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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

Climate Change, Trees and Livelihood: A Case Study on the Carbon Footprint of a Karen Community in Northern Thailand

Global climate change is increasingly affecting the agricultural sector of Thailand in various ways, manifested by worsening drought, floods, and irregular rainfall. All these are additional risks to livelihood activities, resources, food security, and thus may lead to an increase of poverty.

Thailand ratified the UNFCCC on 28 December 1994 and ratified the Kyoto Protocol on 28 August 2002. The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Plan (ON REP) has been designated as the national focal point on climate change under the UNFCCC.

The Thai government designated the ON REP to draft a national master plan on climate change in the form of a ten-year work plan starting from 2010 to 2019 with the following three strategies:

  • Creating the ability to cope and adapt to the effects of climate change
  • Promoting involvement of all sectors in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sinks based on sustainable development
  • Integrated management of climate change

In this master plan, forest is one of the highlighted sectors, particularly in strategy number 2. A specific project under strategy 2 has direct reference to the promotion of REDD plus activities. The Cabinet is yet to approve the master plan. Further, the ON REP is reviewing the master plan based on the demands of the civil society.

Traditionally, sustainable agricultural and natural resource management included integrated and organic farming, agroforestry, shifting cultivation, and community-forest management with the full and effective participation of the community. The highland peoples have promoted these activities as an alternative strategy to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, including enhancing food security for farming households, communities, and societies.

For decades, highland peoples have been accused of deforestation, destroying natural resources, burning grass and causing forest fires that is resulting in carbon emission. In addition, they are also accused to be “forest intruders” and to practice “backward” and “destructive” agriculture. Consequently, highland communities are increasingly subjected to government policies, guidelines and other measures that are formulated without their participation but with serious implications for them. These policies have thereby not taken into account their concerns and specific conditions, including their effective strategies to combat adverse impacts of climate change.

At present, several highland communities have attempted to establish cooperation with local governments to promote sustainable natural resource management through their age-old sustainable practices. The practices include community forest and land management, agricultural development, and community forest fire control and prevention. These activities, which are still being practiced by highland communities, have enabled the continuous development of their traditional knowledge with capacities to manage their natural resources sustainably and to ensure food security.

This case study aims to cover two main topics:

  • The production patterns in agroforestry, shifting cultivation, and community-forest management in relation to greenhouse gases, natural resources, and climate change
  • The role and contributions of community practices of agroforestry, shifting cultivation, and community-forest management to mitigate global warming and impacts of climate change.

The villages of Huay Hin Lad community in Wieng Pa Pao district, Chiang ai province were selected as a pilot area for the research.

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