Reforestation to Alleviate Poverty in Doi Tung, Pang Mahan, and Puna
- The Reforestation Project in commemoration of His Majesty the King FTP 33 at Pang Mahan Village, Mae Fah Luang district, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand
- The Tea Tree Oil Research and Development Project in partnership with Chaipattana Foundation at Puna Village, Mae Fah Luang district, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand
In 1989, the Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage and Royal Forest Department planted pine trees covering 7,328 hectares in Chiang Rai. Years passed, the land was seemingly restored to lush green forest, but the number and diversity of animals declined. Research found that the pine monoculture is not indigenous to the area, and most animals do not make this forest their home. The pine forest also aggravated forest fires. The foundation then attempted to adjust the forest conditions to be most similar to natural forests, allowing diverse plants to co-exist and grow naturally.
Poverty and limited opportunity are among the reasons why highland people deforest the land, causing severe impact on the ecology. The people thus invaded the forest to be used as their agricultural land. In 2005-2008, the Mae Fah Luang Foundation launched another Reforestation Project in commemoration of His Majesty the King in Pang Mahan, a neighboring area of Doi Tung in partnership with Siam Commercial Bank Plc.
The Pang Mahan Reforestation Project covers 2,242 hectares and is home to six hill tribes in 18 villages constituting a total of 7,639 people. Like Doi Tung, the Project was conducted based on His Majesty the King’s principle of “understand, reach out, and develop” and the Princess Mother’s principle “Cultivate Land, Cultivate People”, instilling the environmental conscience in the people in order to preserve the forest in a sustainable manner. Along with reviving the forest, the Project simultaneously developed the skills and people’s livelihood. In Pang Mahan, we adopted Assisted Tree Regeneration, the method of planting only species indigenous to the area. In addition to reforestation, extensive irrigation system was constructed to help preserving humidity. Other mechanisms to support the preservation of forest like building understanding, and taking vows to protect the forests.
Interview with M.R. Disnadda Diskul
“It was the people’s thorough understanding that drove themselves to stand up and protect the forest. I brought together 700 people from 27 villages and asked them to take vows not to burn or destroy the forest. The villagers have created community regulations among themselves on preventing the forest fire; no single forest fire took place ever since. All this could happen because the people had realized from the beginning what they can benefit from the forests and took on the initiative themselves. So rule of thumb is we have to make clear that their lives can be better but they have to take part in it.”
Poverty-Alleviation Reforestation, collaboration from all stakeholders, and continual lessons learned contributed to yet another successful reforestation in a shorter period of time, using lower cost, and delivering more benefits to the people and the environment. The people earn more income and have better livelihood as seen from an average income per family in the 18 villages, which was 18,611 baht per family in 2004, increased to 97,882 baht per family in 2008.
In 2006, Her Royal Highness Princess Mahachakri Sirindhorn asked the Mae Fah Luang Foundation to cooperate with Chaipattana Foundation on the Tea Tree Oil Research and Development Project at Puna Village, Terd Thai sub-district covering the area of 5,011 hectares.
The earlier reforestation models and lessons learned at Doi Tung and Pang Mahan were further refined to become the method of Natural Tree Regeneration or “reforestation without planting” based on the belief that nature heals itself. No new trees were planted. We protect the reserve forest from grazing, forest fire, and any kind of human interference within buffer lands. Along with human facilitation to let the forest grow naturally, we build economic forest as it can be a main source of income for the people. We then cultivate people, teaching them the values of nature preservation and livelihood skills. Only after a year of implementation, the forest was revived and 245 species of new plants were discovered.
This reforestation model resulted even faster and better than the methods used in Doi Tung and Pang Mahan and it was more cost-effectiveness as well.
Cultivating people is key to this Natural Tree Regeneration Model. The Project offered alternative livelihoods to the people by building economic forest and sustenance forest as the main source of their food and income. Average income per family was increased from 23,700 baht to 76,039 baht per family per year within 3 years.
Interview with Laota Lahoo, villager from San Muang Go village
“They taught us to nourish soil and designated the use of forest lands for us: the upstream areas for conservations forests while downstream areas for sustenance and economic forests. Plantation lands were also allocated for the people so not to trespass on the forest. Once the people understand the principle and have alternative legitimate choices, they will not destroy the forest anymore and turn to preserve it instead.
It is obvious that “cultivating people” as a means to help preserve the forest can lead to both environmental sustainability and human development.
“Trees should be first and foremost planted within the people’s heart. They will then move on to plant trees on the soil and nourish them on their own.”
His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej