Understanding local climate vulnerabilities: The climate story of three villages in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

19 June 2014 | Article

Under the USAID Mekong ARCC project, IUCN Thailand is working with local communities in Loh Yo, Hae Ko and Huai Kang Pla villages of Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, to implement ecosystem and community-based climate adaptation and resilience building initiatives.

As part of the process of understanding local climate vulnerabilities in these villages, IUCN conducted ‘climate story workshops’ in the three communities. The villagers were encouraged to discuss how different climate hazards affect their livelihoods, and to rank the identified climate threats in order of importance.

In Loh Yo, an Akha hill tribe community located at almost 1,000 metres above sea level, the villagers grow upland rice, maize, and fruit trees, and they harvest non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and edible fern. Among the major climate risks identified by Loh Yo villagers are heavy rainfall that affects the quality of their drinking water during the rainy season, as well as unpredictable rainfall at the beginning of the planting season.

The neighbouring Hae Ko village, a Lisu hill tribe community, also grows upland rice and maize, harvests NTFPs in the nearby forest, and raises chicken and pigs. Similar to Loh Yo, they are affected by irregular rainfall at the beginning of the planting season, which increases their cost of seeds if the first sown seeds don’t germinate due to a lack of rainfall. Also, in the past, heat stress had led to diseases in their livestock. 

Huai Kang Pla is a larger village consisting of 6 sub-villages, located in the lower area of Mae Chan district at 460-600 metres above sea level. In this village, households situated along the Mae Chan River are more vulnerable to floods, while sub-villages located in the higher areas are more vulnerable to landslides. Other climate hazards identified by the Huai Kang Pla villagers are drought, lack of clean drinking water during heavy rainfall, as well as unpredictable rainfall. The most vulnerable livelihoods identified by the community are upland rice, livestock, and maize.

“In the next step of the project, these ‘community climate stories’ will be compared to the ‘scientific climate story’ of the USAID Mekong ARCC study to eventually lead to a shared understanding of the main climate risks. Based on this, the villagers will identify priorities for climate change adaptation at the village level“, said Angela Jöhl, Programme Officer at IUCN Thailand.

Adaptation options will likely include the introduction of new crops to diversify income generation and decrease vulnerability to climate change; the setting up of mixed cropping and agroforestry demonstration sites; as well as the protection and rehabilitation of community forest areas to increase the resilience of local communities and ecosystems.

In all three communities, when discussing their vision for the future, villagers would like to see dense, green forests, diversity of species, and sustainable agriculture. IUCN will assist the villagers in implementing nature-based solutions that will help them achieve this vision for a more resilient future.