Thailand: 7,306 registered community forests

At present, there are 7,306 registered community forests all over the
country, with a combined area of about 2.5 million rai (400,000
hectares). Last week, the Royal Forestry Department and Ratchaburi
Electricity Holding held a seminar for representatives of winning
communities at the Khao Wong community forest. “The seminar was aimed
at allowing representatives from different communities to share their
views and experiences about forest preservation. They could also learn
from the national winner, the Khao Wong community forest, so that they
can adapt the new knowledge to their communities,” Chonlatid said.

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Prayut Thongsuwan, assistant managing director of Ratchaburi
Electricity Holding, said the programme would encourage the
development of a strong community forest network throughout Thailand.
“The company will extend the activity and programme to upgrade
standards for further protection and development of our national
resources,” he said. The Khao Wong community forest has an area of
6,250 rai and is adjacent to the Sai Thong National Park. It is
managed by a network of community forest committees from five villages
around the forest. Pluem Piromphak, a former village headman who
initiated the Khao Wong community forest, said that in the past,
people living in the forest mostly earned money by making charcoal,
and they cut a lot of trees in the process. In 1996, the village
committee agreed that if things were allowed to go on like that, the
forest would soon be gone.

So they came up with a campaign to preserve
the forest. People were gradually relocated out of the forest and the
Khao Wong community forest was set up. “Later we campaigned for
villagers to stop making charcoal. We encouraged them to take up
organic farming, breed fish and raise pigs. The people have now
nicknamed their village ‘City of Sufficiency’,” said Pluem. Sunthorn
Amnat, a kamnan from Tambon Wang Takhe and chairman of the Khao Wong
community forest, said during the seminar that local residents are now
less dependent on forest products, thanks to the knowledge they
received about mixed farming. With reduced human dependence on the
forest, it has become healthier, he added. “In the past, locals
competed with one another to get as much as possible from the forest.
With the community forest and systematic management, everybody now
gets equal benefit from the forest. There are rules for making use of
the forest. For example, you need permission from the committee to cut
a tree for personal use. You are allowed to cut only fully-grown trees
and you need to plant new trees in their place,” Sunthorn said.

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