Local government and ecosystem rewards’ schemes in Thailand
The chair of Mae Win sub-district administrative office senate in Thailand is also an agroforester and eco-tourism operator who supports rewarding local people who protect their environment
By Robert Finlayson
‘Having a variety of plants in agroforestry systems is good because it results in biodiversity in the soil; plants grow naturally; and there is clean air; helping to balance the environment given that now there is global warming’, said Mr Nikom Onkew, head of Mae Win sub-district administrative office senate in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand.
Mr Onkew is an enthusiastic supporter of agroforestry thanks to his time working with the World Agroforestry Centre in Thailand, which is based at Chiang Mai University.
‘Working with the Centre provided me with experience that I use to encourage my neighbours in the community to help take care of natural resources and the environment. I went to work with the Centre without really expecting anything much but I learned a lot. I learned about the importance of forests and water, much more than I knew before’, he said.
The knowledge he gained through the World Agroforestry Centre has inspired him in his role as chair of the sub-district administrative office senate to do more to benefit local farmers and the environment.
‘Now, I have the idea of having all the members of the Mae Win sub-district’s communities—we have 19 villages and more than 10,000 people—participate in taking care of the environment. We need to be aware of global warming and its effects. One way to solve the problem is to have more trees, no matter whether in the forests, the communities, or the villages. Trees should be planted every year and there should be no further encroachment into the forests. Trees can regenerate themselves and they are even better than trees that are planted’.
Mr Onkew’s rafting business is directly dependent on a healthy river and hence he is vitally aware of the ability of the environment to provide direct benefits.
‘Tourists like to come here; they like the surroundings, with trees on both sides of the stream. They like to visit forests rather than cities. Streams are good for recreation for both Thai and foreign tourists. They can come here to relax as they please’.
Because of the multiple benefits that the environment provides, Mr Onkew is keen to use his role as sub-district senate chair to encourage, and reward, his fellow citizens in the sub-district for protecting the environment, particularly through planting agroforests, which not only support natural functions that support humans but also provide products that benefit humans both materially and financially.
While at the World Agroforestry Centre, he learned from projects such as Rewards for, Use of, and Shared Investment in Pro-poor Environmental Services (RUPES), which was carried out over ten years in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development. RUPES tested a number of different rewards’ schemes throughout Asia and taught the important role that trees—and the people who manage them—play in maintaining healthy watersheds.
‘Agroforests of mixed species are important in the environment’, he said, ‘protecting soil in watersheds and releasing water in dry seasons for downstream communities to use. So, downstream communities should compensate upstream communities for protecting the natural environment, especially the water. All should participate in protecting the ecosystems that provide everyone with water’.
The Centre will continue to provide Mr Onkew and his government with technical assistance and advice about such schemes in order to help him achieve his vision of healthy, well-functioning watersheds that are beneficial to all.
This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry