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Thailand - Trang Province - Taking Back the Mangroves with Community Management
- Author: Amanda Suutari
- Posted: May 2006
- Editorial contributions: Gerry Marten
- Feedback Analysis of the Thailand Community Mangrove Story by Gerry Marten
- This story was published in Earth Island Journal
- This in-depth ETP story features a Photogallery
- An update on this story (January 2010) - "Report on field visits to Yadfon Association’s working areas in Trang Province, Thailand" by Chalita Bundhuwong
Three decades ago, the resources of coastal fishing villages in Trang Province in southern Thailand were being assaulted on all sides, from trawlers trespassing into their fishery to charcoal concessionaires clearing their mangrove forests. As catches fell, desperate fishers were drawn into further impacting their fishery by using destructive fishing methods and gear, by working on trawlers or by clearing the remaining mangroves. Yadfon, a small development organization, began working with villagers to protect their mangrove forests, which triggered a regeneration of their society, economy and fishery.
Sometimes called ‘rainforests by the sea’, mangroves cover one-quarter of the world’s tropical and subtropical coastline, extending between 190 and 240 thousand square kilometers in 117 countries and territories in Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Indonesia has the largest area of mangrove forests, followed by Nigeria, Australia, Mexico and Malaysia.
The diverse mangrove ecosystems occupy two worlds, acting as an interface between land and sea. They thrive in the brackish inter-tidal zones of sheltered tropical shores, estuaries, river mouths, and even deep inland in the riverbanks’ fringes. The trees range in size from small bushes to trees up to forty meters high depending on the species and growing conditions. In the the region where this case is located there are some 70 species of mangrove. As the mangrove trees’ specially adapted aerial roots filter salt that is then excreted by the leaves, they are able to colonize saline wetlands where other life doesn’t survive.
Mangroves are important to humans in fundamental ways. First, they are vital for healthy coastal ecosystems which in turn support healthy fisheries. The fallen leaves and branches provide nutrients for a vibrant marine environment that supports a large variety of marine and terrestrial life. They are refuges and nurseries for juvenile fish, crabs, shrimp, and mollusks. They, and the flora found in mangrove forests, are prime nesting sites for migratory birds, and home to other species such as monkeys, sea turtles, mudskippers and monitor lizards.
Another important function of mangroves is to increase the resilience of the coastlines, protecting them from erosion, tropical storms and tidal waves. The trees and bushes trap sediment washing from the land, thereby protecting the seagrass beds and coral reefs from siltation. Mangroves co-exist with a wide variety of other plant life allowing them to function as a ‘supermarket’ stocked with fruits, honey, fuelwood, medicinal plants and construction material among other useful products.
But mangroves are among the most threatened habitats in the world, and their rate of disappearance is accelerating due to conversion of coastal lands for development, charcoal production, tourism, or the controversial practice of shrimp aquaculture. From 1975 to 1993, it is estimated that about half of Thailand’s mangroves along its 2,560 kilometer coastline have been lost.
Trang Province is one of 76 provinces in Thailand. It is located in the middle of southern Thailand and includes 190 kilometers of coastline on the Andaman Sea and 46 islands offshore.
Its coasts are home to 65,000 fishing households. The inland region is mostly hilly. Two mountain ranges, the Khao Luang and Banthat, are the sources of its two major rivers, the 125 km long Trang and the 58 km long Paliam. Both drain into the Andaman sea. Nearly all of Thailand’s Muslim population is concentrated in the southern provinces.
Although 20 % of Trang province’s population is Muslim, the fishing villages where Yadfon works are 80% Muslim. Since 2004, the southernmost region of Thailand, part of which borders Trang Province, has seen a revival of a Muslim insurgency which began in the 1970s and died down in the 1990s. The movement has links to some of the larger Muslim separatist groups such as Jemaah Islamiah and the Free Aceh Movement. Thailand’s Muslim minority often complains of discrimination and lack of opportunities, less access to education and basic services.
In Trang province, most of the Muslim population lived in the fishing villages of the Sikao and Kantang districts along the coast. Up until the 1960s, these villages mainly subsisted on their once rich coastal fisheries in addition to other activities such as rubber tapping and some herding of goats and cows. They depended on the mangrove forests for medicinal plants and materials such as thatch for housing and fishing gear. However, in the 1960s, the villages’ natural and social capital was seriously undermined by the broad range of effects into motion by the mechanization of fishing. Large trawlers began fishing the coasts of southern Thailand, violating the 3km coastal zone and encroaching on the villagers fishing grounds. Their fishing gear and destructive methods damaged coral, scraped the seabed, and cleared out young fish which had not yet reproduced. But villagers were afraid to confront trawlers, given their powerful government (and assumed organized crime) connections.
At the same time, mangrove forests were opened up to concessionaires who began clearing them to make charcoal briquettes for barbecues. While the Forestry Act of 1941 had granted the private sector the right to log mangroves, in 1968, the concession system was expanded to allow concessionaires the right to harvest an area of 2,500-5,000 rai (400—800 hectares) of mangrove forest each year. The method stipulated by the government was that one strip was clear-cut, replanted, and the next year a new strip would be logged and replanted, and so on. In reality this was not followed and usually the entire concession would be logged immediately. This not only denied villagers the benefits of their common resources, but also left them to deal with all the costs of their decimation.
Meanwhile, some of the poorest villagers saw no other option than to accept low-paid, cash jobs, cutting mangroves for concessionaires or fishing on commercial trawlers. This in effect forced them to join in the destruction of their own resource base while remaining dependent on and exploited by those responsible for the destruction in the first place. Villagers also began clearing the mangroves themselves, with the attitude that ‘if I don’t cut them, someone else will’. This offers insight into one reason why subsistence communities destroy their own resource base. Because the clearing eroded their subsistence economy, the villagers became dependent on cash, which they looked for through two sources: either by working for the concessionaires, or by illegally logging the forests themselves. While they knew that what they were doing was clearly suicidal, the logic was something like, ‘why should they profit off our trees instead of us?’ or, ‘we should sell these remaining forests before they do’.
Women began to look for unskilled, low-paid work in factories, leaving children behind with aging grandparents in the village, further undermining the social fabric. As the fisheries declined, fishers had to go further out to find fish and spent more hours in their boats. To survive they resorted to more destructive methods to find dwindling numbers of fish, using dynamite, cyanide and pushnets. Pushnets are large nets attached by long poles at the bow of the boat, which, as the boats moved forward, scrape the ocean floor, damaging sea grass beds, coral reefs and other marine habitats. Moreover, the fishers faced the added burden of investing in higher-cost fishing gear in order to ‘keep up’ with others in the race for dwindling fish. Some began selling off land. In effect, these coastal communities were caught in a trap where day-to-day survival strategies eliminated or reduced their future options, and the result was a self-reinforcing downward spiral into increasing poverty, and social and environmental degradation.
In 1985, Pisit Charnsnoh, and his Ploenjai founded a small organization called Yadfon, which means ‘raindrop’ in Thai. Yadfon worked with impoverished coastal villagers in the province. Through their earlier work in various rural development projects, Charnsnoh noticed that the richer Thailand became, the more poverty increased.
They first visited the village of Ban Leam Markham in the Muang district (‘Ban’ means ‘village’ in Thai.) Over the next few months they talked to Bu Nuansri, the local imam, and the villagers. Conversations with villagers led them to identify and prioritize some things that were badly needed. Since the village was affected by droughts in the dry season, a plan was made to dig a community well. Yadfon provided the cement and other cheap materials while villagers made the design and provided the labor. Yadfon and the villagers also created a cooperative buying program. This enabled the fishers to buy fishing gear and engines for their boats and sell their daily catch at fair market prices, thereby reducing their dependence on middlemen. Before they had to trade fish to pay off debts owed to the middlemen who inevitably set the prices lower than fair market value.
Another economic project created a revolving fund available to the poorest, most indebted villagers. This helped them get small interest-free loans to set up small income generation projects such as small-scale aquaculture. They cultivated mussels, oysters, and grouper in small floating pens. At 80% the rate of repayment was very high. Additionally, their increase in income was an incentive for them to contribute part of their profits to the common village funds. While some of these projects brought mixed results, the importance of these experiments was the emergence of leaders in the villages, which was to become more important for later projects.
While these activities were being set up, villagers came up with the idea of reviving the badly degraded mangrove forests around the villages of Leam Markham and Thung Dase. In 1986, with Yadfon staff as the go-between, village representatives met with the Provincial forestry authorities whose permission was needed to create a community managed forest. A group of villages led by Bo Nuasri, established 95 hectares of community forest which covered Leam Markham and neighboring villages to create a 235-acre community-managed forest and sea-grass conservation zone, the first of its kind in Thailand. Boundaries of the zones were clearly marked on signs. No-fishing areas were created, and the practice of cyanide and dynamite were discouraged and pushnets banned. The network also petitioned the government to enforce the 3-km ban on trawlers. Sea grass was replanted in the lagoon, and mangrove seedlings were planted in degraded areas of the forest. The boundaries of the forest were clearly marked, and zones were divided up for different uses. During this time an inter-village network emerged that began meeting, sharing information and exchanging ideas.
Community mangrove forests (CMFs) are the cornerstone of Yadfon’s work with villages. Today, there are about ten CMFs modeled after Leam Markham, ranging in size from 12 to 700 hectares. Each forest is managed by the group of villages surrounding or depending on the forest. There are some 10-20 people on community forest managing committees, representing 80-200 families. Villages range in size from 600-1500 people. While each forest has its own rules of management, none of them allows shrimp farms within forest boundaries. There is general agreement that shrimp farms are dangerous to the mangroves, although there are many shrimp ponds government-managed forests. Over the years, the village managed mangrove forests have begun regenerating, and the coastal fishery has revived. Villages that are already managing CMFs have been active in advising those villages with newer community managed forests or those who want to create one.
Southern Thailand’s sunny, clear, inshore waters beyond the mangrove zone are ideal conditions for the lush seagrass which provide ‘pastures’ for fish, crabs, prawns, mollusks, and most importantly, dugongs. The dugong was abundant in these large expanses of seagrass along Thailand’s southern shores, until pushnets and intrusion by trawlers began to damage the ocean floor. Gill nets, pollution, noise, and habitat destruction are blamed for the 75 dead dugongs which washed onto the districts’ shores between 1979 and 1998. When a dugong began to frequent the coastal waters along the regenerated sea grass bed of Ban Chao Mai village in 1995, it caused a stir in the media. Live dugongs had not been seen in a long time, and most young people had never seen one. The dugong, nicknamed Tone, being from a popular, ‘cute’ species, was instrumental in consolidating government support for the seagrass protections zones. They are mainly protected by government regulation in combination with village cooperation. For Yadfon, the dugong became a flagship for conservation in the area, and in Trang the dugong image can be seen on municipal property such as garbage cans.
Other Yadfon Projects
Education: Yadfon puts heavy emphasis on education, for both children and adults. Adult education is set up as a cooperative, interactive learning process. For example, large laminated photos of various plants found in the mangrove ecosystem are shown to villagers. The Yadfon teachers and the villagers share their knowledge about their uses, benefits, where they are found, and most importantly, their status. Is the plant increasing or decreasing, and if so, why? In this process, villagers often develop their own insights about disappearing resources, or rebounding ones, and are able to connect these changes to activities in the village or in the surrounding areas. This participatory process has been found to be a much more powerful learning tool than being lectured to by outsiders telling them ‘This or that species is disappearing. You have to protect it.’
School children are very much involved with the conservation process, and teachers do projects with them surveying and documenting the species of flora in the mangrove forests, and marking certain areas so they can record changes over time. School children also participate in planting seedlings. Schools are a focal point of community events.
Income generation: Village women’s groups have begun income generation projects using forest products to make handicrafts such as baskets, purses and glasses cases. Some of these products are sold through Yadfon’s channels (see photos). This has not only been an incentive to preserve the forest but also to refurbish and strengthen the local handicraft and artisanal traditions. In almost every village which has worked with Yadfon there is a women’s cooperative. The cooperatives generate funds to supplement household incomes and provide insurance during the monsoon when fishers cannot go out in their boats.
Extension work: As Yadfon worked on coastal regions, it began to realize that what happened inland in the mountains, forests, and both fresh and brackish wetlands, also affected the coasts. They slowly began moving upstream, focusing on preserving watersheds and key species such as the palms that are crucial to the villagers’ livelihood. The leaves of the Nypa palm, for example, are used to roll cigarettes, and the Sago palm, dominant in brackish wetlands, not only is an important food source, it also provides material for roof thatch, and is an important forest covering for water catchments.
