four years, the project has followed the royal initiatives of King Rama 9 through reforestation under the concept “Three forests, Four benefits” covering the area of about 15,650 hectares, building 3,500 check dams to retain water and maintain the moisture of the forest, preventing forest fires through community-initiated activities, such as creating a 141 kilometer-long firebreak, setting up 42 fire lookout towers, fire monitoring throughout the dry season by the local villagers, and implementing community regulations on the use and preservation of forests jointly by the 20 villages in the project area.
The outcome of this exercise is a sharp increase in forest cover in the river basins from 41% to 85%, a 99% decline in the number of forest fires after the activation of community rules in 2014. As a result, the Khun Nan Tambon Administrative Organisation was awarded first prize in the “Building a Better Nan while Preserving Watersheds Using Hotspot Indicators” in 2015.
In 2016, Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage will wind up this project in the belief that the reforestation efforts of the local communities will continue to be sustained, since they benefit directly from a higher income from produce of the economic forests. This means they no longer have to rely on shifting cultivation as before, thereby reducing the risk of forest fires from burning the crop residues to prepare the soil for cultivation, as well as preventing forest encroachment. The indirect benefit is a revived watershed ecosystem.
To mark the handover of the project from the Mae Fah Luang Foundation to the local community, a ceremony was held to pay homage to the forest guardians of Khun Nan. Included in the ceremony were sessions on about how to sustainably maintain the forest, and traditional rituals according to the ancient tribal beliefs of the people of Khun Nan sub-district, Chalerm Phrakiat district, Nan province. The ceremony helps the communities to respect and protect their forests for future generations, even though the Foundation’s role has come to an end.
The ceremony, which was held at Chao Pho Suea Shrine, Ban Huay Kan, Khun Nan sub-district, Chalerm Phrakiat district, Nan province, was attended by high-ranking government officials, local leaders, Mae Fah Luang’s Special Project Manager, representatives from forest protection units and watershed management units from Chalerm Phrakiat district, army and police forces, Khun Nan TAO officers, village heads or their representatives from 15 villagers, as well as 1,233 villagers. The ceremony concluded with a joint pledge to stop forest encroachment and burning, and continue to protect the forests throughout future generations.