Rotational Farming in Northern Thailand. Traditional Governance and Management Systems' Contribution to Food Security, Biocultural Diversity and Carbon Sequestration. MEB piloting in practice and links to INMIP network; inclusive rotational farming, climate change impacts and responses based on biocultural heritage.
Prasert TRAKANSUPHAKON (Thailand)
Pgakenyaw Association for Sustainable Development (PASD), Thailand
The community of Hin Lad Nai, is situated in the north of Thailand, in an evergreen forest. The community is karen people, traditionally practising rotational farming. In 1989, the village started work to conserve the forest based on traditional knowledge, after it had been almost destroyed by a logging concession granted without any community consultation, which resulted in increasingly frequent outbreaks of wild fires. During the last 30 years, they managed to regenerate 80 per cent of their forest which had been logged, while maintaining their rotational farming system and developing high-value products to create a cash income from the flourishing forest. In 1992, the government tried to turn the area into a national park and resettle the communities but the communities were able to resist this by forming a network to fight for their land rights and by showing their forest conservation achievements.
The rotational farming system practised in Hin Lad Nai is the backbone of the natural resources management system developed by the Karen people. It contains the full range of Karen knowledge and wisdom, including cosmology, spirituality, technical knowledge of conservation practice, as well as value and cultural elements that are needed for any type of bio-cultural diversity management. It is the base for the spirituality and decides where different moments in the calendar cycle over the year will take place. It provides the Karen people with stories and tales for their culture, and metaphors for their language; it is part of their identity. The sticky rice is grown in the rotational farming system, and the rotational farming provides the broad diversity of food crops. No less than 207 species are found in the rotational system, providing the base for a rich, healthy and tasty diet. The rotational farming is also the home of a rich biological diversity of plants, domesticated as well as wild species, and it creates shelter and habitat for a wide range of animals, birds and insects during the different stages of rotation.
The community of Hin Lad Nai has been fighting to protect their rotational farming system as the base for their livelihoods. As part of this efforts, they initiated a study on climate impact from rotational farming. It showed that rotational farming does not cause climate change but rather contribute to maintain the balance of the ecosystem, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Mountain peoples are not the cause of climate change, their farming systems and ways of living have the potential to reduce negative impact. Hin Lad Nai has been observing different kinds of climate extremes over the last years, such as abnormally long dry seasons, as well as flooding making it impossible to burn the rotational fields on time. Under this conditions, the diversifying of the products from the forest has contributed resilience, and to sustain livelihood, still with the rotational farming as the base. They are now conducting community reserach in order to gain further evidence to getting their system recognized and accpeted by the government.
Prasert belongs to the Karen people in Thailand. He has been a practitioner of social development among indigenous peoples for over 20 years, specialising in indigenous knowledge, natural resource management and rotational farming in Thailand and South East Asia. Prasert is President of the organization Pgakenyaw Association for Sustainable Development (PASD) and closely engaged in the community of Hin Lad Nai, and its commitment to defend their rotational farming systems, and get it recognized and accepted as sustainable by the Thai government. This is how the community research in Hin Lad Nai started.