Scaling up (Regional, National, Global): While Yadfon is small and focuses on the local region, it has been active at the national policy level, and in the international movement to preserve mangroves and stop shrimp farming. One of its most pressing political campaigns is to lobby for the Community Forest Act. This Act grants villages who properly manage their lands the right to continue to live and harvest their livelihood from them even if the land falls within a national park. With the support of Yadfon and other organizations, public forums have been held around the country to allow input from villagers. The act was written up by farmers and fishers around the country. When it was brought to parliament, the Act was unanimously accepted by the lower house. But when it was sent to the upper house, amendments were made which were deemed unacceptable to many of the act’s writers as it shifted power away from the user groups. The lower house held its ground and refused the changes. A compromise is currently in negotiation.
In 1992, Yadfon co-founded the Mangrove Action Project, an international network of some 800 conservation groups and academics from 60 countries working to conserve and promote mangrove conservation. It also co-founded the Industrial Shrimp Action Network which educates consumers on the impact of the shrimp market on poor fishing communities around the world.
Community Dynamics: An important by-product of the communally managed forest and related projects is the transformation of the passive, apathetic attitude among villagers to a newfound sense of engagement, solidarity, and confidence. Through the process, villagers are rediscovering their traditional ways of working together.
In a report on Yadfon on the Mangrove Action Project website, Pisit states that locals have knowledge, but no opportunities to share it. However, as the unity of villagers developed, leaders began to emerge, and the talents of others began to ‘shine’. This gave them the confidence and opportunity to develop further. Until they sit down together and then with others from other regions, they don’t know that these are shared problems. They may not have a sense that their problems are actually a symptom of much larger changes affecting not only fishing villages in the region, but other regions and other countries.
Successes have given villagers the confidence that they have the power to help themselves instead of perceiving themselves as victims of an unfair system, waiting for the government to rescue them from their lot. Shared successes have motivated villagers to seek other creative ways to improve their lives. Investing their time in building assets as a group has given them a sense of ownership. They now have the incentive to band together to protect these shared assets from outside interests. Fishers have begun confronting trawlers who violate the 3km coastal zone, something they never did before. A local corporation spilled poisonous palm oil into a local waterway, killing a large number of fish. The villagers carefully recorded information about the spill, including fish mortalities, documented it with photos and presented this evidence to provincial authorities. Eventually the company was forced to pay compensation to 100 families for the loss of the fish.
Normally, 40-60% of villagers participate in projects, but this is enough to generate results.
The Feedback Loops and Transition from Vicious to Virtuous Cycle
Vicious cycle: The negative tip came about with the invasion of the primary communal resources by commercial interests seen in the mechanization of fishing, and the appearance of the charcoal concessionaires in the mangrove forests. Both of these things happened in about the same time frame. The destruction of mangroves and the incursion of large trawlers into the fishing areas caused the number and variety of fish to decrease. To compensate for this, fishers began using more destructive fishing methods, spending more time on the water, and going out further. Dynamite, cyanide and pushnets further damaged the coral reefs and seagrass beds which marine animals needed to survive. Loss of mangroves also opened the coral reefs and seagrass beds to erosion and siltation.
The economy began to change from subsistence to cash-dependent. People went out of the villages to find work as day laborers, in factories, on large trawlers, or on concessions cutting mangroves. This, plus the reduced amount of time fishers were spending in the villages, had a negative impact on the social and cultural fabric. Increasingly impoverished villagers lost their sense of control and shared ownership over the mangroves, and clearing them was a way for them to get income before any outsiders did.
Virtuous cycle: The exact chronological chain of events is not clear, but the positive tipping point appears to be the creation of the communally managed mangrove forests. This derived from Yadfon’s work to improve the lives of fishers by reviving the coastal fisheries, of which the mangroves and seagrass beds were an integral part.
When villages began creating community mangrove forests and seagrass beds, the web of effects were in large part a reversal of the negative tip. The fisheries began to recover. A study frequently cited found that from 1991-1994 in a target group of 500 families from these villages, the total catch rose by 40%, the fishers were not going out as far and so spent 3-4 hours fewer in their boats, and their net income increased by 200%. By spending less time in their boats, they also saved on gas. Using simple wooden traps or nets, children can catch crabs in the mangroves and earn 250-300 baht in an afternoon. This was once a day’s earnings cutting mangrove trees. Villagers can also collect clams at 1 baht per clam. In the past, a day’s work cutting down mangroves would earn 120 baht. This means villagers could now make more money fishing or catching crabs or clams than if they worked for concessionaires.
Unexpected benefits also accrued. The regenerated seagrass beds attracted a threatened species, the Dugong. This became a national symbol for coastal conservation throughout Thailand, attracting needed media attention to the work of the villagers and Yadfon. (It should be noted that there has been no evidence that the numbers of dugong have risen, because there is no baseline data on numbers before YF began working in the region). Unity among villagers increased not only because urban migration was reduced but because villagers had learned—or re-learned--how to work together, how to take control over their fate, and more importantly, how to stand up to outside commercial interests. These outside interests might be even stronger today than twenty years ago due to acceleration of the forces driving ‘development’ and globalization, and possibly because the increased richness of their fishery has attracted trawlers. However, villagers are also better equipped to protect their shared assets because they have invested their time and energy regenerating them. While villagers associated with Yadfon have not completely resisted the allure of shrimp farming, they do not allow farms inside their community mangrove forests. As the work of the villagers became publicized and Yadfon’s profile increased, visitors such as the media, delegations from other villages, domestic and foreign NGO’s and government officials, have come to visit the villages. This has emboldened villagers, bolstered their pride and strengthened their resolve.
Known as ‘pink gold’, shrimp farming is the ultimate ‘boom and bust’ economic activity. It receives active support from various multilateral aid and lending agencies, despite the fact that the activity rarely meets their own stated ecological and social standards. It is a gambler’s dream: it brings high returns in the beginning, largely because initial inputs such as chemicals, feed, energy, and water are subsidized. However, as time goes on, mounting contamination of the soil, increasing costs and diminishing returns force farmers to abandon the ponds after a few years. They then move to pristine coastline elsewhere and start all over again. They leave behind a land and fishery which may take years to recover, if ever.
A fundamental problem with shrimp farming is that it has been introduced prematurely on an industrial scale. It is really still in its research and design phase. Shrimp aquaculture is water-intensive, often diverting freshwater supplies from neighboring villages. The ponds’ effluent is discharged into the rich brackish water ecosystem where the mangroves grow. It is laden with salt and chemical sludge from fertilizer, antibiotics, larvicides, shrimp feed and excrement. It has a huge negative impact on the fisheries on which the communities depend. Eventually, the area becomes so contaminated that after a few years the ponds self-destruct, leaving the environment, and the villagers, worse off than before. The shrimp ponds rarely generate significant benefits for the local communities especially as they bear disproportionate environmental and social costs when the shrimp farmers move on. Most shrimp farms follow this pattern of serial degradation all over the coasts of South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and recently Africa.
While it is widely recognized that mangrove forest soil is too acidic for farming, the mangroves themselves are good filters for wastewater, which is why many farms are llocated just behind them. Recently governments are recognizing the value of mangroves, especially since the tsunami in December, 2004. It was very clear that the devastation on more heavily forested coastlines was much less severe than on coasts which had been cleared. Still, mangrove forests are seen as dispensable wastelands ripe for conversion to make way for the exploding shrimp industry. Global shrimp production has risen from 26 thousand tons in the 1970’s to 100,000 tons in the 1980s, to over 700,000 tons in 1995. Japan’s import of shrimp has risen from 29% in 1981 to 46% in 1991. Thailand is the world’s biggest farmed shrimp exporter, with one in three originating from the Kingdom. The US and Japan are the biggest importers taking two-thirds of the global market share. The remainder is divided up between other foreign markets and luxury domestic markets.
In 1999, a team led by economist Suthawan Sathirathai did a study on a coastal village in Surathani province, southern Thailand, to compare the monetary value of mangroves versus shrimp farms. Using conventional measures and assigning only cash values for products, it found that shrimp farms brought higher returns, at US$ 3,734 per rai for the shrimp farms and $ 666 for the mangroves. However, the results changed dramatically when they included the indirect values of the mangrove forest and looked at the longer term. A monetary value was assigned to mangrove services such as nurseries for fish and plants, and protection from erosion and storms. Then the five-year time limit when shrimp farm profits begin to fall was factored in, and the 15 years that must pass before restocking is possible. With these calculations the value of the mangrove forest rises to $5,771, nearly double that of shrimp aquaculture.
Even then, the social costs and the human rights issues are not included in these figures. Incidents of displacement of entire coastal fishing communities—sometimes forcible—to make way for farms, are widely documented. Some of the more vocal opponents of the practice have been threatened and even killed by agents of the owners. Lastly, there are health concerns for the consumer who may be affected by the presence of antibiotics and other chemicals in the farmed shrimp.
Yadfon has campaigned against shrimp farming through the International Shrimp Action Network. Unfortunately, Pisit says, many forces are feeding the expansion of the industry. There is pressure on developing nation governments to increase foreign exchange reserves and open up markets; on impoverished villagers to lease or sell off land to companies; and the lack of legal protection of villagers’ land rights. Many villages Yadfon works with do have some shrimp ponds, much of which is on land owned, or at least claimed by, the government. Fortunately, creating CMFs has helped to keep shrimp ponds out of the mangrove forests. They are now locating them slightly inland, with the effluent being dumped into a second ‘holding tank’ for at least two weeks before being dumped into the canal. The canals drain into mangrove lined canals and eventually into the coastal waters. While this still impacts the ecosystem, it is far less destructive than clearing mangroves to make ponds directly on the coastal waters.
****1 hectare=6.2 rai, or 2.5 rai=1 acre
Feedback Analysis of the Thailand Community Mangrove Story
The expansion of commercial aquaculture and charcoal production into coastal mangrove forests (estuaries), along with expansion of commercial trawling in the region, formed a negative tipping point that set in motion vicious cycles degrading the estuaries and adjacent near-shore fisheries:
- Deterioration of the estuaries led to deterioration of the nearshore marine ecosystem because (1) estuaries serve as nurseries for many near-shore fish species and (2) they protect coral from sedimentation by filtering sediment from rivers as they flow through the estuary. Illegal intrusion of trawlers into near-shore fishing grounds added to the decline in the fishery. To catch enough fish, fishermen were forced to use destructive fishing methods such as dynamite and poisons, leading to further decline of the fishery.
- As fishermen were less and less able to catch enough fish to support them as full-time fishermen, they had to work in charcoal production, aquaculture, or on trawlers, contributing even further to the decline.
- As the mangrove forests deteriorated, the estuaries provided smaller quantities of products such as crabs, construction materials, and medicinal plants for local consumption, reducing the commitment of local people to maintaining the estuaries and increasing their tolerance of commercial activities that were damaging them.
The positive tipping point was the establishment of community mangrove management, which reversed the vicious cycles, transforming them into virtuous cycles:
- Healthier estuaries improved the health of the adjacent marine ecosystems, increasing fish stocks. It was less necessary for fishermen to use destructive methods. Fish stocks increased even further.
- As fish stocks increased, fishermen left their jobs in charcoal production, aquaculture, or trawling to return to fishing. Charcoal production, aquaculture, and trawling declined, contributing to recovery of the fishery.
- As the estuaries returned to health, they provided more products for local consumption, increasing the commitment of local people to the estuaries, reducing their tolerance of commercial activities that were damaging the estuaries, and ultimately contributing further to recovery of the estuaries.
- New virtuous cycles were formed as “success bred success.” Community management became stronger and more effective as experience and commitment increased. For example, once organized, the community successfully lobbied the government to keep trawlers out of their fishing grounds, contributing further to recovery of the fishery.
- Barbier, Edward B. And Suthawan Sathirathai. Shrimp Farming and Mangrove Loss in Thailand. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., UK, 2004.
- Martinez-Alier, Joan. “Ecological Conflicts and Valuation: Mangroves vs Shrimp in the late 1990s.” Research paper. Department of Economics and Economic History, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, 2001.
- Berlin Snell, Marylin. “No Empty Boats: A Thai conservationist helps fishermen prosper.” Sierra Magazine, January/February 2003, pp. 16-20.
- Ong Ju Lynn. “One With Mother Nature.” The Star Online: Malaysia News. September 2, 2003.
- Cunningham, Susan. “A Raindrop Cleans the Wetlands.” Changemakers Journal Archives, 1998.
- Quarto, Alfredo. “Local Community Involvement in Mangrove Rehabilitation: Thailand’s Yadfon.” (From W. Streever, ed. An International Perspective on Wetland Rehabilitation, pp. 139-142. Kluwer Academic Publishers, the Netherlands, 1999.)
