New Trees that Breathe Life into a Degraded Landscape

IUCN helps restore a forest landscape to benefit local communities in Northern Thailand

Forest landscape restoration in Northern Thailand

On June 6, 2008, 48,000 trees were planted in the Doi Mae Salong (DMS) watershed of Northern Thailand in a milestone event organized by IUCN, the Supreme Commander’s Office (SCO) and the TAO Phatueng of MaeChan District. 300 people men, women and children from 19 villages representing communities all along the MaeChan River participated. It was the next step in a 14 year long project which will restore 1,440 hectares of a degraded mountainous landscape identified by the SCO’s office and which is being supported by IUCN’s 'Livelihoods and Landscapes' Initiative.

Forest restoration in this area has traditionally been a top down approach that did not take into account the needs of the local people. For example, in 2007 the SCO's office replanted 160 hectares of forest on the traditional agricultural plots of 32 families, creating tension between local communities, many of whom did not have land tenure rights and who were concerned about their future livelihood options. As this new reforestation project requires the relocation of more families and therefore livelihood support for those affected, the SCO requested the assistance of IUCN’s ‘Livelihoods and Landscapes’ Initiative in order to fully address these issues.

The project, which began in 2007, will include 5 years of tree planting followed by another 9 years of post planting maintenance at a cost of US$ 2.8 million. The money will fund the construction of check dams for watershed restoration, forest restoration and tree nurseries, and other livelihood and development actions to improve the quality of life for local communities. Through the ‘Livelihoods and Landscapes’ Initiative, IUCN role is threefold:

  • Facilitating a participatory decision making process between the Supreme Commander's Office, other NGO's like the Hill tribe Area Development Foundation (HADF), local government officials, and most importantly, the 5,000 families (belonging to 6 ethnic groups) in 10 communities in the MaeFahLuang and MaeChan District, Chiangrai.
  • Providing technical and scientific assistance to restore the forest landscape so that a self generating ecosystem can once again be created. 41 participants from the DMS (including village leaders, a local authority officer, a school teacher and a forestry officer) have already been trained on the general concepts and skills needed for forest restoration
  • Supporting these 5,000 families to benefit from the collection and trade in non timber forest products that an enhanced forest landscape can once again provide, and to secure land tenure rights. Together, these will improve their livelihoods.

The Supreme Commander hopes to visit the site of the newly planted trees in August to check on the general progress of the project.

For more information, please contact:

Tawatchai Rattanasorn, Project coordinator: [email protected]

Zakir Hussain, Project coordinator: [email protected]

Janaka de Silva, Programme coordinator: [email protected]

Andrew Ingles, Livelihoods and Landscapes coordinator, Asia: [email protected]

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