How does ‘Mae Fah Luang Approach’ solve bald mountains: Part 1

If we thought about ‘Nan’, the northern province of Thailand, people will rewind their faded memory about the scenery of endless bald mountains. This area was the highest and fastest deforestation area in Thailand. People blamed those hill tribes as the destroyer of the forest.

King Bhumipol’s Philosophy’ and ‘Mae Fah Luang Approach’  think difference. His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej considered that those hill tribe cut the forest because they were lacking opportunity and being poor. We had to understand them first before helping them.

Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the Founder of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, addressed that hill tribe people were struggling in enormous pain, poverty and ignorance for centuries. No one don’t want to be bad, just lacking life’s opportunities. That was the beginning of a difference perspective which is diverse from the bureaucracy’s approach.


The hills in the area were denuded because of the destructive slash-and-burn technique of clearing land and excessive logging. Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra expressed her intention to reforest, upgrade the living standard of local people, provide them with more educational opportunities and public health services, and promote agricultural development in a systematic manner.

Royal Initiative Discovery Foundation and The Mae Fah Luang Foundation Under Royal Patronage were cooperated with the local by adopting ‘King Bhumipol’s Philosophy’ and ‘Mae Fah Luang Approach’ to deploy the afforestation project and sustainable alternative livelihood development. No one thought it would be successful because we have been fixing the poverty dilemma for decades.

As we’ve seen clearly from the past, we were far from archiving the main goal of afforestation projects which involved hundreds of agencies, circling around the same problem but never found a single outcome.

Why didn’t it work? Were there any alternative ways to solve the problem?

Royal Initiative Discovery Foundation embraced ‘King Bhumipol’s Philosophy’ and ‘Mae Fah Luang Approach’ to help the villagers stand firm for themselves by helping them survive in a sustainable life. At the same time, the forest has grown incredibly. Let’s see how they did.

It started in a very fragile and highly damaged area. The afforestation projects didn’t fix just one single village. The plan was designed to improve the whole basin area “The Great Basin of Nan” which is one of the most important watershed forest of Thailand, covering more than 68,000 acres, and Nan river provides water for almost 40% of Chao Phraya River.


The plan has been developed in a humble approach from a village to the next village without forcing villagers to change their way of life. The plan didn’t raid them out of the forest either. In contrary, the plan provided more options for them to seek more available chances to achieve the sustainability lifestyle which was a primary concern of ‘King Bhumipol’s Philosophy’ and ‘Mae Fah Luang Approach’

The focused problem of Nan was ‘Lua’, the hill tribe people in the north. They were poor, lacked knowledges and destroyed the forest as their habitual way of life. They burned the forest to clear the area for plantation. The more they’ve done, the more they’ve been facing the poverty. Those people lost trust in themselves. His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra saw this thorough clearly. Those people needed to be freed from the struggle in the void of hopeless.

“How could we help them stand on their own feet?” This is a first task of Royal Initiative Discovery Foundation had to fix it first. Most of the areas lacked of water for consumption and agriculture. Was it because of the absence of irrigation system? No. In some area there were the irrigation systems build by the central government. However, after the foundation team and villagers surveyed the area together. 90% of Check dams were destroyed and unusable for almost 30 years.



Never mind, they started it all over again by fixing and building these check dams for local agriculture. So, they developed water systems, ponds, water pipes, dams and water tanks. Hiring constructor wasn’t allow, so the villagers had to do these by themselves with materials and resources support from the foundation.

Finally, the significant change has occurred. Because the villagers used to spend all money to change thing around but since then they had to do things by themselves. The member of the villager must be involved in this process more than 70% if they wanted to proceed. According to the plan, their harmony was act as a key of success.

Then, the project send some materials to repair check dams and the villagers did the ground works. If they request large machines, the team of engineers and machines that they requested will be send along.

Doing things by their own hands, the villagers began to feel ownership toward what they had invested. This was the creation of participation and shared responsibility for the community. If these check dams were destroyed again in near future, the villagers will jointly repair by themselves without waiting any support from the authority.


Now, after the check dams were fully repaired. The water system in the villages runs back to normal and the villagers have more opportunities to begin rice terrace farming. They established various funding programs too, such as livestock fund, career fund and provide helps for each member in the community. Furthermore, they are earning more money from rice farming.

When the water is abundant, many farmers can plant corn seed in the lowland. Because the price is better than planting on the hillside from 800 baht per acre to 1,500 baht. They don’t have to return to their old habit again. The change occurred in slowly but steady pace.

That was how they solved urgent problem of surviving to gain more money but use less space for agriculture. Why we need more when everything is sufficed

Let’s see how ‘King Bhumipol’s Philosophy’ and ‘Mae Fah Luang Approach’ restored the forest back from the catastrophe in the next episode.


Producer’s Diaries

From the journey of Chanin Chamachote The producer of The Working Monarch