- Yadfon staff, including Pisit and Ploenjai Charsnoh, and Kowit Pongchabapnapa
Report on field visits to Yadfon Association’s working areas in Trang Province, Thailand
EcoTipping Points follow-up reports are directed at EcoTipping Point cases that (a) have been exceptionally successful and (b) have a substantial number of replications. The purpose of the questions below is to determine what can be learned from detailed study of the replication experience.
Read other follow-up reports:
- Replications of Punukula Example to Other Villages in Andhra Pradesh, India
- Replication of Apo Island’s Example to Other Villages in the Philippines
- Summary of Reconnaissance for an In-Depth Study of Agroforestry and Community Forests in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand
Chalita Bundhuwong visited Yadfon in July 2009 to get an update on what has happened with spreading the initial successes in Ban Leam Markham and Ban Thung Dase to other villages. She talked with Yadfon leaders who have been involved since the very beginning. She also visited villages that have shown varying degrees of success in adopting the Yadfon model – some highly successful, some “typical”, and others not so successful – and talked with village leaders to learn why the replication has been more successful in some places than others. The report below represents the first step in a larger study by the EcoTipping Points Project to identify what it takes to successfully leverage a turnabout from environmental and social decline to restoration and sustainability.
During June 22-24, 2009, I visited Yadfon Association (YA) in Trang Province, Thailand. On July 22, I did a formal interview with Pisit Chansanoa and Pleanjai Chansanoa, the couple who founded YA. I also interviewed two of Yadfon’s staff, a man who has been working with Yadfon for 15 years and a young lady who has been working with Yadfon for 3 years.
On July 23-24, Yadfon’s staff took me to six communities to talk with community leaders. The communities we visited are mainly replication sites which YA has been working with during the past 15 years. Yadfon was founded and started working on its model sites in 1982 and started working on its replication sites in 1993. Because of the monsoon season and time limit, we were not be able to visit Yadfon’s model sites, which mainly are on islands or coastal areas that can be accessed only by boat.
We went to sites located in different parts of the ecosystem (Trang and Palean watershed ecosystem). YA sees that it cannot work only on coastal areas or only with small-scale fishermen, because each part of the ecosystem–water source forest, freshwater wetland, brackish water, and coastal area–are sub-ecosystems which are closely connected to each other. YA also wants to support the network of people living in each part of the ecosystem in Trang Province to encourage communities’ rights in natural resource management.
I mainly did focus group interviews with the leaders of each community. There were around 3-6 leaders–both females and males–joining us each time. During the visits, I had a chance to talk to Yadfon staff who were working in each area. I also had a chance to walk through the villages.
Here is the list of the sites we visited:
- Ban Lumkanun (Lumkanun village) is a village in the upland area, the water source of the Trang and Palean Rivers. Villagers here are faced with demarcation of the national park on their lands by the Royal Department of Forestry. Villagers are trying to conserve the forest by doing ecologically friendly farming and ecotourism.
- Lumchan canal community is in Nayong Sub-District. This site is in a freshwater wetland area. The group is conserving sago forest along the canal. The sago forest here had been destroyed because of both governmental development projects and the new round of rubber and oil palm expansions. The decrease of sago palm forest is related to the decrease of paddy farming, which has been replaced by the expansion of rubber and oil palm.
- Ban Pakpron-oak (Pakpron-oak village) is located in a brackish water area. People in this village are having difficulty caused by shrimp aquaculture. Shrimp aquaculture not only destroys the coastal environment, but also puts people deeply in debt ($30,000 per household). Now they are trying to find other ways to earn a living that do not degrade environment, for example, reverting deserted shrimp farm areas to mangrove palm areas. Mangrove palms (especially palms’ leaves) used to be a traditional plant which people could sell and use in their everyday lives without any cost.
- Ban Tung Tase (Tung Tase village), where people are working on community mangrove forest and community seashell reserved area.
- Ban Leam (Leam village), where villagers have set up the community oyster reserved area and also work on several projects to stop devastating fishing in the area.
- Ban Nayodthong (Nayodthong village), where we talked to the leaders of a women’s group. The group is working on handicrafts and several kinds of Thai curry pastes by utilizing materials from their community mangrove forest and mangrove palm.
In this report, the “model sites” mean the around 10 small-scale fisherman communities in coastal areas or islands, which Yadfon Association (YA) has been working with since its first period in the 1980s. “Replications” are projects undertaken in the second and the third periods of YA’s work.
1. Approximately how many replications have been attempted?
Around 60 replications have happened during the past 18 years. The replications are mainly in brackish water ecosystem, freshwater wetland ecosystem, and water source forest ecosystem–not in the coastal or island zones as the model sites.
Although being geographically different, the 60 communities can count as replications of the model sites since they have repeated the same process in shifting from vicious cycles to virtuous cycles. The most important process is that the locals are getting better understanding on the situation and the problem of natural resources in their own communities. This means that they can understand how natural resources have been deteriorated through time by the expansion of the market and the role of the Thai state in commoditizing natural resources, which enhances the benefit to the rich outside the communities instead of giving opportunities to sustain the lives of locals. Then, the communities can see their own ability to solve the problem and to create sustainability. The communities working with YA–both in model sites and replications–are working on the same things in implementing good management of natural resources and calling for communal property rights to make their management system approved and respected by the public and the state.
2. Have they all been done by the same organization?
All replications have been done by YA. YA has played important roles in supporting villagers of each community to get together and then work on natural resource management. YA uses the same strategies in expansion to replicating areas as it did in model sites. The strategies consist of: focusing on the discussion among villagers to learn more about their problems and the causes; utilizing and lobbying government to support local people; seeking cooperation from other sectors such as media, academics, government agencies; working to help the poorest people in each village first; and working with formal leaders as well as informal leaders. When there are some successful replications in each ecosystem, YA then expands to other communities in the same sub-ecosystem.
Once the groups in the communities are set up, local people are able to work on their own. Then, YA always steps back to be only a supporter helping the communities with information or supporting them to get access in negotiating with governmental agencies as well as access to public attention and funding sources. YA also supports some small funding for some communities in case the communities cannot get the funds from anywhere else. Now, the villager groups of successful replications are trying to work with people in nearby communities by urging them to work on natural resource management and conservation.
3. Who is a useful contact person in each organization?
Village groups should be contacted through the YA office at:
Yadfon Association 16/4 Rakjan Street, Tubteang Sub-District, Muang District, Trang Province 92000 Tel. 075-219737, 075-214707, 075-219327 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
4. What was actually done to make replications happen?
YA retreated from the model sites when it saw that people there have already learned a lot from working together with YA, and this helped them to be able to work on their own. Then YA just gave them suggestions when it was needed. In moving to the new areas, YA got help from the villagers in the model sites. YA started with discussing with the leaders in the model sites. In some cases, people in model sites helped YA evaluate the possibility in expanding to replication areas. YA always gets access to the new areas via kinship and friendship networks of the villagers in model sites.
Another thing done to make replications happen is the learning process among villagers. The most important thing is that village leaders from model sites spend time in helping YA to join the meetings with people of new areas often in the beginning stage to tell their own stories to the new people. By doing so, people in the new areas can see the similarities of the problems they are facing and can gain more confidence and see that they themselves can solve problems like people in the model sites have done. Although people of the model sites and the new areas are in different sub-ecosystems, people from different sub-ecosystems still learn from each other. That is because the learning process in restoring deteriorated environment is the same and can be applied to other communities. YA also provides the chance for new groups to learn from the success stories of other communities outside the YA network. YA provides learning trips visiting other provinces or other regions so that villagers with whom YA is working can have chances to discuss with people working on successful cases in other areas.
After getting access to new communities and providing the new people some sense of how they can start to rehabilitate the environment, YA and people set up the group and then make a plan for natural resource management, which mainly is the establishing of community reserved areas, e.g., “Pa Shell Reserved Area” at Tung Tase village; “Community Mangrove Forest” at Tung Tase, Pakpron Oak, and several other villages; “Oyster Reserved Area” at Leam village; “Sago Forest Reserved Area” at Nayong District. In establishing these reserved areas, the regulations of resource use are set–such as the periods when people are allowed to harvest, and the kinds of equipment or gear that can be used. In some cases, enforcing the regulations is necessary. The youth of each community may monitor or patrol to prevent the violation of regulations. YA and communities also cooperate with local governmental agencies in setting the reserved areas. In some cases–especially when mangrove forest areas are part of the state’s reserved areas–the communities’ reserved areas need agreement from governmental agencies.
Apart from the reserved areas, other related activities are initiated as well: Women’s groups produce some foods and handicrafts utilizing raw materials from natural resources they conserve. Some groups produce batik by using the natural colors from mangrove wood barks. Some groups make flour and desserts from sago products. Some groups make handicrafts from the stalks of mangrove palms. This is to show the diversity of economic value of having good natural resource management.
The learning process happens all the time, not only in the beginning. The leaders of each group have to think all the time of how to make other members in the community realize the significance of the environment and also how to stop destroying natural resources if some are doing so. Group leaders in some communities go door by door often to talk to people and ask them to join the group’s activities. They also work with schools to educate children about the environment and natural resources of their communities. Some leaders become special teachers at elementary schools. According to local curriculum policy, the locals can participate in setting curriculum about the locality, and local people who have knowledge–such as knowledge of traditional fishing, or herbs in the mangrove forests–are allowed to teach in school. YA and the community leaders believe that if children understand the importance of environment, natural resources and sustainability, it will be good for the community in the future.
5. Have all the replications been equally successful?
From 60 replications, YA founders told me that around 10-15 cases are successful. However, this does not mean that the rest failed. YA’s expectation in some communities (around 20 communities) is low: YA wants to work with them only as part of a network. For the successful cases, YA works closely with them by having staff working with the communities regularly, but for others YA may work occasionally through the leaders of the communities. Someday in the future these communities may develop to be the main target areas of YA, which will lead them to be successful replications.
Table 1 shows the categories of different sites.
|Sub Eco-Zones||Model sites||Successful Replication Sites||Network Sites|
|Coastal/island zone||Jaomai village,
|Brackish water ecosystem||Community Mangrove Forest,
Tung Tase Village;
Pakpron Oak Village Community Mangrove Forest Group; etc.
|Around 18 other communities
in Hadsamran, Yantakao,
Palean and Kantrang Districts.
|Freshwater wetland zone||Sago Forest
Nayong Districts; etc.
|Around 10 villages in
Nayong District, Trang Province
|Water source forest zone||Watershed Forest
(Lumkanun Canal Group); etc.
|8 villages in
Nachumhed District, Trang Province.
The model sites where Yadfon began its work are mainly small-scale fishing communities. They are all in coastal zone and island sub-ecosystems. YA works with them on mangrove forest and seagrass reservations, and aiming to prevent illegal fishing both from commercial fishing from outside and from some villagers. When YA moved on to replication areas, it decided to work in other sub-ecosystems in the watershed of Trang Province (see Table 1).
In each sub-ecosystem, there are some locations which are the main working areas of YA. These areas are successful to some degree–such as Tung Tase village and Leam village in the brackish water ecosystem area, and Lumkanun Canal village in the upland area. However, in some cases we have to see it in a wider scale, not as an individual community, as the work of the group needs cooperation beyond individual villages or communities as people from several communities use the same resource as a niche.
It is important to note that the replicated areas have a different economy from those of model sites in coastal communities. In the coastal communities, most people are small-scale fishers. The coastal resources are important for them in earning a living. The restoration of natural resources can have positive impacts to many people in the community. In brackish water and freshwater areas, the production and economy of people do not depend only on fishing or the use of coastal resources. Some of them have rubber plots, and it is not necessary for them to catch crabs from mangrove forests or to collect coastal shells or oysters or sago products for earning living.
Although the successful replications seem to be inferior to the model sites, since they could not cover the needs of the whole community, the replications benefit a lot of the poorest people in the communities. The poorest can gain more income and foods from the restored natural resources, such as getting more income from crabs in mangrove forest, sago products, and shells from the reserved area. It is also interesting that the successful replication cases can draw attention from people who are in higher status in the communities who do not use the reserved natural resource at all. These people support the groups not for economic reasons, but because they know that the ecosystem is important for everyone–especially for the next generation–and can help the poor in their communities to achieve a better life.
Replications with less “success” are not yet the main target groups of YA. They may be in the beginning process in learning or still new. It is still possible for them be more successful in the near future.
Even the successful replication cases are still facing problems in the same way as unsuccessful cases, depending on the factors below:
- As natural resources are open access, the community’s reserved areas may not be accepted by other people in the communities. Those people may think that they have the rights to utilize the resources in any way they want. If so, it would be difficult for replications to be successful.
