The natural environment plays an important role for communities living around protected areas. In addition to being essential for livelihoods, nature also has the potential of being developed for nature or community-based tourism.
Home to a rich diversity of forest types and wildlife, the Pang Sida and Ta Phraya National Parks are among five protected areas that form the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, in recent years the pristine site has come under threat from development, encroachment, and illegal logging.
Through the “Protected Areas and Transboundary Conservation for Climate Change Adaptation: Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai World Heritage Site” project, funded by the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund (KNCF), IUCN helped communities living in the areas adjacent to these parks to identify natural assets so as to develop nature trails, which can be used to develop an eco-tourism programme.
The Ba Kamint community living adjacent to Pang Sida National Park is well aware of their natural assets. “Under this project, we have established a 35 rai (5.6 hectare) plot of community forest and produced over 8,500 tree seedlings, which we have planted in the community. This forest will be one of the natural sites that tourists can visit, along with other natural areas such as a bird watching spot, a gaur grazing area, an agroforestry plot and an organic farm,” said Phra Ajan Kaew Kantasilo, a monk of the Ba Kamint community.
In Thap Rath Sub-District near the border with Cambodia, communities living adjacent to Ta Phraya National Park have also established a 388 rai (62 hectare) plot of community forest and taken stock of their remarkable natural and cultural assets. Apart from several viewpoints including a two-country spot, diverse forest areas, natural “Lalu” rock formations, and several community learning centers, tourists can also visit Banteay Chhmar Temple on the Cambodian side of the border. The two sides of the border are connected not only through their landscapes, but also culturally. Stones from the sites in Thailand had been used to build Banteay Chhmar Temple.
“By helping communities introduce edible and other tree species in their forests, and by demarcating the area of their community forests, the communities are empowered to look after their natural assets. The project has also taught the communities how family forests and farming can support their livelihoods,” said Tawatchai Rattanasorn, Senior Programme Officer, IUCN Thailand.
As a next step, IUCN and the communities will present their natural site maps to the District Administration Offices, the National Park Offices and possibly the Ministry of Tourism, in order to discuss ways to promote nature-based tourism, as a way to conserve their natural sites for future generations.