For Immediate Release
May 3, 2011, Bangkok: When given the right enabling conditions, rural forest communities have effectively addressed some of the most important development challenges: From protection of natural resources and poverty alleviation to climate change adaptation, indigenous knowledge combined with scientific training has provided innovative solutions to 21st- century problems.
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Pred Nai village, in Trat province, is internationally renowned for its unique, two-decade, community-driven plan to regenerate 1,920 hectares of severely depleted coastal mangroves from the devastating effects of 40 years of logging and overfishing. In fact, this is the last surviving mangrove forest on Thailand's eastern seaboard. The award-winning project is now attracting Thai and international donor support for its community-based response to the growing threats of climate change.
Meeting community and local government representatives from six sub-districts on 29 and 30 April, H.E. Ms. Katja Nordgaard, the Norwegian Ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar, and Mr. Ola Möller, the First Secretary of the Embassy of Sweden, learned firsthand of the community's achievements and challenges on the ground.
"We have received a lot of training and support in the development of our knowledge center, mangrove management systems, and the creation of the subdistrict network through RECOFTC* and other organizations," said Mr. Amporn Phaetsat, President of the Pred Nai Mangrove Conservation and Development Group, "but we are facing new challenges now from climate change, and need technical and institutional support."
The Group was set up in 1998 with support from RECOFTC, which has conducted some 50 workshops to help villagers handle conflict and climate change impacts in the last two years. Much of this innovative work is supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) along with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Royal Thai Government which, as core donors, have provided financial support for RECOFTC's goals in community forestry in Asia and the Pacific.
Speaking to community representatives, Ms. Nordgaard said, "The Norwegian government places high importance on climate change and environment involving local communities. Your success here is important, not just for your economic well-being but that of future generations. The work you are doing here should be replicated in other places."
RECOFTC and Norad launched the first phase of the Coastal Resource Management through Community-based Learning Centers project (CbLC) which will earmark US$150,000 to train communities in six sub-districts. The project is part of the larger US$5,650,000 million Mangroves for the Future regional tsunami initiative, also supported by Norway, Sweden, Thailand, and other donors. CbLC will help in restoring some 5,150 hectares of mangrove forest, which will serve as a greenbelt, carbon sink, and an income source from seafood.
Two other innovative pilots are the adoption of a low-carbon lifestyle in one community and the leveraging of the unique Pred Nai Community Mangrove Forest Management Fund, which could provide a prototype for a future village climate change fund.
"The transformation achieved in the last ten years is tremendous," said Dr. Yam Malla, Executive Director of RECOFTC, who also accompanied the Ambassador and the First Secretary on the trip. "The community has pioneered programs to substantially increase incomes from forest and marine products and ecotourism while at the same time protecting these resources. The Mangrove Management Network now includes 19 villages, and we hope the new project will widen the geographic impact of coastal conservation."