- Support from government, especially the approval of the claims of the groups in setting communities’ reserved areas, is very important for the replications to be successful. The approvals help the groups to continue working smoothly. In addition, the groups may need the authority of officers to deal with people who abuse resource use regulations, especially when the abusers are from outside communities. (For abusers within communities, the groups can deal with them by talking to them directly to help them understand the rules, or asking their friends or families to talk to them.)
- If there are some development projects from the governmental agencies which really contrast with the aims of the group in enhancing sustainability, it is difficult for replication to be successful. In the case of Leam village, a bridge construction project across the estuary according to the plan of the Rural Highway Department will not only destroy the community oyster reserved area, but also weaken the community’s management of natural resources.
- The social and power structure of each community is another important factor. The political or economic patron-client system in a community may obstruct or encourage the community’s natural resource management. If the powerful figures in the villages, such as religious leaders or village heads or sub-district heads, agree with the groups and understand how it is important to manage natural resources sustainably, the replications are likely to be successful.
In my opinion, YA is very successful in supporting local people to participate in restoring environment and natural resources and also in making other sectors accept local people’s rights on natural resource management. YA’s support also helps local people to have better lives economically, especially the poorest group in each community. The poor’s lives are based very much on natural resources. However, there are many factors which are related to the reversal from vicious cycle to virtuous cycle in the communities. Sometimes, it is hard to separate the cycles from each other, meaning that the reversal is in between. Every community is complicated and open to the outside world. Lives of villagers are so diverse. Therefore, the model of negative and positive tips must be able to cover the complexity of villagers’ lives. Moreover, the virtuous cycle is not static: it can turn to a vicious cycle, especially when it faces capitalism or investment from industrial sectors–such as a canned seafood company–as well as government development projects such as an industrial estate, a dam or bridge which will affect the coastal areas and natural resources.
Responses from YA founder (Pisit Chansanoa) and Yadfon staff on the EcoTipping Points model
Responses to negative tips chart
- The tipping point is not only the expansion of commercial trawling but also the use of push nets by local or small-scale fishermen in the communities or nearby as well as the use of other illegal gear such as explosives and poisons.
- There is no charcoal making business in Trang Province anymore because all concessions on mangrove expired gradually a few years ago.
- It is very important to note that rural communities today are complicated and are not bounded communities. There is a lot of conflict going on within a community. Problems are not from factors from outside only. Local politics, conflict of interest, and vote buying also cause problems.
- The corporations from outside can penetrate communities and exploit their natural resources easily. For example, CP has come and raised many fish in many floating baskets in the public brackish water canal with the approval of the Sub-District Administrative Organization (SAO) claiming that this will increase community income. The impacts showed when CP workers cleared mangrove forest in the canal to make more room for raising fish. Then the villagers could not get small shrimps from the mangrove forest anymore. It also polluted water.
- In some model sites such as Ban Leammakham, villagers did not allow CP to raise fish in their area.
- The government’s policies or projects that have negative impacts on environment and natural resources are other negative tips, such as Seafood Bank Policy (giving concessions on public coastal areas to private entrepreneurs to do aquaculture, the construction of deep sea piers, and the support of oil palm planting in deteriorated areas which were used for shrimp farming before. Moreover, local government agencies often support entrepreneurs because they get some under-the-table benefit from them.
- Many coastal land areas are now occupied by private entrepreneurs.
- Not many trawlers intrude into the near shore areas today.
Responses to positive tips chart
- Villagers get more income from eco-tourism and the community can learn how to do community-based tourist management. Income from tourism is distributed to members evenly and some is used for community activities.
- There are many learning processes on natural resource management for local people.
- Government agencies (especially at the provincial level) understand the problems that villagers are facing and start to support villagers’ activities.
- Villagers’ natural resource management is widely recognized by the public and the media.
- In speaking of more estuary products, we should keep in mind that it also depends on the season. During monsoon season, villagers cannot go fishing near shore. But now they can catch estuary products in brackish water canals, which they could not do in the past, because of the restoration of mangrove forest.
- Villagers do not think that natural resource management is only the business of the government anymore, but they think it is their own duty. They think they should conserve it for the next generation.
- Cultural dimensions should be put more in positive tips.
- There is no law/act in Thailand to approve community rights on community forest management. Today the villagers and Yadfon work based on customary claims only.
- There is no effective law implementation to deal with illegal coastal land occupation.
Responses to EcoTipping Points ingredients
Pisit and Yadfon’s staff expressed their opinion on EcoTipping Points ingredients as follows:
1. Outside stimulation and facilitation:
Network and friendship as well as encouragement from other people organizations (POs) are very important in giving moral support to the community working on estuary conservation.
Support from government is very important. If communities work on the issue that government is also interested in, it would be convenient for communities to work. That is because government agencies will not obstruct communities’ activities. It is also easy to ask for support from formal community leaders such as village heads and sub-districts heads. Now the Trang provincial administration promotes ecotourism, so it is easy for people in working on this issue. They also allow the community to participate in provincial development yearly plan making.
However, the community’s and Yadfon’s activities always conflict with the government’s projects. For example, they work in restoring deserted paddy fields closed to brackish water canal by replanting mangrove palm, but the government agency gives money to farmers to plant oil palm in those areas. Another example is a 3-kilometer bridge across the Palean River, for which the provincial administration held public hearings and tried to approve the project, but the villagers didn’t agree with this because of environmental and social impacts. Big projects like this discourage the good intention of the community a lot.
“Good friend network” (Kraukay kanlayanamirt)--consisting of media, academics, governmental agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders--is important in supporting community. However, community must be a leader and coordinator and make their own plan on how to utilize these sectors.
1. Strong local democratic institutions and enduring commitment of local leadership:
People Organizations (POs) can be another democratic institution which is an alternative to the formal political system. This will be the real rights and freedom of the grassroots and make their lives better.
3. Co-adaption between social system and ecosystem:
A proper social system can work well on natural resource management.
4. Letting nature do the work:
This is true to some degree, but for mangrove forest in some severely damaged areas it needs replanting. However, the way the Department of Forest does in clearing all plants and then replanting just only one species is totally the wrong way to do it.
5. Transforming waste into resources:
A women’s group here is making handicrafts from mangrove palm stems, which just was waste in the past.
6. Rapid results:
Estuary products come back fast after the community does restoration. Moreover, seafood prices now are high. Then people get more income. However, we need to be careful that this will not make positive tips go back to negative tips again. This is because when the marine animals come back, people catch more. In some communities, crab traps increased from 500 to 1000, squid traps increased from 500 to 700. Fishermen from other areas also come to catch. This may cause overfishing.
7. A powerful symbol:
A community’s successful stories shown in media make people feel very proud. They feel like they have space in broader public and have more power to negotiate with capital and state.
8. Coping with social complexity:
Rural community today is complex. Many agencies and organizations can access villages easily. Many fundings go to villages. Therefore the communities need to work more on cultural and ethics capital for their own community benefit.
9. Social and ecological diversity:
Biodiversity encourages cultural and social diversity. The more cultural and social diversity, the more knowledge in dealing with the change.
10. Social and ecological memory:
Traditional knowledge on natural resources from previous generations should be brought into account as part of their work on community natural resource management.
Interview with Pleanjai Chansanoae (the co-founder of Yadfon Association)
The first period of Yadfon Association’s work: Getting to know the community and starting to work on mangrove forest (Ban Leammakham)
Pisit and I had worked on rural development for many years in other regions. Pisit had worked with the Rural Reconstruction of Thailand Foundation under the Royal Patronage since 1969. I started to work there in 1973 after getting a BA degree in social welfare. We got some experiences in working with rural communities since then. In 1984, we thought we should go back to work at my hometown, then we set Yadfon Association (YA). We started to work in Trang province by focusing on the poorest communities, which were small-scale fishermen communities. They were the poorest ones because of they couldn’t compete in catching aquatic animals with the commercial fishery, which uses many deteriorating fishing gears. They were also poor because of the concession on mangrove. The government gave the concession to the rich in cutting mangrove for charcoal. The concession on mangrove apparently destroyed coastal resources. When the small-scale fishermen didn’t get enough fish from fishing, they had to work for mangrove concessioners for money, and they often smuggled to cut more mangroves from the mangrove communal plots… The small-scale fishermen were also poor because of the high dependence on the middle-men.
We think it is necessary to develop people along with working on natural resource. In the beginning we sent our staffs to live with people in the villages (at Ban Huahin and Ban Leammakam). It was hard in the beginning to get to know the community. We started to work with them with a very small project—digging a well—because there had been a water shortage at Ban Leammakham, which is a small island in the brackish water canal. The activity helped our staffs and villagers know each other better and then the villagers agree to have us working there. Then, we worked on microcredit without interest to provide people money in buying boat engines and fishing gears. At first villagers didn’t trust us: they thought we are communists. Village kids cried when they saw us. One reason they didn’t trust us is that we are not Muslims. However, leaders in the village (the village head and religion leader) understood us and then we could work there…. We emphasized the discussion among people to analyze the problem…
In the beginning, at Ban Leammakham we had an activity to gather people. We set the rotating fund for raising fish in floating basket. We first gave the fund to the poorest people in the village by having members of the village nominated the recipients. The project ran very well because it created more income for the poor with very lower cost when compare to the same project run by the department of Fisheries. The activity encouraged people to get together and discussed the problems on mangrove, aquatic animals, and their lives. This kind of discussion seemed like doing a research study that made villagers understand the problems they are facing with. This also helped them understand the ecosystem of mangrove and the benefit of mangrove forest which are their foods, their income, their medicine, and the nursery for fish, shrimps, shells which actually is. Villagers started to realize that restoring mangrove forest was the mission of the community which would improve their lives. Then they started to conserve mangrove forest by replanting and preventing illegal wood cutting.
Moreover, when the poor got more income, they got their dignity back. Their lives didn’t have to depend on the traders who were also their creditors. When they voted on the election, they didn’t have to vote for the candidates supported by the traders/creditors anymore. This means that our activities helped encourage democracy on the community level.
YA focused on helping the poorest first. The community discussed and recruited the poorest ones to get revolving money first. Then when the first group of borrowers returned the principal, other people could get the loan. This might make the traders/creditors feel like we caused them get less profit, but they couldn’t blame us because we helped the poorest ones which were just minority of the village. They could still take advantage from “the middle class” in the village. Anyway, I think “the middle class” of the village also learnt something from our activities at that time.
YA and Villagers also worked to stop the use of deteriorating fishing gears within 3 nautical miles from the coast. Apart from trawler (commercial fishing boats), which has been prohibited by law, there were other fishing gears used in coastal areas, which are harmful for some important marine lives such as dugong. Villages started to stop these kinds of gear within 3 nautical miles from the coast.
It was so sad that in 1986 one village leader was killed after we had worked on mangrove forest conservation for 6 months. Our activity conflicted with the benefit of mangrove forest concessionaires. Then we got stuck. We returned to work just only on non-conflict issue such as raising fish in floating basket, building a small inter-village road.
However, in 1989, we announced the community mangrove forest at ban Leammakham. It was the first community mangrove forest in Thailand. It was announced without any community forest act to support. We got support from media and civil sector such as local academics as well as government agencies. Later on, the Royal Forest Department approved it as a model of community mangrove forest.
We have emphasized in working with provincial government staffs to make them understand the difficult lives of villagers. We always invited them to join our conservation activities.
We, NGOs, learnt with the villagers in making these things happen. This is the first period of the work of YA. During this period, we had worked in 7 villages.
During this period we got funding from Italian Ministry of Foreign Affair. Academics and NGOs in Italy knew the success of YA’s project on fish raising in floating basket. They really liked this project because it was so successful when compare to the same project run by the Department of fishery supported by FAO.
The second period of Yadfon Association’s work: working against pushing net and conserving sea-grass bed (in another more 10 villages)
This period started in 1991. We expanded our work to another 10 villages in Kantang, Jaomai, Muk island, Libong island, Pramuang. This time we didn’t have to take long in getting to know the communities. Instead we got shot cut because leaders from the 7 existing communities always have some friends and relatives in the new areas. This made it very much easier in working in these new areas. Moreover, this time YA was already well known in the media, so people in the new villages knew already who we are. We brought people from the new areas to Ban Leammakham to learn the lessons. We continued working on mangrove forest in the new communities. However, as the new areas have sea grass bed area, so we worked on sea grass bed conservation. Sea grass bed is a kind of shallow-water forest. It is an ecosystem. At first villagers criticized us why we wanted to conserve sea grass. They said YA must be crazy as fishermen don’t eat sea grass at all.
