In 1988, the Project area was subject to slash and burn agriculture, opium cultivation, and trafficking in humans and arms. It was a survival world where people lived in survival conditions. The late Princess Mother saw the urgency of reforesting the area to preserve the quality of the watershed, both for the environment and for the original settlers whose livelihoods were threatened.
The Princess Mother however realized that a reforestation alone without taking into consideration the economic livelihoods of the locals will lead the area into another vicious cycle and become disastrous. This gave rise to economic forestry that allowed villagers to earn income from licit activities in their natural surroundings without having to engage in slash and burn cultivation or harming the environment. In addition to planting watershed forests, the Project also allocated land for subsistence forests where locals could grow short-term crops and fruit trees, and economic forests of coffee and macadamia. Through learning by doing, the Project discovered that even the number of forest fires decreased with the expansion of economic forestry and a growing sense of good local stewardship of the forests.
The renewal of nature began by reforestation of 9,900 rai (150 km?) of highland watershed. Locals went from being opium growers to forestry workers, planting trees to earn legitimate incomes overnight. This quick hit helped develop their trust in the Project.
Today, a new generation of local people manage their trash, recycles, and treats waste water. Small weirs are built and tended by school students; local villagers understand the need to preserve the watershed to ensure sufficient water for consumption and agriculture. The local community is well aware of their responsibility for their impact on the environment.
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