On 2–3 December 2011, MWD Thailand, together with the Inter Mountain Peoples’ Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), the Hill Area and Community Development Foundation (HADF), and the Indigenous Women’s Network of Thailand, held a seminar in Chiang Rai for indigenous women to discuss and exchange views on managing water resources to enhance food security and adapt to climate change. Twenty women representing 10 ethnic groups (including Karen, Hmong, Mien, Palong, Lawa, Shan, Lahu, Lisu, Kachin and Akha) from Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai took an active part in the event.
The seminar was organised under the MWD Thailand work plan for 2011, which aims to improve understanding of women’s concerns, interests, opportunities and traditional knowledge, as well as their perceptions of the risks and threats to food and water resources posed by social, cultural, economic and environmental changes.
Among the concerns raised by women at the seminar was the rapid expansion of cash crops such as corn (maize) and rubber in the Mekong basin in north and northeastern Thailand. They fear that this is degrading watersheds, causing a loss of plant diversity, declining food sources and food security, and more frequent droughts, flash floods and landslides. Indigenous communities living in highland areas are especially vulnerable to these impacts. Seminar participants recommended that women be encouraged to take a leading role in campaigning and raising awareness on conserving water resources and biodiversity in their villages, and more widely in watersheds through river basin planning and management.