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Integrated rural livelihood development model for Nan province based on Royal Initiative

Integrated rural livelihood development model for Nan province based on Royal Initiative



 Three districts of Ta Wang Pa, Song Kwae, and Chalermphrakiet  in Nan province covering 21 villages:


  • 3 Villages in Ta Wang Pa District: Nam Park, Huay Tanu, and Huay Muang covering 5,490 hectares
  • 3 Villages in Song Kwae District: Yod, Pa Lak and Nam Koh covering 7,105 hectares
  • 15 Villages in Chalermprakiet District: Piang Sor, Huay Fong, Sa Juuk, Sa Kiang, Buag Auum,


Huay Toey, Huay Karn, Ban Dan, Na Ku, Piang Kor, Huay Pood, Kew Chan, Nam Ree Pattana, Nam Chang Pattana, and Buag Ya covering 27,404 hectares




Project Duration:


Ta Wang Pa and Song Kwae Districts: June 2009 – August 2011


Chalermphrakiet District: September 2010 – August 2011


  • Development principles and Project Implementation by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation Under Royal Patronage 
  • Funding and coordination from the Royal Initiative Discovery Institute
  • Body of Knowledge from several Royal Initiative projects, namely Sa Juuk- Sa Kiang Highland Agricultural Development Station Under the Royal Initiative of Her Majesty the Queen
  • Collaboration with provincial and local governments of Thailand, namely the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives; civil society organizations, namely the Hug Muang Nan Foundation, and the private sector

Why Nan Province?

Nan Province is one of the most important watershed and biodiversity areas of Thailand; it contributes to as much as 45 percent of the water in the Chao Phraya River, so called the country’s main vein. However, 85 percent of the province’s area is steep mountains which are not suited to agricultural production. The lack of flat agricultural land has led to the need for illegal slash-and-burn shifting cultivation. Also, lack of knowledge had put villagers into an increased dependency on pesticides and chemical fertilizers, which damage soil and affect people’s health as well as the environment. Drought is common in the summer. However, in the rainy season, heavy rainfall running off deforested steep slopes causes flooding and landslides, affecting several provinces in central Thailand.

What we do in Nan?

Generally, the Mae Fah Luang development approach is phased into 3 stages: survival, sufficiency, and sustainability; this project from June 2009 – August 2011 was heavily focused on the first two stages of survival and sufficiency to improve the livelihood of the community through basic infrastructure development such as irrigation, agriculture, and livestock. Key objectives included increasing food security, reducing household expenses, and generating income through rural development activities. This way, no new debt was incurred whereas the existing debts were gradually repaid, which would eventually enable villagers to escape the debt cycle. The development activities could be summarised as follows:  

  • Irrigation System Improvement

The baseline survey of water resources in the area, conducted by the project staff and the villagers, showed that there was plenty amount of water but management was lacking. The existing weirs and water pipes had been underused and not connected to villagers’ agricultural plots. To maximize the existing resources, a comprehensive irrigation system was ensured, built and repaired upon where was needed, to direct water from the resources to the plots. The construction plans, supplies, and all the know-how required were provided by the Project whereas the local people put in their labor to construct check dams, weirs and reservoirs. This way, the know-how and a sense of ownership were instilled in the local people who would later take charge of maintenance activities. This improved system of weirs and canals has allowed farmers to grow rice twice a year as well as post-harvest crops.

  • Soil Improvement

Before the project, the soil in the area had been tested to be demineralized, resulting in low crop yield and widespread deforestation for more cultivation land. The solution was terraced rice paddy fields with appropriate irrigation system. The terraces—with appropriate  irrigation system—have increased rice production per unit of land, hence requiring less cultivation land and bringing about more forest area.

  • Economic Reforestation

A bank of economic plants was founded to provide the local people with seedlings such as sugar palm, rattan, and eaglewood. Concurrent with this is the construction of conservation weirs or check dams which help decrease water flow rate and soil erosion, as well as reserve humidity in the area. This initiative has helped create long-term income for the local people and revive the forest, creating co-existence between man and nature. The plants from this fund are projected as raw materials for further downstream value-adding activities.

  • Holistic livestock Bank

For villagers in the target area, livestock are their assets. Before the Project, livestock’s mortality rate was very high, leaving the villagers little meat as food and no extra meat for sale. The villagers had to spend a lot of money buying food from outside. Aiming to increase livestock quantity and quality, we established a livestock bank providing comprehensive services: livestock, husbandry knowledge, feed and medicines, including capacity building for villagers on livestock management, improving animal health and nutrition, and breed improvement. This livestock bank has reduced economic vulnerability since the villagers raise these livestock as food, and earn incomes from selling extra meat. 

  • Value-Adding Revolving Fund

The idea of value-adding revolving funds is to build on villagers’ livelihood skills. For example, the Project develops handicraft production and mullilam chilli paste in Ta Wang Pa district. These skills are already indigenous; the Project role was to support product development and marketing. Another example is corn mill revolving fund in Song Kwae District where the Project provided machines for the villagers to operate by themselves. 



What Do the People Get?


In 2009, the cultivation area in the three project sites covered 350.7 hectares but expanded to become 569 hectares in 2010 due to the improved soil quality and irrigation systems. Rice production increased  to 1,826 ton per year, enough for year round consumption. Moreover, villagers are able to grow post-harvest crops such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts, earning them more income to pay back old debts. Food security and stable income have been made possible through the economic forest, livestock bank, and other revolving funds.


The most obvious social transformation is capacity building in both individual and community levels. To elaborate, 52 village representatives trained with our project staff are now equipped with knowledge, leadership, and teamwork skills. This aligns with the Foundation’s development philosophy of “helping them to help themselves”. As more livelihood options are available, the local people who had moved to work in big cities for better opportunity have returned to their hometown, bringing the family back together.


It generally takes a few years for environmental activities to take shape. However, many projects instill the environment conscious in people and in community. For example building conservation weirs help to decrease water flow rate and soil erosion reserve humidity in the area which in turn, allows better regeneration of plants. Rice field terrace and seed bank allows the villagers to utilize cultivating land and to stop forest invading. Growing sustenance and economic forest instills the sense of co-existing with nature.

Project Transfer

To strengthen a sense of ownership among the community, an essential factor to the sustainability of the Project, the Mae Fah Luang Foundation transferred all activities to the community on August 30, 2011. All the 52 village representatives trained with our project staff continue to work in the area with the support of the Royal Initiative Discovery Institute. The Village Committees have been established to manage the community irrigation system, seed bank, livestock bank, value-adding revolving fund and the forest.

Today, the Project is one of the study visit sites under MFLF Living University program that attracts thousands of visitors year round. Once small villages in the remote areas of Thailand, the community has become a place where knowledge of sustainable alternative livelihood development are exchanged and transferred among eager visitors and the villagers with first-hand experience.