Doi Mae Salong, Chiang Rai.

The Doi Mae Salong Reforestation Project

FORRU has joined forces with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Thai Supreme Command in the Doi Mae Salong Reforestation project. This project is part of IUCN’s Livelihoods and Landscape program, run by the Asia Regional office, and aims to work with local people to restore approximately 1440 hectares (10,000 rai) of degraded mountainous landscape over 14 years.

The Doi Mae Salong area lies at an elevation of 1800m, and is 80km north west of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. It is within what is known as the ‘golden triangle’ region. The area has been settled within the last 30 years, when Chinese military migrants received asylum in return for fighting communist insurgency at the Thai China border. The area is known for its hilltribe villages and tea plantations which have replaced the traditional opium crops grown in the area up to the 1970’s.

The project began in 2007, and includes 5 years of tree planting followed by a further 9 years of plot maintenance. FORRU’s involvement with the project began in establishing a field trial plot, which was planted in 2008, and establishing and maintaining 8 community nurseries. The nurseries are located in primary and high schools within the villages of the Doi Mae Salong district, and FORRU have provided education and training to school students and teachers on establishing a nursery, nursery care techniques and seed collection.

To encourage student participation, FORRU introduced the ‘Treasure Tree’ program to the school nurseries. Students were given membership cards, and the school was allocated signs, which they were to place on trees from which the students should collect seeds. On each sign was written the name of the tree, and its flowering and fruiting times. For every 50 fruits or seeds (“treasures”) the children collect, they are given a sticker for their membership card. When they have 10 stickers, they are awarded a special prize for their wonderful efforts.

On the 6th June 2008 FORRU’s demonstration plot, located near the village of Ban Lor Yo, and on the road to Doi Mae Salong, was planted with 48,000 trees of 35 species. Of course, FORRU staff could not hope to do this alone: this feat was achieved with the help of 300 people: from local villagers, IUCN representatives, Supreme Command, TAO Phatueng of Mae Chan district, school children from 19 villages, NGO representatives and even the local radio station. 2 years on, FORRU’s monitoring shows that plants are growing vigorously and should close canopy within the next year. Now the military, in partnership with the local villages, are busy planting areas every year, with the school nurseries providing many seedlings for the project.

One of the big successes of the project has been the establishment of a multi-stakeholder working group for decision making in the landscape. This process has been facilitated by IUCN, and so now instead of the traditional ‘top down’ landscape management strategy that has been implemented in the past, decisions can be made with consensus from a whole range of groups. Many of the people living in this area do not have distinct land tenure rights, and so traditionally have not been consulted in regards to land management. By bringing together these people with the Supreme command, with other village representatives and with NGO’s such as IUCN and FORRU, decisions can be made that best fit the goals of all parties. By involving the local people in decision making about their land, these people can feel that the rehabilitated and restored forest is ‘theirs’: they feel pride and ownership about their efforts and, as their livelihoods will ultimately depend on the products and values they can gain fro the forest in the future, are motivated to maintain biodiversity and forest health.