In working on sea grass, we worked with scientists and social scientists from the Prince of Songkhla University. It could say that we at that time working with 5 sectors: NGOs, communities, academics, media, and government agencies including local schools. Many students in local high schools got chances to learn coastal ecosystem by attending community’s activities. We also provide chances for college students from Bangkok such as from Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University, to do some volunteer job and learn from the villagers. We didn’t work with capitalism who own factories because their businesses always have negative impacts on environment. We worked against pushing net in Kantang district, as pushing net destroy sea grass bed. We persuaded villager to pay attention on sea grass bed conservation by show them that there are so many of marine lives living in sea grass area. Sea grass area is a nursery of marine lives that are villager’s foods and money. The sea grass area between Jaomai and Libong Island is so huge covering several square kilometers.
During 1992-3, we started working in farmer communities. We wanted to help small-scale farmers. As rice are so important for their lives. While working we learnt ecosystem there. We saw sago forest around fresh-water canal. There is high biodiversity in sago forest which could be used as medicine or foods. We suggested them to do paddy sowing on wet rice area during water shortage time.
In 1993, we campaigned on Dugong, the endangered species, to call attention from pubic on sea grass as Dugong’s food source and home.
The third period: Protecting Trang Watershed and Palean Watershed
In 1994, we worked on Trang river protection. We joined 14 local schools and colleges to do activities on river protection in several sub-rivers and canals of Trang watershed.
In 1999 BE, we started working on Palean estuary in brackish areas (in Wangwon sub-district). Here the characteristic of mangrove is so different from that of the lower swamp in coastal area. People here then have worked on mangrove conservation. There have been also woman groups working on this.
This period we have employed “community rights” concept in working on mangrove forest conservation. YA also worked with other communities to protect their natural resources, such as when the communities face with a big development project such as dam and deep sea harbor construction, YA provides them information about community rights on natural resource management. We have helped villager to stop these kinds of project for several times.
Then we move to fresh water areas and water source areas. We see that each type of ecosystem is connected, so we think people from each type of ecosystem should connect to each other as a network. Therefore, we set committee from representations of every community we have been working with since the first period. We call it “the good friend network” (Krauekai Kanlayanamirt). There are sub-networks under “the good friend network” such as forest group network, woman group network, etc.
We are now working intensively on new villages. We emphasize the cooperation of several groups. YA wants to improve lives of people to encourage them to have secure lives for the next generations and for their dignity. Anyway, we can’t say that we are successful because on the inland areas now full of modern rubber plots. Mangrove areas are still intruded by shrimp farming. One more thing that is not good is that when shrimp farming in mangrove areas are failed and then people deserted the deteriorated land, the government supports people to plant oil palm in these areas. I think this may affect ecosystem. Natural water-circulation system may be changed a lot.
Now several universities send their students to do internship with us. They stay in the villages and work with our staffs.
Now we don’t send our staff to stay with the community all the time like that in the first period. That is because now villagers can work on their own and YA is just their helping hand. Sometimes when the villagers have to negotiate or working with government agencies, they don’t understand bureaucratic system which is always too complicated and corrupted. That’s why YA’s support is still useful for them in providing them useful information.
So far YA has been working with 65 villages since the first period. Apart from Ban Leammakham which is the first model site, there are around 20 villages from every eco-type which I think they are strong communities. They are the model sites of each eco-type.
There are 9 staffs working with YA now. Now we have 1 staff from Asian Solidarity against Aquaculture working with us.
There are some communities working on natural resource conservation on their own, such as preventing sea turtles, blocking illegal fishing gears, etc. They learnt from YA. YA gets involved with them as adviser and join their activities sometimes.
In summary, we started by working with coastal communities on mangrove forest and sea grass. Then we expanded inland to brackish area with another kind of mangrove forest (hard soil mangrove forest) which has more diversity than coastal mangrove area. Then we moved to fresh-water area focusing on sago conservation as sago forest is the source of fresh water and foods for people. Sago has been destroyed a lot from projects from local government agencies aiming to dig or widen canals. After that we moved to the upland area to encourage people to take care of water source, reduce forest intruding, and make their existing lands to be sustainable as well as supporting them to run ecotourism and to strengthen community economy. We also focus on the role of woman in transform natural resources to be more economical such as making some desserts and handicrafts from sago and mangrove palm products. YA also supports senior people’s role in transmitting local knowledge to the next generation.
Every time we want to expand to the new areas, we get the help from leaders of previous communities we worked with in talking and advising the new communities.
YA focuses on human and learning process. We include every group: school children, woman, senior, etc. I think these processes make them grow up and learn the value of their own communities.
For sago issue, the model sites are at moo 3 (Khoksaba) and Moo 7 (Ban Tungkaejuey) in Nakhaosia sub-district of Nayonag district as well as. There is a strong woman group here. The group produces sago flour, and then gets famous.
What challenges us is that only 20-30% of people in each village have worked actively with us. The rest just know about our activities in the village.
Another challenge is government projects, such as the government gives money 12,000 baht to people for every 0.4 acre of land transformed to oil palm. How can we beat with the project like this? Then most paddy fields in our fresh water areas or around sago areas become oil palm plots. Also if you want to get loan from BAAC, you can get more loan by using oil palm land as a guarantee than using paddy land.
The communities in different eco-type are different. Small-scale fishermen in coastal area are poorer than other groups, so they have to depend more on natural resources than people on inland areas do. When people are not poor they don’t depend much on natural resources. This may cause us some difficulty in working in inland communities. However, we realize that many of villagers who are not poor know how ecosystem is important. They know that sago is important for the poorest ones in the village although they don’t have to earn their living on sago forest.
Interview with Pisit Charnsanaoe (the co-founder of Yadfon Association)
(July 22, 2009 at Yadfon Association Office, Muang district, Trang province, Thailand)
Yadfon Association (YA) and the Role on Policy Level
We would like to connect the each kinds of ecosystem (the top, the middle, and the end of watershed ecosystem). We need the policy that will take care of whole ecosystem and encourage people living in each part of the ecosystem to work together. We need to work on watershed level both small and big watersheds. We will work not only in the Trang province but will include the whole system of the western south of Thailand.
We would like to work in regional level (Southeast Asia--Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Burma, etc) on the impacts of commercial fisheries and the deterioration of coastal areas. We also would like to work on wetland ecosystem on regional level. In Malaysia, there is the biggest Sago forest in the world, and Malaysian government can manage it very well commercially, but this doesn’t happen in Thailand and other countries. We need to set network on this issue regionally. We also have a network like this on mangrove issue. We are now working with Asian network against irresponsible aquaculture. We are one of founders setting the network. I think We can move to global level network as well.
We disagree with certification on shrimp farming because it is still exclusive only within business groups, companies and governments including some international NGOs, but people who get impacts from aquaculture don’t get a chance to participate on this issue. We are joining with the global network to against the shrimp certificate idea.
For community forest law, the draft of the act now has been distorting, so we don’t wait for the law now. We are using the notion of “people rights”. It works in local scale, not in national scale. The problem is that Thai bureaucrats don’t believe that local people have ability to manage and conserve natural resources and environment.
For the replication within each ecosystem, we need to balance between expanding into many communities and working with fewer communities but in deeper degree. During our first seven years, we work on mangrove community forest and sea-grass bed conservation and then we found the model for community working on natural resource management.
In the beginning we just worked on career supporting for the extra income for villagers. Later we found that although we supported people to have suitable fishing gears, but no fish in the sea. Also fish raising in floating basket was damaged by pollution from the industrial factories. We then started working on coastal natural resource protection. Then people could gain more income by just using the simpler fishing gears.
We think that we can’t work only in one bay, then we moved to Jaomai and nearby areas. We move to the new areas by consulting senior villagers and Imam (Muslim religious leader) at Ban Leammakham and use their kinship network to get to know people in the new areas. There had been some connection between previous villages and new villages. The villagers on both areas consult each other to find the issue to work in the new areas. Then they came up with the idea of sea-grass bed conservation area at Jaomai in dealing with the intrusion of pushing net fishing boats.
No one had worked on sea-grass bed before. We worked with scientists and deputy-provincial governor. It was successful because we was able to stop the pushing net fishing boats. We were lucky that one dugong came back to sea-grass bed area. It helped call a lot of attention from public.
Then we expanded more in the river shed areas. Community leaders from both Ban Leammakham and Jaomai helped us work on this. This time we started working at Banleam. The progress develop very fast because Bamleam people knew YA before. We discussed with villagers to find suitable project to work together. We, then, found that Banleam people were facing with the concession for the oyster area that government agency give to a company from the town. We encouraged people to set oyster conservation area. We used the notion of “front yard rights” to prevent the arrival of capitalists and concession. We have tried to move oyster areas from “open access” to “communal property”.
In Tungtase, there is a very big upper mangrove forest, which has more diversity than mangrove forest in lower coastal area. Tungtase people have tried to protect it from the intrusion of concessioners logging on nearby lower mangrove forests. The rights and boundary of this upper mangrove forest is unclear, then we worked on making them to be a community forest. Later local government doesn’t obstruct us and encourage villagers to do community forest. Then other villages nearby were interested to do so, then we set up Tase Canal Mangrove Forest Community Network.
Villager leaders from Tungtase and Banleam have played crucial role in replicating their models to new villages (Ban Tae Rhum) in estuary area. There are two kinds of mangrove forests taking care by the state and by the community. This village was facing with the expansion of shrimp framings. Now many shrimp farms has lost and then Chareon Pokphand Group (CP) (http://www.cpthailand.com/) came in. however, people here can still take care of 4,000 rai of mangrove forest very well.
We need to be careful as replication goes to fast, the learning process within the communities can’t go deep much. Although, in some case, villagers can protect natural resource form being exploited from outside, their community organizations have not yet been strong.
After that we moved to brackish water area and then worked on sago issue.
We still keep in touch with our “old” community as network member. We meet during meetings. We support woman groups with whom we did not work much in the past in old areas. We had already worked a lot with them in the past and they learnt lot from us the past. This is the time they can work on their own. We may step in when they have some difficulties. Anyway, we still keep eyes on what going on in the villages. We follow local politics in the village. We know how CP approach Sub-District Administrative Organization (SAO). At Muk Island (the old area), we are encouraging people on eco-tourism to help people prevent the selling of land.
We try to make public to recognize the role of community leaders on natural resource management. Then they can have authority in natural resource management. Some of them can join the provincial committee in making provincial development and natural resource management plan and working with local government administrative equally.
We are working on ecotourism trying to propose that tourism must come with community rights in natural resource management and tourism must be environmental friendly.
The impact from policy
Now there is an urgent issue at Banleam because the Rural Highways Department is planning to build a long bridge across the sea there. The project will destroy oyster and shell sources. We are helping them to get more alliances such as academics, media, etc. However, public are being convinced by politicians that the bridge will bring very good deeds for people. It will create more tourists and will make local people lives more very convenient because they don’t have to use boats for traveling anymore. We point out the possible impacts to local people. We see a lot of impacts to the poor from the projects like this in several places. The Rural Highways Department will hold the public hearing next week. We are trying to get people to attend the hearing, so the department can’t claim just the positive side of the project. The district head, the SAO, and both local and national politicians support this project. If our people disagree with the project and there is no way to stop it, we may have to find more alliances such as other government agencies working on environment. The project will destroy mangrove and arouse land selling.
The three periods of strategies of working with communities :
The first period aimed to be “insider” of the local communities. Our staffs spent most time in village to learn about the communities. They attended every activity (including the dangerous activity with villager such as going to expelling pushing net fishing boat out of the conserved coastal area) to get accepted as part of the community and made people trust YA.
The second period aim to let the community leaders take the lead. Now YA staff just work on supporting on information, data, and research. YA also seek cooperation with government agency.
The third period is to set the network. It is not only network with other sectors such as media, academic, etc, but also the network among villager themselves: farmers, fishermen, gardeners living in different area but connected ecosystem. For watershed forest, we support the communities to join with national forest community network as well as Assembly the Poor, which are working on this issue nationally.
With governmental organization:
We seek good cooperation with government agencies and encourage them to sympathize local people. However, at the same time, we need to work against some development projects by the government, which have impacts on local livelihood and their natural resources. There are so many things going wrong-e.g., the way they clear up the canal, their side taking on factory polluting the river, their support on their constructions. Sometimes YA are spied on by officers. Anyway we have to negotiate with them calmly and give them good reasons and be patient, and try to seek good corporations. Many of government staffs, although not all, now know us, understand us, and support us.
The work on watershed forest (6 villages)
The area is in national park where people have lived here long before it was announced as conserved area by the Royal Department of forestry. It is ironic that actually sometime government encourage villagers to expand farming areas to the forest area by giving fund for rubber planting.
