Facing the challenges of the Greater Mekong Sub-region
With a growing population greater than the United States, the Greater Mekong Sub-Region is under enormous pressure caused by over-use of natural resources. The World Agroforestry Centre and Chiang Mai University have joined together to help find solutions
By Robert Finlayson
Around 326 million people live in what the Asian Development Bank (ADB) labelled the Greater Mekong Sub-region, straddling six countries and 2.6 million km2. Cambodia, China (specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam share a program of sub-regional economic cooperation designed to enhance their economic relations. They also share substantial land-use problems.
According to Javed Mir of the ADB, every year the sub-region loses 10–12% of its gross domestic product through the over-exploitation of forests, land, wildlife and fisheries as well as pollution to ecosystems. Compounded by climate change, this situation greatly threatens long-term prosperity, including food, energy and water security.
To help address this, on 27 June 2014 the World Agroforestry Centre and Chiang Mai University in northern Thailand signed an extension of their memorandum of understanding to continue to work together, specifically under the aegis of the Knowledge Support Centre for the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
The Support Centre was established in 2009 to increase understanding of the complex and often poorly understood sub-region by sharing information about issues related to natural resources management, environmental services and climate change. This is a matter of increasing urgency as all countries that lie within its scope are undergoing rapid development. In conducting its collaborative programs, the Support Centre not only draws on expertise from the World Agroforestry Centre’s Thailand office and programs throughout Southeast Asia but also that of the Centre’s East and Central Asia program, based in Yunnan Province, which is also carrying out research in the Mekong region.
The MOU was signed on behalf of Chiang Mai University by its president, Associate Professor Niwes Nantachit MD, and for the World Agroforestry Centre by Dr Ujjwal Pradhan, the Southeast Asia regional coordinator, supported by Dr Prasit Wangpakapattanawong, coordinator of the Centre’s Thailand program.
The University is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2014 and will commemorate the date by co-hosting with the World Agroforestry Centre an event in December that tackles head-on the challenges facing land use in the region, demonstrating to the Government of Thailand and development agencies that there are practical, low-technology solutions available through deployment of agroforestry systems and associated methodologies.
‘Chiang Mai University is keen on strengthening its role as the centre of education and research for the upper ASEAN region’, said Dr Wangpakapattanawong, ‘with a focus on research in neighbouring countries, particularly through mobilizing support from graduate students and researchers in universities in ASEAN countries and beyond. We see that a special event is needed to focus attention on the problems and the solutions we can offer’.
The World Agroforestry Centre will further support the University through its network of offices in the region and through collaboration with the new Highland Agriculture Department at the Faculty of Agriculture.
Knowledge Support Centre for the Greater Mekong Sub-region
Research conducted through the Knowledge Support Centre
- Nutrition-sensitive agriculture solutions amongst ethnic minorities living in remote upland areas of Thailand. With Research Institute of Health Sciences, Chiang Mai University. Funded by International Development Research Centre, Canada. Mar 2013–Feb 2016.
- Development and evaluation of a behaviour-change communication strategy to improve child nutrition in villages in northern Thailand: participation and insights of local communities. With School of Population Health/Public Health, University of Adelaide, Australia. Aug 2013–Sep 2015.
- Assessing ecological knowledge on swidden cultivation about biodiversity and carbon sequestration in relation to forest restoration. With the Biology Department, Chiang Mai University. Funded by Thailand Research Fund. Jun 2010–June 2014.
- Rubber-area assessment with object-based classification of Landsat-5 TM data. With Geoinformatics and Space Technology Center (Northern Region), Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University. Nov 2012–Dec 2013.
- Estimation of emission factors of pollutants from biomass burning in forest area, Northern Thailand. With Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University. Aug–Dec 2013.
- Forest Restoration Research Unit. 2013. Trees, skills and knowledge for facilitating forest restoration and agroforestry in Northern Thailand. Nov 2012–Jun 2013. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Forest Restoration Research Unit, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University; World Agroforestry Centre Thailand.
- Dynamics of land tenure and property rights under state forest conservation and agricultural commercialization in Mae Ram Sub-Watershed of Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand. With Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University. Oct 2012–Feb 2013.
- Wangpakapattanawong P. 2013. Promoting sustainable natural resource management and conservation in Mae Hong Son Province, Thailand. Apr 2011–Dec 2012. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Faculty of Science and Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University; World Agroforestry Centre Thailand.
- Punsompong P, Chantrara S. 2013. Database development for spatial and temporal distribution of biomass burning in Northern Thailand. Sep–Dec 2012. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University; World Agroforestry Centre Thailand.
- Thomas DE, Thomas J, eds. 2011. Rewarding mountain communities for maintaining environmental services of Inthanon Mountain: transformation of villages in a park into eco-tourism communities. Chiang Mai, Thailand: World Agroforestry Centre Thailand. Rewarding the Upland Poor for Environmental Services project. Jan–Dec 2011.
- Creative economy and value-added products with sustainable land use and natural resource management. Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University. Funded by Office of Chiang Mai Province. Oct 2010–Sep 2011.
- Thomas DE, ed. 2010. Rewarding community participation in managing environmental services provided by a national park: a case study of Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai, Thailand: World Agroforestry Centre Thailand. Rewarding the Upland Poor for Environmental Services project. Jan–Dec 2010.
- Thomas DE, Thomas J, eds. 2009. Trees in multi-use landscapes in Southeast Asia: a negotiation-support toolbox for integrated natural resources management.Land-use complex causes and negative impacts to potential solutions in the Mae Wang Watershed. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Economics, Chiang Mai University; World Agroforestry Centre Thailand. Jan–Dec 2009.
- Wangpakapattanawong P, Junsongduang A, Ratnamhin A. 2010. Roles and importance of sacred groves in biodiversity conservation in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University; World Agroforestry Centre Thailand. Oct–Dec 2009.
- Infants supplement food from local raw material and nutritive values for 6-month-old infants. With Nutrition Education Graduate Program, Graduate School, Chiang Mai University.
- Developing payment for environmental services mechanisms for alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture in Northern Thailand. With Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University.
This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry