Indigenous innovation Celebrated in the Northern Thai jungle
In 2012, three indigenous community representatives from North Thailand (Akha, Lahu and Karen), the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) of Thailand, IFAD-PROCASUR and other organizations began a partnership for the dissemination of good natural resource management practices, building networks among communities and public sector and opening spaces for peer-to-peer learning. On 30th of June it was launched the next stage in the partnership, in Pakia Village, Chiang Rai, Thailand. On this sunny Saturday morning, 26 women and 9 men gathered from Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Huay Hin Lad Nai and Pa Thai Villages respectively to celebrate the launch of the innovation plan ‘Central Savings and Credit Group for the Economic Empowerment of Indigenous Women’.
This particular journey to innovation started in December 2014, when representatives of these three different indigenous communities joined a Learning Route (LR) in Nepal and learned about the relevance of opening new spaces for women to participate actively as leaders in their territories, including the engagement in new income generation activities and accessing savings and loans. One Lahu woman, one Karen female youth, and one male Akha formed the Thai delegation in Nepal, once again linking the three indigenous communities in a way that has yet to be done. A small project proposal was submitted to PROCASUR and has since been awarded with USD 2500 for implementation.
The new stage in words of Buthe Buyingkun, leader of the women group in Pakia: “I think that the founding of the credits and saving fund group helps the women. If women do not go out of the village to find job, the fund will support the women in earning income and the women are able to raise their children at home. We can work with our own job without having to go out of the village. The fund group will help a lot with unemployment. We can make the best out of our free time. In term of community, everybody has opportunity to work and earn income. I think that women will be stronger and more independent than before if we have this fund group.”
Over the course of the day, participants were able to interact with community members, sharing stories and experiences whilst celebrating the launch of the new project. The meeting provided not only an opportunity for stakeholders to learn from the communities on the ground, but also for the three participants of the LR to be able to meet again for the first time since their Nepal adventure and hold a conception meeting amongst the luscious Thai jungle in Chiang Rai.
There was much to learn from Pakia Village, after all the almost 4 year partnership has spanned many different learning themes; from women’s empowerment, integrated farming methods, organic techniques and savings cooperatives. Our visit to Pakia reflected this diversity. Just before the rain set in, Mr Manop Bunyuenkun, village headman of the Akha village rounded the event off with a tour through his farm and shared with us all the fruits of his experiences in organic farming;
“In the past, even if the vegetables were from the city or market, we did not want to eat them because they likely contained chemical. We know that vegetables are good for us and rich in nutrients, but this is made bad when people use chemicals. Since we have started farming like this, then those people who have visited also want to do the same. They want to eat without fear. We show them that we don’t have to do much. We do not cultivate mono crops, we have non-timber products and we have trees. In the forest there is full of nutrients – in the fallen leaves, in the roots and the air. It’s like there are natural nutrients everywhere. So I believe that plants and vegetables, and whatever else is grown here should be all natural as well.”
The events of June 30th 2015, mark another milestone of what has so far been a relationship built on mutual trust, learning and diversity. We hope that there are many more to come, when we will learn from a new experience, this time, focus on indigenous women empowerment. More information available atwww.asia.procasur.org and https://www.facebook.com/procasur.asia