YA works in this area by encouraging community to stop expanding farming area into forest and support them to do conservation. We support people in this area run eco-tourism. This is the way to encourage community to conserve forest area. It brings the area to public which can help reduce illegal logging by outsiders as well.
We also support people in this area to stop using chemical herbicide and pesticide because it affect the whole ecosystem as they live in the water source area or at the beginning part of the ecosystem.
We support the social space of the people. They set learning center on watershed to educate public. Later on we may do home stay. There are so many fruits here in the season, so tourists may want to come to visit and learn farmer lives.
It is difficult to work in this area as most people have their own lands, so they can live independently. It is different from people in coastal area who have to share common resource and have to cooperate to protect and manage natural resource.
Next ten years
In the next ten years we will move to the people sector in managing watershed and the knowledge building in every ecotype. We will set learning centers for people to learn about each ecosystem-e.g. at Ban Tungsate there will be a center to learn about community forest management. We will also expand to other river-shed area.
Interview with Kowit (Puu) Pongsawatapap (Yadfon Association long-term staff)
I have been working at Yadfon Association (YA) since 1995. I know YA from media. I heard about Jaomai village, and the story inspired me a lot, and then I wanted to come here. At that time I felt like rural village life is so romantic. Then I applied for a job here.
I started working here in the late third period when YA was working in Palean watershed (brackish water area) at Tungtase and Banleam village. During the first six months I got to know communities I worked with. However, the way to learn about communities of my generation is different from that of YA’s staffs in the first and second period. They stayed and lived in the villages all the time to be part of communities, but we couldn’t do like that in the third period because we had many villages to work with. At that time I lived in Banleam and Tungtase for 3-4 days a week. Although by doing so we may not know community deeply, the good thing was that we can work with many more communities, was be able to know more people, which YA in the first period couldn’t do. Anyway, you would have got more close relationship with the villagers if you did like our staffs in the first period.
I hardly learnt about the communities through previous YA’s staffs because this time we expanded to Palean area by the connection of community leaders of the first and second periods in Sikao and Kantung district. The connection was based on kinship and friendship system. I learnt directly from working with villagers instead of learning from my seniors.
Communities we work with in Palean watershed are both Thai Buddhist and Thai Muslims communities. In some villages there are both Buddhists and Muslims living together. The villages are in brackish river, but people are not 100% earning their livings as fisherman. In some village, there are only 30% and some village there are around 60-80% are fisherman. Some people do rubber, and some may do both rubber and fishing. At Banleam, the main income of people is from fishing, but at Tungtase is from rubber.
There are around 40 communities in Palean watershed. We have been working with around 20 villages. We can’t access some communities especially the ones that majority uses illegal fishing gears (pushing net). Around 1997-8, there were around 400 boats with pushing net in Palean watershed. I could say that this problem was so severe at Palean watershed. This is because the geography in this area is good hiding from being arrested by the officers. Many of people using pushing net moved from fishing at Jaomai, where the people organization there is strong. Anyway, now there are around only 10 boats with illegal pushing net in Palean areas. Pushing net people gave up as they were facing with social pressure from communities and they are asked by the officers to stop as well as that government paid back the abandon of pushing equipments.
In this area we started working on natural resource nearby villages. We started with oyster conservation area because at that time the Department of Fisheries was going to give a concession to some entrepreneur to get coastal area to raise oyster. Villagers didn’t agree with this. They know villager leaders whom YA worked with in the first and second period, so they learnt about the concept of community rights from these leaders. We couldn’t work on mangrove at that time because the concession in Palean watershed have just expired in 2003, so communities had not yet been have the rights to manage mangrove areas. While we worked on other issues, we prepared and discussed how to manage the mangrove after the expiration of mangrove concession. Then villagers could work very well and very fast on community mangrove forest after concession expiration. Villagers learnt from the model sites at Ban Leammakham and Ban Tungthong.
So far we have several community mangrove forests. The first one is Tungtasae, and then we have others which are at Ban Hinkokkwai, Ban Tareau, Ban Leam, Ban Tung Krai, Ban Tae Rhum, Ban Pakpron, Ban Kuannom, Ban Ko kook, and Ban Nabosak. The mangrove forest of community is next to each other.
Another important activity during this time is the conservation of Horai Island. It is a very small Island. We work on community mangrove forest on the islands. Horai is important because there are so many Pa shells (Meretrix casta) in that area. It is located in Palean district but people from Kantrang and Yantakao districts can come to get Pa shells here. Then we tried to set the regulation by people from several villages.
It is not easy to work on Pa shell conservation area because the villagers gets good income from Pa shells. Pa shell had been over catching. YA had to start with the research study with the support from the academics from Rathamongkol university and Prince of Songkhla University to show how much PA shells has been caught each year by the villagers. The research project also studied the route of Pa shell economy, from Hoi Rai to can seafood companies. It is the research project that around 50 representatives of villagers from every community participating as field researchers. Then they learnt a lot on the impact of over catching and learnt that how they are a disadvantage group in the Pa shell economy.
From 15 villages we are working on, model sites here Palean watershed are at Ban Leam, Ban Tungtasae, Ban Hua Kuan, and Ban Taerum. We try to make these villages to be a model for the nearby areas.
We found that the community that the main occupation is not from fishing, the activity in natural resource management doesn’t go well. Only people of the villages which are closed to estuary are highly dependent on fishing. Anyway, we think natural resource restoration would be useful for not only people who have enough money to have their own fishing boats with engines, but it is also useful for the poorer ones who have just only fish hooks or crab traps.
The good thing I found during my 13 years in working with YA is that the attitude of villagers has changed. They started to think that it is their roles in managing the natural resources: it is not only the business of government agencies anymore. Then they get together to work on this. I also found that local schools have started to pay attention to community and natural resource issue, and put the issue as “the local curriculum”. The government agencies also pay attention more on the ability of local people in natural resource management and they try to support villager. I didn’t see these thing 10 years ago. We can also encourage leadership among people we work with and now some become formal leaders such as a village head. The people organization we are working with also get stronger enough to participate in policy decisions in local level with local government organization such as Sub-district Administrative Organization (SAO). They can also put some pressure on formal leaders like a village head, a sub-district head to pay attention more on natural resource restoration. It is also easier for villagers to earn income from nature. It is not required high cost in doing crab traps or picking shell. Everyone who works hard can earn money with no difficulty because marine animal come back.
Although public may think YA is so successful, I don’t think so. Although we can help set community mangrove forests, we still have to focus more on villager organizations. We have not yet include all groups of people in the communities to participate in natural resource management. Sometimes our work is not deep enough into the communities.
The main problem is that right now there are so many development projects going to the villages. People can get budget easily to for their own projects in the village. Sometimes it may de-strengthens people organization unless people think about it seriously. When the community is getting famous, several organizations from outside show up and want to support. Sometimes there are too many supports and redundancy. Sometimes it causes conflict of interest among villagers. Local politics and the election in local level--such as the elections for village head or SAO member election—causes conflict in the communities and it is hard to cure.
Interview with Ao (Yadfon Association new staff)
I started working with YA in 2005. My adviser at the university who helped YA do research suggested me to do internship here, and now I become YA’s staff. At first I thought YA work like government organization working on environment and conservation, but I found later that YA highly focuses on developing the idea of villagers. I starting the first six month here by getting to know the communities as well as working in coordination. I worked based on the existing yearly plan on mangrove conservation, woman group, etc. Some are small construction projects with the main aim in encouraging people to work together. I have also take responsibility on knowledge. I work a lot on the research projects such as the research about the use of mangrove by asking the seniors for knowledge from the past. We also compare the knowledge on the use of mangrove among several villages. While working I tried to learn what villagers think and do.
Now I am working on Pa shell conservation area as during the past few years Pa shells have been over caught. We started working with the youth group at Tung Tase. Youth is main group in running Pa shell conservative area. They often go to fishing and found that recently villagers couldn’t get much Pa shells as it starting to disappear because of overcatching. Then they want to restore it. There are around 20 people in youth group. This is another Pa shell areas apart from Horai Island.
Thing challenge the community is globalization. It make people have to concern more about themselves only, no time for volunteer job and community.
It is a bit difficult for me in working with the community. I am very young, but village leaders have a lot of experience on running people organization and in natural resource management. Sometimes they may not believe in me. Now communities can access several sources of budget and running some development projects on their own, and they may not tell us everything. We need to make then trust us. The conflict of interest among village in the same community is also a very important obstacle in working with the local community.
Importantly, some villagers may think that we have no right to announce the conservation area because it is necessary for them to catch shells or crabs from those areas. We have to accept that villagers who join natural resource conservation group are just around 30% of people in community. Some people may not agree with we are doing. Sometimes a nearby community my not accept a conservation area announced by another community, and then they still abuse the regulation which causes conflict. However, when someone abuses the regulation, the conservation group tries to not inform the officers. Instead they choose to ask the abuser to stop. They also use connection from friendship or kinship to solve the conflict—e.g. sending someone who are respected by abuser to talk to that abuser.
People always abuse Pa shell conservation area, not community mangrove forest. That is because now the use of wood from mangrove forest is decreasing and people understand better the significance of mangrove forest to ecosystem. In contrary, they earn money from shells for long, so it is hard to stop them. The overfishing has been so high especially when the demand from can factories is high. Anyway, recently the new problem of mangrove area is the evading from several entrepreneurs from outside. It is hard to deal with.
There are three kinds of mangrove forests here in Palean watershed—community mangrove forests, new model mangrove forests, and mangrove forests for celebrating the king. Now the invasion happen a lot in the last two types. At Tungtase there is a mangrove forests for celebrating the king, which 100% had been already destroyed.
The new model one is similar to community mangrove forests, but run by the department of forest and it focuses on hiring 3-4 villagers in each community to work for them in protecting, replanting, taking care of mangrove. Some time the area is overlapped with community forest areas. The problem is that some communities stop managing the forest because they thing that just let hired persons taking care of forest as they these people are already hired to do this, so they don’t have to work on the forest anymore. The new model one also plant only one species of mangrove: the Department of Forestry (DOF) doesn’t care about biodiversity. DOF doesn’t care about community rights and community participation. It emphasizes clearing up other kinds of species and leave only genus Rhizophora. Sometime they burn whole area and then replant only genus Rhizophora. DOF staffs just want to show their face to their boss in Bangkok and to get big budget. There are several new modal mangroves forests now in almost every community. It causes a lot of problems. Mangrove forests for celebrating the king focusing on replanting also fail and were illegally invaded by entrepreneurs. The areas of new model mangrove forests, and mangrove forests for celebrating the king are also overlapped with community forest area. When the first two forests are cleared for replanting, it is hard to distinguish if it is part of the clearing up process or it is illegal cutting. The invaded areas are now became oil palm plots.
At Tung Tase, villagers don’t accept the new model mangrove forest. They are afraid of the impacts. Anyway, it also causes a conflict in Tung Sate because some people think that the new model or the king cerebrating one should be accepted.
Focus Group Interview with the Leaders of Water Source Forest Conservation Group (Lumkanun Canal Group)
- The village head
- Three deputy village heads
- Two group leaders
- Woman group leader
- Four Yadfon Association (YA) staffs and volunteer
The village head:
We know YA in 2004 when it worked with Moo 4 (our village is Moo 8). We mainly earn living by doing orchard and rubber (no paddy farming). In 2004, we started to work on ecotourism with YA. We also replanted trees around canal to conserve forest. Tourism is an extra career job during summer time when people cannot tab rubber because rubber tree change its leaves his time. During this time, people actually go to collects non-forest products from the mountain. Therefore, we think we may bring tourists to there to learn about nature. Eco-tourism will help villagers to know that we should not let forest be logged anymore.
We also encourage the role of woman in community’s activity on conservation and sustainable agriculture. We encourage members to plant chilies, herbs, and spices around their houses and then take the products to make curry paste as a woman group business. We want to use product from our natural resources in our daily lives.
We need to stop logging (capitalists from outside hire villagers to do logging), so we work on eco-tourism as a mean to stop logging. Many groups of people from outside came to learn the nature and forest.
We work on tourism before YA came in. YA gave the village funding to work on this. We could build the learning center because of YA.
The forest area here is animal reserved area. When we bring tourist to the mountains we ask the forest officers to accompany us for safety reason.
We need GPS to make forest walking map. Now we have just a rough map we made from our knowledge.
Sub-District Administrative Organization (SAO) also supports us the funding to buy hiking equipments such as tents, aluminum plates, etc. However, SAO is a bit far from us. We mostly get funding from YA for forest replanting, fish releasing. SAO come to attend our activities but they don’t understand our philosophy.
