How can villagers in Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand, adapt to climate change? One way is by learning from their neighbours.
In December 2015, 49 community members from 11 different villages joined an exchange visit to neighbouring Loh Yo, Hae Ko and Huai Kang Pla villages that the USAID Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (USAID Mekong ARCC) project helped to implement ecosystem- and community-based adaptation initiatives.
Among the adaptation initiatives implemented in the three villages are activities for agricultural diversification, such as the introduction of Assam tea and other perennial crops, such as fruit trees. These alternative crops will help the villagers diversify their income sources and reduce the risk of crop failure in the face of increased temperatures and more intense or irregular rainfall, which communities are already experiencing.
The communities in Chiang Rai were also introduced to black pigs, a local breed that is more heat- and disease tolerant. They are raising them in pig pits that produce organic fertilizer for their agricultural crops. In addition, the project supported the communities in promoting forest conservation and establishing community forest regulations, as this was identified by the community as a priority for adaptation options.
The 49 participants from the visiting villages also learned about the participatory decision making process that guided the development of the community adaptation plans by combining the scientific and community climate stories of the villages. They then visited the different activities in and around Hae Ko and Loh Yo villages, located in the Chiang Rai highlands.
“We have noted that climate has changed in our village over the past 4-5 years. In terms of adaptation activities, I am particularly interested in the pig pits, as I will be able to use the compost in my agricultural fields. Some of the agricultural crops that we saw today will be difficult to grow in my village due to the different climate [in the lowland],” said Ms. Saaychon Thaleungsakdadet, a farmer from Huai Nam Rak village in Mae Chan District.
“Through these exchange visits, the project aims to share lessons that can be taken up by neighboring villages, partner organizations, and local administrations. The participants have shown a lot of interest in replicating some of the activities. As a next step, we will have a closer look at the village context, and if the conditions are right (e.g. in terms of local climate or market), we will organize more detailed trainings to transfer knowledge to these villages,” said Mr. Ratkawee Boonmake, IUCN Project Field Coordinator.
Before this visit, the project had organized an expert assessment of the adaptation initiatives by involving experts from different partner organisations and local administrations to assess the adaptation options with the highest potential for replication. The partner organisations included Mae Chan District Administration, Pa Tueng Sub-District Administration Organisation, the District Livestock Office, the Chiang Rai Land Development Office, the Highland Research and Development Institute, the Non-Formal Education Centers of Mae Fah Luang and Mae Chan Districts, the Huai Hong Krai Royal Development Study Center in Chiang Mai, and the Wise Wetland Use Association, a local civil society network.
To document some of the benefits, but also the costs, of these adaptation options, the project produced some fact sheets which show that, if implemented well, the options not only generate adaptation benefits, but also make economic sense for the communities. It is hoped that this will encourage partners and community members to replicate some of the adaptation initiatives to help strengthen their resilience to climate change impacts.