After the villagers in Nan joined the afforestation project and sustainable alternative livelihood development, their struggling life, which was the main issue of deforestation and poverty, finally changed to a survived life. Forest conservation is possible more than ever. Here’s the second chapter of sufficient life.
Due to Mae Fah Luang Approach which was a result of Doitung development project or Doitung model was adapted to develop Nan’s watershed forest. The regulation of Doitung model is that each village has to conserve forest by these following models: 60% Conserve forest, 20% Economic forest, 8% Useable forest, 10% Agricultural zone, and 2% Residential area.
This guidance means the total forest area almost reached 88% which enough to bring back the forest to those bald mountains in Nan.
When the villagers’ life was stable enough, then, a time to bring this ratio to the real discussion commences. The villagers realized that, with the idea that brought from the foundation, they could earn more income but use less land area. Undoubtedly, that is why it wasn’t a hard decision for them to give back their land voluntary to become the conserved forest.
The foundation advised the villagers to plant more high economic value plants instead of corn, such as banana, coffee, or cashew nut. The villagers are allowed to plant grains while waiting for these crops to be harvested in the next season. Consequently, the villagers realized when their cashew nut earns 45 baht per kilogram while corn just worth 4 baht per kilo. They’ve seen the real comparison of what they’ve harvested.
By following this setup, the whole villages will reach an agreement. The next step is to identify the segments of each area with GPS technology by survey land area on foot in each plantation area. No matter how hard to reach or how far beyond their eyesight, the troop of GPS will reach there.
The troop consists with a village headmaster (as an official witness), a land neighbor (to confirm the border area), a soldier, a forestry officer, and an officer from Royal Initiative Discovery Foundation.
The property owner would lead the troop to his area by foot. When he makes corner turns, the GPS will mark a point on the digital map. So, the neighbors will witness this whole process to confirm their area won’t be crossed. It takes time and conducts with high alert not to violate the other land or give a fault information.
After the survey with GPS is finished. The team will write the details on printed map and whiteboard. These details include the name of the land owner, ID numbers, and location. The property owner would hold the whiteboard for taking a picture, and every witness in the troop will sign their name as acknowledgment evidence.
After things considered, everyone must obey the same rule. If someone tries to ignore by trespassing just 1 meter, they will have to give 3 or more acres of their land to the official.
Since then, the villagers would realize they have legalized ownership towards their land. They no need to be afraid that the state will seize their land anymore. Forest is the source of water that nourishes lives.
Baan Nam Chang, in Nan province, has been assisted by the request of village headmaster Kan Pangut in 2010. The villagers had been facing the pollution catastrophes for years. The headmaster said in those days; he only saw murky smog over the village days and nights. The engulfing fire burned the hill likes they have an endless festival.
After the villages submitted to the project, they could restore the forest area for more than 2,500 acres that surplus the fundamental requirement at 65% of conservation forest. They adjusted the area where corn was grown by high-value crops such as, banana, mulberry, and coffee that increase economic forest up to 20%. In the future, these economic forests will become greener and fertility again which is now we can see the beginning of change recently.
In conclusion, these stories of the villagers of Nan reflexed the ‘King Bhumipol’s Philosophy’ and ‘Mae Fah Luang Approach.’ People always say we couldn’t restore the forest back, but we can make a slight improvement in mindful approach.
I’ve seen the improvement in 4 – 5 years since the project started. There’s a better future waiting in Nan eventually. We can’t make everything back to normal before the devastation, but we can make people connect with the forest again.
From the journey of Chanin Chamachote The producer of The Working Monarch