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Kok Klang Community Members Pitch in to Preserve Valuable Community Forest
Author: Del McCluskey  |  Posted on 2 September 2015  |   Comments

National Park Officials, monks, community leaders and school children were among the 200 members of Kok Klang Village, in northeastern Thailand’s Sakon Nakhon Province, who gathered together in a community reforestation effort on August 28th, 2015. In total, the group planted about 5,000 trees in the 16-hectare Non Sao Ae community forest, as part of a larger community adaptation effort supported by the USAID Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (USAID Mekong ARCC) project and its partner, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Non Sao Ae and other forests provide nearby communities with many valuable products and services, and therefore require careful management in the face of anticipated climate change impacts.

Kok Klang village is home to 454 households (1,143 people), and is located in the Nam Phung river basin, which flows into a tributary of the Mekong River. Community members produce and sell primarily rubber, cassava, rice, livestock and non-timber forest products collected from the community forest areas and nearby Phu Pha Yon National Park. However, recent changes in local rainfall patterns and higher temperatures now increase risk of crop failures and impacts of animal production, and are altering ecosystems that threaten economically and culturally important plants and animals. With USAID Mekong ARCC assistance, the community is now testing different strategies to address these growing climate risks on their food and livelihood security. A key activity has been improving forest management and forest composition through enrichment planting to improve biodiversity habitat and expand the number of trees and plants that villages can use for food, handicrafts, medicines and construction.

The community relies on surrounding forests for a number of products for their daily needs. While all community members gather food, fuelwood and medicinal plants from these areas for household use, collecting and harvesting products to sell or cutting trees and bamboo for construction requires the permission of the village forest committee.

In an interview with two community members, Ms. Yupin Chotruen and Ms. Amporn Phankang, we learned that women are the primary gatherers of forest products, and depend on the forests to supply ingredients for one to two household meals every day. The table below shows some of the forest products that women collect and their approximate market value.

This market information is valuable when used with the tool developed by USAID Mekong ARCC for estimating the overall value of ecosystem services derived from different ecosystems. This ecosystem service valuation tool draws on numerous research papers which have quantified the value of provisioning, regulating and cultural services that different ecosystems provide to local communities and regions in the Lower Mekong Basin. Using this tool and the range of values for services derived from studies of tropical deciduous forests (the type of forests surrounding Kok Klang village)—we can estimate the value of provisioning services (food, fuelwood and other products) provided to the local community and surrounding areas by the 16-hectare Non Sao Ae forest to be approximately US$224,000 (THB 7.84 million) annually. A nearby 130-hectare tract of deciduous forest under the community’s management provides an additional estimated US$1.8 million (THB 63 million) annually in provisioning services. These sizeable valuations reinforce why these forest areas are considered to be so important for communities.

By coming together to strengthen forest management and governance, reforest degraded areas and improve forest protection, the Kok Klang community has taken significant steps toward ensuring their forests continue to supply valuable products and ecosystem services in a changing climate.

USAID Mekong ARCC and IUCN are also working in Kok Klang village to implement complementary adaptation activities, including:

  • Improving community water management and water use to ensure sufficient supplies during the dry season.
  • Testing rice varieties and cultivation techniques that will improve food supply resilience. 
  • Adopting improved animal production techniques (i.e. bio-mattresses for pig production) with native black pigs and black-boned chickens that are more resistant to heat stress.

Rice varieties are cultivating to improve food supply resilience in Kok Klang community.
(Photo by Del McCluskey/DAI)

Del McCluskey currently is Global Lead - Environment, Climate Change, and Urban Services of DAI Global. He oversees a diverse team of specialists working to help communities and governments become more resilient and adapt to climate change, expand access to clean water and basic sanitation, and promote sustainable and low carbon development.

Edited by Sara Lehman/DAI.