The members of the group are now around 25 people. We need to train new members to have knowledge on forest and on ethics of tourist guide and carriers. We work only in summer time (December to April). It is not god for rainy season. We start every year by clearing the route and train new guides and carriers.
When tourists want to come here, they have to call us and meet us in person once to talk and to prepare.
In the beginning, we knew from the district office that some tourists want to go to travel to the forest. We think we have a good and perfect forest and we think we can conserve forest by doing eco-tourism.
We don’t need too many tourists because we need to keep the environment there balance and the keep canal from the mountain clean.
Deputy village head:
I work with village head. YA brought us to learn from other communities working on this issue before. When we saw them, we think we can do it because we have many good things here. Our forest is still fertile. We have been successful in taking care of water source forest. Although we can’t stop 100% logging, but now no new invasion land into forest.
We don’t think that replanting rubber is forest destroying, but the officers do. Some plots here are in animal reserved area, so some of us don’t have any land title now. The animal reserved area has been set recently, but we have been here for around 100 years. We are not sure that if we will get land title or not. Now we have just the temporary one. We can’t get funding from the Rubber Replanting Aid Fund.
We already conserve forest, but the department of forestry hasn’t yet give us land title. The department of forest has it won map as a reference.
The woman group:
Pleanjai and Pisit came here and encouraged woman to spend spare time in doing extra jobs and to participate with man in doing activities. We actually spend time a lot on rubber working, so it is difficult to get together. We work on making chili paste. We can sell it very well, but the problem is time. We don’t have much time. We helped man in running eco-tourism, but we are not the leader.
We work with nearby 3 villages as well. We are the center, and sometimes we invite people from those villages to join the meetings, and trainings with us.
We work with YA, government agency, and with villagers.
YA works with youth as well as schools. Now schools understand us and help us to give chances to kids to learn about ecosystem.
We have a lot of local knowledge and wisdom in traditional fruit gardens and collecting non-wood products.
We are working on reducing herbicide by using grass-cutting machine instead, as well as encourage the use of organic fertilizer. We find knowledge from several sources to produce organic fertilizer
We started working on grass-cutting machine fund for around 10 years. We got funding from SAO for 50 000 baht. We provided machine to 7 villagers and tried to get more funding from member payment, then we provided for more people as circulated money. Now 30 people already got grass cutting machines. Now not many people still use herbicide. It is good for soil quality. They can see the difference very clearly. We can use cut grass for organic fertilizer. Cutting grass machines help us not put fertilizer in gardens/orchards. We also get more rubber latex from not using fertilizer.
Opinion from the group on the weakness of the group
Most people don’t know why we have to care about environment. They don’t understand the whole system. They think that just planting trees is OK.
We need more participation from villager, and we need also to develop education system.
We need “public relation” (PR) within community. We now focus only on PR with outside people.
We need to learn from other communities. Let many people here have a chance to learn from other communities.
In 1972-1981, there was a big flooding with mudslide. This is the lesson that we have to be careful on mudslide.
Interview/focus group with the leaders of Sago Forest Conservation Group, Nayong Districts, Trang Province
Date: July 23, 2009
Venue: Sago Forest Learning Center at Lamchan canal
- 2 female group leaders
- 2 male group leaders
- Yadfon Association group staffs
Recently Yadfon has been working with communities in the inner land area. This area is in the middle of the Palean watershed (in-between the water source area - Lumkanun village- and inner coastal area – Pak Pron Nok and Tase villages). It is important to conserve sago forest and canal ecosystem of Palean watershed. Sago is important for the poor in that community as food and income sources. Sago forest has been decreasing because of the wrong way in doing canal maintenance by government agencies, which aims to clear the canal without understanding on the significant of sago forest on ecosystem and on villagers’ economy.
Canal with sago forest made paddy farming possible because it brought water to the paddy fields. When sago forest was cleared, paddy field was not good for planting anymore. This is one of the reasons why in the recent years people here have transformed paddy fields to rubber plots or oil palm plots. Therefore, apart from conserving sago forest, the group is trying to resurrect paddy farming as well.
Yadfon has encouraged people here to realize the environmental value of sago. Yadfon brought villagers to learn how people organizations in its model sites work on environmental conservation and at the same time utilizing the resources in the sustainable way.
Now there are both network level (districts level) and village level of Sago Forest Conservation Group. The group has been successful. It has been awarded from several organizations and the group’s story has been reported by media often.
The main challenge for the group is to get more cooperation and understanding from villagers who don’t survive by sago forest (people whose their economic status is good enough to own rubber or oil palm gardens). This will be the way people in the community can help each other (the poor survive by sago forest). Another challenge is that villagers may have to value “sufficient” economy (not aiming only to get rich), so that they can have sustainable living system (not to degrade ecosystem by shifting paddy fields to oil palm or rubber plantations).
More details from the interview: Two female group leaders
We are working on 2 sub-districts: Koksaba and Nakaosia. There are several woman groups in each village working on sago conservation. We started at Moo 7 of Nakaosai sub-district first. At that time there was a drought and we didn’t know what we should do to earn living. We tried to find the cause of the drought. We found that it was because sago forest had been destroyed. No one cared about environment at that time even the village head.
In year 2000, Yadfon Association (YS) staffs came here and invited us to travel with them to learn from other communities in the other regions how to make products from sago. Although people in that area don’t have many raw materials like, they can still do. Then we think we can do it as well because at least we still have our own sago forest.
We started from a very small group. We have made flour, desserts, mats, handicrafts from sago. Then people from other villages joined us. We have been developed the dessert making process. Now our desserts look beautiful and are more delicious. Our products are now well-known locally: government agencies and other organizations always order sago desserts from us.
Sago connects to paddy farming. When sago forest is gone, we don’t have enough water to do paddy farming because water (in rainy season) goes to the canal very fast and doesn’t go to paddy fields. Now there is not paddy field left because many turn paddy fields to rubber plot. Now people are starting to care about paddy because the price of rice is so high recently.
Our groups now mainly work on dessert and sago flour. Although members of sago groups are not yet many, we also work on saving group and more than a hundred people are joining the group. School also pays attention to sago ecosystem and some people can have more personal permanent jobs in producing and selling sago flour.
Each village group work on their own, but join each other in network level. We have district level group on sago forest conservation (Nayong district).
Foods from the canal help the poorest people who don’t have any paddy for rubber garden can survive and get some small income from selling marine animals they catch and from selling mangrove palm leaves. For example, one old woman doesn’t have any a piece of land but she can survive because she cuts sago leave and sew it for sale. It is interesting that although she doesn’t have her own sago trees, she can still collect the leaves from others.
More details from the interview: the president of Sago Conservation Group, Nayong district, Trang province
We started working on year 2002. YA came and invited us to attend several activities such as meetings, conferences. Then, we, came back to discuss our problem. Here, the problem is the decrease of sago area by the construction projects run by local administrative organization both provincial and sub-district level. They “develop” the canals and sub canals by clearing sago trees around water ways. This caused a problem. People cannot do paddy farming anymore.
When we have a problem we get together t negotiate with government agencies and also with other people who think that canal is not belonged to someone, so they can do anything they want such as clearing the sago forest to get more land for rubber planting or dumping trash from clearing their garden to the canal.
We conserve the existing sago trees and also plant the new ones more. It is hard to recover for some areas if it was cleared and dug too deep.
Sago forest is on public land, but sago trees belong to individuals. It depends on sago planning of that family in the past time. Therefore, someone may think that they own both sago plot and canal, so they can use it in whatever way they want, even in destructive way. In the past there was high diversity in the canal and sago forest, but not for now.
Now the situation is getting better in the way that government agencies and formal village leaders now understand us. In the first place they saw us as their enemies. It is especially when we opposed the canal clearing project which some a relative of a local politician was the contractor of the project. They saw YA in a very negative way. They used to threaten us. Later they found that we don’t do it because of our own benefit, but for the community. We have tried to build rapport with them. We give them desserts when they hold some ceremonies, so they started to understand us. They thought we are crazy working on sago.
Now people still share sago to each other. Someone who doesn’t own sago trees can still ask the owners and then go to take it. Cutting sago regularly is the way to maintain sago plots.
In one village, the woman group working on One Tambon (sub-district), One Product (OTOP) project sending desserts to sell at International Muang Thong Thani Exhibition Center in Bangkok .
All villages are along the canal. Each village works together for sago conservation activities and works separately for sago processing. Men work for us on cutting or planting sago trees. Women work on processing and making dessert from sago.
We, the leaders of the group, also have to teach in local school on a local curriculum program. In some villages, we have our learning centers, so school kids and people from outside can come to learn about sago from us.
The big companies (such as Shin Corp http://www.shincorp.com/index_en.asp ) from Bangkok always come to hold activities on children with our group as well as high schools in nearby city. Teachers bring student to here to learn about ecosystem. Local colleges also come here to hold activity schools in the sub-district.
Nam Lad preliminary school got many awards because it works together with us on sago conservation and sago processing. Many guests came to visit us at the school and children make desserts for the guests. When guests, sometimes from abroad, ask them from where kids learn how to make desserts form sago, and they said they learnt from us, and this makes us feel so proud.
Obstacles of the group:
- People in the community today don’t have much time to work for community’s activities and meeting. People always have free time only on weekend. But for some activities we need government officers to join, and they can’t come on weekend. People in the villages can’t joint the activities in the morning time because they have to tap rubber in the morning. Some who work in a factory can’t find much time to join us either.
- People who owns rubber plot are always not the poor, so no need for them to catch fish from the canal or to harvest sago for foods or additional income.
What we want to do more is to set the clear and approved sago conservation area and we want the government agency and Sub-district Administrative Organization (SAO) to stop all canal clearing projects. We need to set the fund to support paddy farming and to get back paddy field from being transformed to rubber plot. We need villagers to return to rice planting. It is not good to plant rubber in lowland paddy farm. The rubber products will not be good in paddy field. Now people stop working on paddy farming because they can’t get much money from paddy. We may need to revive traditional farming that not required high cost for investment.
There is also the expansion of oil palm planting. Oil palm needs a lot of water. We need a policy to prohibit oil palm and rubber planting in paddy field. We believe that many people still love doing paddy farming but the change of the whole ecosystem here now don’t support it.
We now have better relationship with local leader such as sub-district heads, village heads, and chairs of SAO. One of sub-district head got award because he has worked with us. Some SAO members also become our leaders or members in our network group. They always come to discuss and have a meeting with us more often than in the past.
We are working on expanding network. We talk to other villagers in other villagers all the time. Within in each village, we try to make villagers from all economic and social status to participate in our activities.
We are trying to get new generation to work on this issue. One of our leaders has a kid and her kid now has finishes MA, and he decided to come back home to work on rice planting and sago processing.
We have a stall to sell sago products in the communities. We don’t sell only to outside markets.
We always get support from media. Several TV programs came here and make a film on us. Public has already known and wants to buy sago products.
We and YA also work together on data on several topic that will help us do better sago forest management: property of sago trees, the list of knowledge and local experts, etc. YA help us to work on this. YA also works as our secretary.
We plan to have floating basket fish raising group to nursery fish and then bring them back to the canal. We have to work on fish conservation as well because people from nearby / other districts come here with modern and destructive fishing gears to catch fish in this canal.
Interview (focus group) with the leaders of Pak Pron Nok Village Community Mangrove Forest Group
Date: July 23, 2009
Venue: Pak Pron Nok village
- 3 Yadfon Association staffs
- 2 female Community Mangrove Forest Group leaders
- 3 males Community Mangrove Forest Group leaders
Yadfon Association (YA) has worked with Pak Pron Nok Community in its latest working period. Pak Pron Nok is part of Palean watershed. It is located along brackish water canal. People here earn living from their rubber planting. They are not fishermen. They don’t own fishing boat. However, they get some foods and additional income from catching crabs from mangrove forest.
There is a huge mangrove forest around the village. The Department of Forestry gave the concession to businessmen from outside the villages to cut mangrove trees and make charcoal. The concession has just expired in 2003. After that villagers, with the support from YA, tried to negotiate with the provincial government agency to set community mangrove forest. It has been successful in the founding and conserving the community mangrove forest around the village.
There are several mangrove palm plot (Palmae/Arecaceae) owned by individual villagers. Mangrove palm leafs and palm heart used to be main income of people. From 1992 on, people started to transform their mangrove palm plots (including their paddy fields) to shrimp ponds for shrimp farming. Although getting a lot of profit from shrimp farming in the beginning, the villagers began to lose 2-3 years later. The rapidly increase of shrimp ponds in the area polluted water quality of the canal. Then villagers had to invest more on shrimp medicine and others to keep their shrimps alive. When shrimp price went down, they lost. Now many shrimp ponds have been deserted. Some have been leased to the rich from urban areas to run a bigger scale shrimp farming.
