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Learnings and insights from the Chiang Mai project

2024-03-13 09:07



Learnings and insights from the Chiang Mai project

The CADIS project in collaboration with the Research and Training Center for Religio-Cultural Community (RTRC) 'Strengthening indigenous leadership and communit

The CADIS project in collaboration with the Research and Training Center for Religio-Cultural Community (RTRC) ‘Strengthening indigenous leadership and community capacity of hill tribes in Northern Thailand towards social inclusion and sustainable development’ has concluded.

Started in 2018, the main objective was to strengthen indigenous leadership and build the capacity of tribal communities in Northern Thailand towards social inclusion and sustainable development. The project has assisted communities affected by climate change and, most importantly, protected the fundamental rights of indigenous smallholder farmers by training and building the capacity of young potential community leaders.


Last November, from the 9th to the 11th, the CADIS International team made an evaluation visit to Chiang Mai to discuss the project results with the RTRC team and other stakeholders, such as directly affected tribal leaders. It visited Phayao, one of the project districts, and met with the beneficiaries.


The farmers are satisfied with the positive impact of the project on their lives. The main objective is to create a network of farmers to share knowledge and sustainable organic farming practices. One of the members has been appointed as a representative of the provincial agricultural council who will also represent him at the national level.


Besides the increase in personal income that contributes to their sustainability, the greatest success of the project is the awareness gained for a better future with the practice of organic farming.


Some lessons and insights from the CADIS visit are as follows:

- The need to build networks of farmer associations and forge partnerships with public and private actors for mutual assistance.
- The awareness, promotion and integration of deep ecological and spiritual awareness and the need to persevere among tribal communities.
- The practice of community farming reinforces customary sharing practices, contributing to modern community organisation.
- The project supports and sustains children's education, which distances youth and adults from the influence of drug addiction.
- Local awareness of self-sufficiency and food security has increased.
- Local seed production has become an essential part of the groups' activities.


The project was effectively implemented in the three key areas:

1) Involvement. The process of involving farmers in the project encouraged them to participate and engage in addressing their problems. They learnt about the changing situation, available resources and the environment.
One of the good examples is the capacity-building training for organic fertiliser production in Phayao. Participating farmers learned together how to produce their own organic fertilisers with the raw materials brought for the training, shared the organic fertilisers produced with others, planned together how to apply them, and evaluated the use of organic fertilisers. Many volunteers were identified: soil experts, farmer trainers, youth and women's groups.


2) Capacity building is one of the key objectives of the project. The objective was to raise farmers' awareness of food security for their families and communities and to reduce farm input costs by switching from monoculture to organic farming. This has helped farmers to be more self-reliant and economical. Many of the farmer leaders have become reference persons for other community organisations (CBOs) and agricultural universities. They have learnt to work conserving and improving the environment and local resources, such as forests and water.


3) Networking. The project included several networking activities. It was an opportunity for farmers to meet, learn and share experiences that helped them change their way of farming. Through networking, they were able to share their successes and difficulties. A good example is the networking with local government authorities - the forest rangers and national park authorities. Their meeting helped them understand the problem of food shortages and the need for villagers to access the forest and national parks for natural food or home farming. This led to an agreement between the farmers and the national park authorities granting farmers permission to access part of the national park for home farming and animal husbandry.


The RTRC project with indigenous communities in northern Thailand is funded by the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI), in collaboration with CADIS. The programme's activities with the Karen and Lawa ethnic groups have strengthened and reinforced the Rice Merit Network and farming culture. The Rice Merit Network (Solidarity Action) involves more than 500 communities as members. For the Akha, Lahu and Lao peoples, the implementation of the project has strengthened the confidence of the network of spiritual leaders and district levels in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in many communities. They are now equipped with knowledge to deal with the problems and obstacles that arise today. Besides hunting wild pigs, they have started to raise them at home.

RTRC is following the planning done by the ethnic leaders and sharing their experiences on analysing changes in the environment and society and how to move forward. The plan for the future is to continue the training of organic intellectual leaders, especially involving the younger generation, in line with the core values of Laudato Si’.

And now see what Ms Sangthad Yudee, a member of the Mae Sai District Organic Farming Network, a beneficiary of the project and part of the networking group, shared with us.


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