My name is Thorng Luen Khamdokrak
and I have been fighting to save the local forest for the last 10
years. The forest is 700 rai (273 acres) and is located between the
villages of Ban Pra-bat and Ban Huay-bong, near Khon Kaen, Thailand.
It is beautiful and healthy now but 10 years ago there was almost
Luen, leads a group of kids into the forest. He explains
uses for nearly every plant they pass.
plant can be wrapped around a cut to stop the bleeding",
"the berries from this plant are good for an ulcer",
"this plant can be burned and the smoke will help
sick cows and buffalos", "the fruit from this
plant can be used to make soap for washing clothes".
students already know about the fruit trees and are quick
to grab a snack.
People in our villages rely on the forest for everything. We pick
fruit from the trees, use plants and herbs to eat and as medicine,
catch insects and animals for food, harvest mushrooms, make tools
from the trees branches and wrap our food in banana leaves. For generations
we have relied on the bounty of the forest.
But 20 to 30 years ago, as Thailand began to modernize, the forest
began to diminish. People wanted to make money so they cleared areas
of the forest to grow large fields of rice, sugar and corn, which
could be sold. They also cut trees to make houses and to sell the
lumber. Eventually, little remained of the forest and the village
lacked the ready source for many of our daily needs. Perhaps because
the forest had always been there, we had taken it for granted.
Although many people in the village recognized the diminishing forest
as a problem, we did not know how to solve it. Around 10 years ago,
we started telling people not to cut down trees and to stop clearing
land to grow crops but many people didn't listen. We formed a local
committee to make rules but people would often break the rules. Our
solutions only half worked.
We asked PLAN to help make
the forests healthy again. PLAN arranged for us to visited well-managed
forests and meet with government forestry officials and forestry experts
from universities. They taught us how to reestablish, manage and protect
Reestablishing the Forest
We started replanting and nurturing the amazing variety of trees and
plants that had once flourished here.
We made signs with rules for using the forest and penalties for breaking
the rules. Somebody caught cutting a tree is fined 1000 baht ($25
US). 500 baht goes to the person who reported the tree poacher and
500 baht goes to the fund for protecting and replanting the forest.
to make soap for washing clothes
out signs with the names of trees in Thai, Isaan (local language),
and English that have been put around the forest
A road has been cleared around the forest to protect it from fire.
We started running camps
for children, taught by village elders like myself (and older kids
who have already attended camps) to learn secrets of the forest. The
kids love the camps. They spend three days in the forest drawing pictures,
learning the names of trees, talking with elders about the forest
and having fun.
These camps turned out to be the most important step to saving the
forest, because they provided the single ingredient that made everything
else work. They taught people to love the forest.
When I was growing up the trees were much bigger than they are today.
But 10 years ago there was nothing here at all. Now the forest is
back and it is growing and becoming healthier every day.
Community involvement and education are necessary for a program to
work on a long-term basis.
problems are not new. Find people who have already solved the problem
and learn from them. In this case, we learned how to replant and manage
the forest from government forestry officials and forestry experts
from universities. Taking the time and effort to visit well-maintained
forests and to learn from these people was a worthwhile trip and an
on the lotus leaves above)
Hear Thorng Luen speak (1-2 minutes to download)