Pak Pron Nok people have been highly in debt from the lost from shrimp farming. Their household average debt now is around $30,000. It is pretty high because they are charged of high interest. Their creditor is the government bank: Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC). Now Pak Pron Nok villagers are working with national people network and Farmer’s Reconstruction and Development Fund to rearrange debt structure and solve debt problem.
What they are working with YA, apart from community mangrove forest, is the rehabilitation of mangrove palm in deserted shrimp pond areas (which actually used to be mangrove palm plot before). YA aims to urge villagers to utilize more on their lands sustainably instead of leasing the land to the shrimp investors from nearby urban areas, which may lead to selling these lands eventually.
More Details from the interview:
Male group leader1: The Mangrove Forest Community Group here started at 2004 because YA talk to us about the significant of environment and ecosystem. At that time we had a problem that mangrove was severe damaged because of the concession. The government has no ability to prevent that. The concession ended it 2003.
Female group leader1: Shrimp farming arrive here since 1992-5. I started to do it in 1995. We worked on shrimp farming individually. We did shrimp farming either on paddy fields or on our mangrove palm areas. We have land title on mangrove palm areas. In the past, there were boats of middlemen from outside coming here to buy charcoals, mangrove palm products and brought them to Kantung district, Trang and sometimes Malaysia.
Male group leader2: We was able to invest on shrimp farming because we got loan from BAAC quite easily. We submitted the proposal to the BAAC. When the price of shrimp went down we lost. It happened very fast. I lost at first 200,000 baht ($6000) but later principle and interest went up so fast.
Female group leader1: I stopped shrimp farming after had been doing that for 10 years along the canal. I got fund in BAAC. At first everything was great. In the first round I got profit for ($6,000). The second round I got profit $24,000. After that my kids and other people made so many shrimp ponds until there were too many of them, and then it affected the quality of water in the canal and then we started to get lost so often. I lost because of I invest too many shrimp ponds.
Before the arrival of shrimp farming, we earned living by paddy farming and mangrove palm harvesting. For mangrove palm we sold the leaf and the palm heart. We also sold sweet palm juice. We have worked on rubber planting and we used rubber planting plot as collateral to get loan from BAAC.
Male group leader1: Mangrove forest is communal. But mangrove palm and paddy areas have been personal property. After being lost several times from shrimp raising, we stopped doing it and just abandoned the shrimp ponds, especially the ones used to be mangrove palm areas before. In some area we use it to raise crab and fish, but it doesn’t work well because we need pumper to bring water to the pond all the time and it doesn’t worth money. For me, I replant the mangrove palm. We used to plant mangrove palm before we changed it to shrimp farm.
So far there are 25 families replanting mangrove palm in the deserted areas. We got support form YA and later we asked for support from the provincial office. The total areas we are working on are around 80 acre.
I am now still in debt all time and couldn’t find money to return them. We join the Farmer’s Reconstruction and Development Fund. I stop working on shrimp farming and lease the shrimp ponds. All villagers have stopped doing shrimp farming. Then investors from outside came to rent the shrimp ponds from us. They can do it without losing their money because they have a lot of capital to invest. They have information on market. They have some connection from CP (www.cpthailand.com).
Male group leader2: Now mangrove palm price is higher than that of rubber, and its price has never been down.
There had been a lot of big shell here, but it disappeared when shrimp farming came. We may need to raise this big shell. But it may be difficult to take care. We don’t work on fishing before, and fishermen from other village may steal it.
Male group leader1: For the mangrove community forest, there are several zones: a zone for herbal plant, a conservation zone, a zone for utilizable woods for villages. Not many illegal logging now. There are still some people outside the village doing this. They always are arrested and fined. They cut the dead wood but still are arrested.
This area used to be concession area. When the concession ended we set some parts to be our community forest. The rest are the New Model Mangrove Forest, and the Forest for Celebrating the King. Both run by the Department of Forestry.
Male group leader2: The way to set the community forest are: talking to villagers to let them know how mangrove forest is important, holding a meeting; setting the zones to manage. We also set the herbal zone.
People then paid attention to us. We inform them know how Palean river ecosystem is so important. After that people did less logging. We get support from the officers as well in arresting logger. Anyway, the arrest was not pushed by the group. The officers did they job only. We just keep an eye on it. YA helps us to learn more on the significant of ecosystem. The three forest officers are sent to take care of our community forest.
We replanted the community mangrove forest, but now the forest is in the good condition so no need for replanting. We plan to do some weeding, but we must be very careful to not disturb the nature. The government (the Department of Forest) always clears everything and destroys all diversity and marine lives and soil surface for replanting.
Male group leader 2: Villagers who are hired by the department can’t take care of the forest set by the department. They should use villagers who sustain their lives from catching crabs from mangrove forest to help taking care of the forest.
Female group leader1: Several people who don’t have rubber garden can survive just by catching crabs from mangrove forest. Crabs from mangrove forest have become an important economy of the village. There are 4-5 middlemen working on crab trading in the village.
Male group leader2: We plan to set a learning center for kids on mangrove forest. The community mangrove forest group here has just started. It is difficult to work on. We, the leaders working on several issues, such as organic fertilizer and on debt problem. People have not yet understood much on the Farmer’s Reconstruction and Development Fund.
Male group leader 1: We don’t get much cooperation from formal leaders (such as village head, sub-district head). They don’t care much both natural resource management and our debt problem. They have their own salary and don’t care about us.
Members of community forest group now are around 30 people but not many are active members.
Female group leader1: Income from mangrove palm is good but we can’t get rich from this. People want to get rich. They don’t like not sufficient economy. Planting mangrove palm doesn’t require money to invest. We may put only fertilizer once a year.
Male group leader 1: Farmer’s Reconstruction and Development Fund aims to revoke unfair debt interest on farmer by BAAC. In our village, the total debt we are in is around 100 million baht ($3,000,000). It is too high. We can’t find this money to return to BAAC all our life. Even though we die and rebirth again 2-3 times, we are still capable to do that. We went to Bangkok and several places to negotiate with government. So far now the fund bought debts from BAAC for 70 people here and then we return the principle to the fund, and our properties now belong to the fund. We do hire-purchase our properties from the fund. In my case the principal is ($ 15,000), and if includes then interest it will be $60,000. Now I get 7.5% help from government and I pay 2.5% of the debt to the fund. BAAC get rich from the difficult life of farmers.
For me, no hope to live without debt…we try to reduce cost by making our own fertilizer.
I hope to get money from rubber to repay debt, although the rubber price is not that good now.
Interview with woman leader of the community mangrove forest, Tung tase Village, Wangwon sub- district, Kantrang District, Trang province.
Date: July 23, 2009
Venue: the house of a woman group leader in Tung Tase
Why and how have you been working on community mangrove forest and with Yadfon Association (YA)?
I started to work on community mangrove forest in 1992 because YA extended its working areas from Leammakham to here according to ecological-canal network. At that time there was a border patrol police unit was here because there were piracies in this area at that time. YA and the border patrol police unit were working on similar same issues in solving our problems, which were illegal mangrove logging, illegal land occupation, and illegal fishing such as fish bombing, pushing net, fish poisoning. There were mangrove concessions at that time and the authorities couldn’t control it. The village head and the deputy village head at that time tried to implement the law to arrest the wrongdoers. Some villagers protested against them, and the deputy village head finally was shot dead.
YA came and worked first with the school children because YA didn’t know us here. I thought YA works in the same issue that of the border patrol police unit, so I decided to join with YA since then.
The main problem here is illegal land occupation. Based on the data from the border patrol police unit, all 198 acres of land around the village is public grazing area, but villagers occupied it and paid tax to the state. After that some of them sold the land to the rich from outside. This gave a chance for the rich to invade for more land. This makes some part of our inland mangrove area become coconut, rubber, or oil palm garden.
What do you do since YA came to this community?
We were focusing on discussion with members. YA didn’t give us money. It gave us questions to think why natural resources here has been in bad situation. We have to find answers and find the way to solve problems. Then, we found that the real cause is from logging and mangrove clearance. The village head, the border patrol police unit, and YA have been working together in arresting the wrongdoers.
At the very beginning, YA brought us to talk and to see how people at Lemmakham work. For woman group, we visit Jaomai group.
We have tried to maintain natural resource base by proving that the villagers are not the forest destroyers. Villagers can conserve the forest and at the same time can utilize it sustainably. Then we had to set our committee to take care of this.
5 years later we asked the provincial forest officers for the approval to set our community forest. The officers came here to prove whether or not we could keep the forest. Then, they approved for the area for 790 acres to be community forest. This area includes some parts of concession area. We wanted only to set the boundary of the conservation area at that time and didn’t want it to be destroyed. It is not fair because the concessioners paid only 35 cents per 0.4 acre a year because they got several million baht a year, and the concession destroyed a lot of the mangrove forest and animals lives in the forest.
In 1995 we worked on expanding the network to other villages. When YA worked at the new villages we went with YA to talk to people in the new areas. This was so good because we were able to know each other more and keep in touch. We also called each other often especially people in woman network. We have had our own group apart from men’s groups.
For the woman groups, they are so active in every village. At Tungtase, the group wanted to work on handicraft, so we went to learn from other groups. We used to work with the department of community development but we failed at that time because we got only money from the government, not the skill in management. The way the governmental agencies worked with us and that of NGOs are so different.
The woman group has learnt so hard and for long time in working. For example, we had to learn and did experiment for several times in getting the good recipe, and it took group’s money. We tried this because we would like to show that we use natural resources from mangrove forest in making these things - such as dried shrimp from the forest. The government staffs doesn’t understand us. They just order us to do this or that, and this make us don’t want to get involved with them anymore.
We are also working on batiks and handicrafts by using the materials from mangrove forest, but it is still difficult to manage and we don’t do it for commercial purpose. Anyway, we are ready to work such as taking care of the guests who come to learn from us.
The main problem in working on community forest
Around 2,000 acre of the previous concession area now is conservation areas, but there are three kinds of the conservation areas: 1) community forest 2) the Conservation Forest for Celebrating the King (158 acre. This one has been destroyed and occupied by people from nearby villages) 3) the New Model Forest Areas (the Department of Forestry hires 4 villagers here to take care of the forest). The problem of the New Model Forest Area is that there are several hundreds of people here, so hiring only 4 people cause conflict in our village. This make other people don’t care to conserve the forest anymore: they think just let the one who get salary do this.
For the t the Conservation Forest for Celebrating the King and the New Model, the department of forestry focus on mono-replanting, instead of keeping the diversity. This decrease animal lives. Animals - such as bees - live only in forest with diversity. For our community forest we don’t have to replant trees because trees can rebirth and grow naturally from felt seeds naturally in the forest.
We have had 3 groups of people in the village: 1) leaders 2) participants and 3) opponents.
Sub-district Administrative Organization (SAO) doesn’t care much about environmental issue. It is interested in only infrastructure constructing. We don’t need money from them. We need just only moral support. The most important thing for us is to work on the thoughts of people.
The mangrove forest management:
We divided the community mangrove forest into 4 zones:
- The reserved zone (no one can use it)
- The zone that allowed villager to use (we replant trees sometime)
- The mangrove palm zone (we replant the palm sometimes) and
- The zone for herbs.
We set the zone like this because it is easy to patrol and to prevent people from other villages to cut it illegally. They always drift to here by boat and then took our communal mangrove palm products.
We are successful for 50%. We can’t feel confident on law. Some day government may give concession to someone. We feel unsecure on this. They have not yet given us the rights on community forest although we have called for this with national people network for more than ten years. The forest community law in Thailand had not yet been approved. Now we don’t wait for the law anymore, but we work on the ground and insist on our community rights. People now can get food from the forest such as vegetable.
When someone abuses the law, we can talk to them peacefully. We can build network to discuss and ask them to stop. There is no pushing net fishing anymore, although there still is come slightly illegal logging.
People still have different opinions on natural resource management.
Now we are in better condition. In the past, we used to be arrested and stayed in jail when we build a small wood bridge to our community forest. Another thing is that some leaders were shot. We worked so hard at that time. We couldn’t sleep well and we discussed all night how to stop the pushing net and logging. Now everything is getting better. Although some still disagrees with us, we are relatives and friends. There are 3 kinship groups in our community, so I don’t think we are facing the big problem anymore.
We have a lot of information. We dare to speak out the truth. Even children know about the usefulness of mangrove forest. We work a lot in giving information to people and kids.
Villagers now can gain more money from crabs and mangrove palm products from the forest and canal because the work of community forest group.