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August 2012 Summary Report – PATT Soneva Forest Restoration Project

 
 

Summary of Main Tasks completed in August 2012

Forest Restoration Planting

Following FORRU’s site survey indicating 33 species of natural regenerants, an additional 2,300 seedlings comprising 25 native tree species were planting at the forest restoration demonstration plot located at Tham Lod Cave Wildlife Development and Conservation Center on 6 August 2012. During August 2012, activities preliminary to forest restoration planting have been ongoing at the Pai River Watershed Wildlife Sanctuary. (The sanctuary straddles two districts — Pai and Pang Mapha — of  Mae Hong Son Province.) Site clearance is now nearly complete, planting holes have been marked and dug, survey of natural regenerants has been completed, and planting has begun. At the request of the Pang Mapha District Authority and villagers at Ban Lisu, the Soneva PATT Forest Restoration Project assisted on the enrichment of a 200 rai community forest at Ban Lisu by providing 1,000 tree seedlings comprising 38 native tree species. Labor for site clearance and tree planting was provided by villagers on a voluntary basis.

Forest Restoration Site Maintenance

Weeding, fertilization and re-planting at the Doi Pha Maa forest restoration site were completed in August. The Sri Lanna National Park authority and villagers at Huay Rachabutr requested PATT to extend the area of the Doi Pha Maa forest plantation by an additional 5 rai. Site clearance of the expansion area began during the last week of August and will be completed during the first week of September 2012. Planting of an additional 2,000 seedlings will be completed by middle September.

Site acquisition and reconnaissance

At the request of H.M. the Queen’s Brain Trust Project in Chiang Mai, the Royal Thai Border Patrol, the Northern Supreme Command, and the Northern Region Office of National Parks, the Soneva PATT Forest Restoration Project assisted participatory planning at Ban Nong Pha Village, (Prao District, Chiang Mai), to obtain villagers’ input to plans for an integrated community economic development, forest and watershed rehabilitation pilot project. Each household in the Nong Pha community sent at least one member to participate in the planning meeting which was also attended by representatives of the Sansai Subdistrict Council. Participants provided insights regarding activities they considered best-suited to achieving the project’s community economic development and environmental rehabilitation objectives using a mix of sustainable agriculture, agroforestry and forest restoration interventions. Detailed project planning will continue in September and October, leading to a project proposal to be delivered to decision makers representing the various project partners in October 2012.

Nursery

80,000 seedlings comprising 72 species of native trees were delivered to holding areas at Pang Mapha District, Mae Hong Son, en route to the 380 rai forest restoration plot in the Pai River Watershed Wildlife Sanctuary. The additional 110,000 seedlings required for planting the site will be shipped from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son early in September. Nursery construction plans for the facility at Mae Na Pak have been placed on hold pending availability of budget for the construction. Seed collection in preparation for propagating the 2013 crop of a wide diversity of tree seedlings native to various northern Thai habitats is continuing as seeds of various species ripen and are ready to be collected.

Community Outreach

During August 2012, PATT’s community outreach specialist continued to play an active role assisting the Queen Sirikit Brain Trust Project to survey the proposed pilot project area at Prao District, Chiang  Mai, and to facilitate participatory planning with the community. Planning has focused on how best to address local economic development priorities, environmental rehabilitation and conservation. An environmental edutainment event was conducted for youth and adults at Huay Rachabutr village to raise awareness regarding the importance of waste management for water resource protection. Villagers are interested in obtaining support for community waste management through proper storage, separation and recycling. As board member for the Paang Chaang community fund, PATT’s community outreach specialist helped fund members to audit their accounts and to discuss and properly address current problems and issues. The fund is running properly but additional training on bookkeeping is required. A ceremony was conducted at Mon Jaem, (site of the Soneva-PATT-supported forest restoration activities at Nong Hoi Royal Project Forest), to thank local spirits for enabling forest restoration activities to proceed successfully. The community outreach specialist conducted surveillance and discussions at Nong Hoi and nearby villages to plan cooperation for forest fire prevention and suppression.

Work in progress 

Tree planting at Pai Watershed will continue, concurrent with additional area clearance, marking of and excavation of planting holes and transport of seedlings. Completion is expected end September. Area clearance and planting to expand the plantation at Doi Pha Maa by an 5 rai as requested by Sri Lanna National Park and Huay Rachabutry community will be completed in early September. On receipt of donor funds, nursery construction at Mae Na Pak can move forward in September. Seed collection will continue as fruits of various species ripen. Planning for the pilot integrated community economic development and forest restoration project at Prao District, Chiang Mai will continue in September, with additional site reconnaissance and planningat Kalyani Wattana District.

Next Steps

  • Quality control at Pang Mapha on tree planting and research plot establishment.
  • Formation of community organizations at Nong Hoi and Pang Mapha to be responsible for site maintenance and protection.
  • Training of community organizations.
  • Discussions with Soneva regarding ongoing support for the Soneva PATT Forest Restoration Project.
  • Preliminary scoping of 2013 forest restoration area.
  • Nursery development and seedling propagation.
  • Negotiation of agreements for forest restoration activities in 2013.

Critical Issues

The Soneva-PATT project is faced with possible shut down due to lack of funds to continue operations. Ongoing work at Pai River Sanctuary where the season’s main forest restoration effort is underway and poised for completion would fail if funds to pay the 50 (soon 70) local workers are unavailable. The project would be forced to cease operations immediately to avoid possible breach of labor law. With labor forwinter crop planting in short supply, workers assembled over a month would find alternative employment.  The window of opportunity to complete the planting would be missed and the project would breach its contract and agreements with various Thai Government authorities. This could have serious negative repercussions for the future potential, work and aspirations of Soneva and the PATT Foundation in Thailand.This is the summary report for the Soneva PATT Forest Restoration Project for August 2012. The Report provides an outline of major tasks conducted during the month, progress made, and emerging issues.

Forest Restoration Activities

Tham Lod Cave Wildlife Conservation and Development Center, Pang Mapha, Mae Hong Son In honor of the 80th birthday of H.M. Queen Sirikit, the Wildlife Conservation and Development Center at Tham Lod, Mae Hong Son, (part of the Pai River Watershed Wildlife Sanctuary), collaborated with the Soneva-PATT Forest Restoration Project to plant a 5-rai demonstration plot applying principles of the Framework Species approach for natural forest and habitat restoration developed by FORRU (the Forest Restoration Research Unit of Chiang Mai University). According to site survey by FORRU botanists, 23 tree species are regenerating naturally. PATT provided an additional 2,300 seedlings comprising 15 species to develop the demonstration plot.

  
On 6 August 2012 following a week of site preparation, more than 200 participants from local villages, Thai government agencies,  Buddhist temples and Christian churches collaborated to plant the demonstration area.

The demonstration plot is located near the entrance to the Tham Lod Cave which receives thousands of visitors annually. Local villagers who serve as guides at the extensive cave network have been provided training on the Framework Species Methodology. This will enable them to explain the method and its purposes to visitors. In contrast, the remote location of the 380 rai Pai River Sanctuary planting area limits opportunities to utilize this site for public awareness raising regarding the importance of natural forest restoration, and effective methods for achieving it. It was for this reason that Sanctuary officials requested PATT to assist in developing the more accessible demonstration area adjacent to the Tham Lod Cave. The site is envisioned to serve in the future as an environmental study area for students and the public.

Pai River Watershed Wildlife Sanctuary; Pang Mapha and Pai Districts, Mae Hong Son After nearly completing clearance of the site and the conduct of a site survey by FORRU, planting has now begun at the main 380 rai forest restoration area being developed in 2012 by the Soneva PATT Forest Restoration Project. PATT is collaborating closely with Pai River Sanctuary officials, and with the senior Forest Restoration Unit officer at the Regional Forest Conservation Office, Mae Sariang, who was influential in helping PATT obtain authorization from the National Parks Department Director-General. Development of the Pai River Watershed Wildlife Sanctuary plot presents particular logistical challenges. The planting area is located 2.2 km from the nearest road. Initially, PATT requested consideration by both the Forest Restoration Unit and Sanctuary officials to use a small tractor to cut a road into the site to enable passage of small vehicles to transport the 190,000 bamboo stakes and tree seedlings, and 19 tons of organic fertilizer required. Eventually, only hand clearance was considered permissible. All alternatives for transporting materials into the site were explored including elephants (unavailable locally), helicopter (insufficient landing site), motorcycle- and hand-pulled carts (bogged down in mud). In the end, the only feasible option for materials transport has proven to be hand-carrying of all materials.


A 2.2 km path was hand excavated to faciliate transport of materials into the Pai River Watershed Wildlife Sanctuary forest restoration site.


Several small streams traverse the trail into the site. Simple footbridges have been constructed over the crossing points. With continual rainfall, much of the trail has become muddy. Foot treads have been laid on top of the path in a few of the more treacherous areas to help workers carrying heavy loads to maintain their footing. 


Hand carrying the estimated 260 tons of materials (bamboo, fertilizer, seedlings) 2.2 km along a muddy trail and into the planting site is arduous work.

Pai Sanctuary: Labor Force Labor force has increased from 20 to 50 workers by end August after ongoing daily efforts to contract as many locally available workers. (As noted in the July Progress Summary, delayed formal government approval resulted in loss of workers with whom PATT had originally discussed employment as they left for alternative wage labor jobs.) Remaining workers and those contracted since are documented and undocumented Burmese migrants comprising several minorities. An additional 20 workers are expected to report by 7 September. The work is extremely challenging requiring long stays in lean tos at the work site 2 km from the nearest road living, bathing in local streams and contending with insects, snakes and leeches. A small additional pay increment, expression of empathy and gratitude for workers’ efforts has won and maintained their loyalty. However, any hiatus in providing payment, a possibility which emerged when PATT’s cash-on-hand status reached a critical low toward the end of August, would result in irretrievable loss of the entire team. This would scuttle work to date as well as the final result.


PATT’s forestry manager meets daily with team leaders of several work brigades, each comprised of a separate ethnic minority. Workers have been braving extremely harsh conditions. They are incredibly sincere and loyal to the project, dedicated to helping PATT and Soneva achieve the project’s expected results in spite of the challenging working conditions.


Unloading organic fertilizer and tree seedlings at the work site trail head near the District Boundary of Pai and Pang Mapha, Mae Hong Son.


Prior to start of planting, the site was consecrated according to local tradition. Propitiating local spirits and requesting their permission to modify the area protects workers from illness and accident. The “jao khawng thee” or guardians of the site, are requested to help ensure the success of the planting. (After the spirits have had their fill of the offerings, participants are able enjoy the remainder so that nothing goes to waste.)

Ban Lisu, Pang Mapha, Mae Hong Son

The Soneva PATT Forest Restoration Project was requested by the District Governor of Pang Mapha, Mae Hong Son, to contribute to ongoing work at Ban Lisu to enrich a 200 rai community forest being conserved by villagers. Following site reconnaissance and discussions with community members, the Project provided 1,000 trees comprising 38 native species to the Ban Lisu village committee. Trees will be planted during the first week of September. Labor is being provided by villagers on a voluntary basis.


Seedlings for planting at the Pai River Sanctuary have been delivered to Pang Mapha in August, with the remainder to be delivered in early September. Seedlings are in excellent condition and should establish rapidly after planting. Clearing, hole digging and planting are being done simultaneously to economize on time.


Area staked and ready for hole excavation and planting. Digging and planting are being carried out concurrently by rotating work crews. The aim is to complete the planting as quickly as possible.

Forest Restoration Site Maintenance

Forest Restoration Site Maintenance

Rainy season weeding of the entire Doi Pha Maa forest restoration site was completed in August 2012. Site assessment by FORRU in early indicated slower than expected seedling tree growth rate due to the site’s impoverished soils. Fearing potential long-term impacts of juvenile stunting on tree maturation, the project decided to experiment by applying small amounts of chemical fertilizer in an effort to force seedling growth. Preliminary indications are that the experimental fertilization regime is achieving its  intended objective.


Newly planted replacement seedlings (below, foreground) at Doi Pha Maa are now well established.


Experimental application of 10% fast acting inorganic fertilizer (15-15-15) mixed with 90% organic fertilizer appears to have had a significant positive impact on the growth of seedlings after only one month (background, left and above).

Toward end August, Sri Lanna National Park and villagers at Huay Racthabutr requested that PATT consider extending the Doi Pha Maa plantation area by an additional 5 rai on unplanted grassland at the southern flank of the current forest restoration area. PATT has agreed to support the planting of the extension zone. Clearance will begin in early September with planting to be completed by the  middle of the month. Area staked and ready for hole excavation and planting. Digging and planting are being carried out concurrently by rotating work crews. The aim is to complete the planting as quickly as possible. Newly planted replacement seedlings (below, foreground) at Doi Pha Maa are now well established.  Experimental application of 10% fast acting inorganic fertilizer (15-15-15) mixed with 90% organic fertilizer appears to have had a significant positive impact on the growth of seedlings after  only one month (background, left and above).

Site Assessment and Reconnaissance

Ban Nong Pha, Sansai Subdistrict, Prao District, Chiang Mai Detailed participatory planning for the proposed integrated community economic development and environmental rehabilitation pilot project at Ban Nong Pha, Sansai, Prao, was conducted at Nong Pha village in August in conjunction with the Queen’s Brain Bank project and other key stakeholders. Each Nong Pha household was represented at the meeting by at least one family member. After discussion regarding the purpose and objectives of the project, villagers divided into groups to brainstorm on how best to achieve the proposed project objectives. Nong Pha villagers are highly motivated to participate on the project, which would legitimize their settlement claim within the eyes of the forest authorities, since they have been living under duress because of the village location within the gazetted boundaries of  Wiang Pha and Sri Lanna National Parks. (Ironically, it is the Royal Forest Department which moved the  village to their present location from a nearby higher elevation site 21 years ago. For additional background on the dilemma facing millions of rural farm families in Thailand due to the ex post facto rezoning of their village domains within protected forest boundaries, please see:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/309938/the-real-enemy-of-our-forests-is-the-state.)


Members of the Chiang Mai branch of H.M. the Queen’s Brain Trust Project discuss the integrated community economic development and community forest management project being proposed for pilot implementation at 3 sites in Chiang Mai. Villagers are staunchly behind the project which would legitimizetheir settlement within national park boundaries by arranging a variance with the National Parks Department based on conversion of upland fields to tree-based agro-systems and natural forest restoration  on steep slopes and in riparian corridors.

   
Villagers at Nong Pha, Prao, meet to discuss and map out their strategies for achieving community economic development, environmental rehabilitation and conservation.


Following small group planning discussions, each group presented their recommendations.


Near unanimous consent was expressed to move toward implementing the proposed project.

Nursery and Tree Seedling Preparation

Seedlings for Pang Mapha 80,000 seedlings comprising 72 species have been delivered to Pang Mapha in preparation for planting. The remaining 110,000 seedlings will be shipped to the site early in September. Seedling quality is excellent and trees should establish quickly after planting out.

   
Tree seedlings staged and prepared for delivery to Pang Mapha District, Mae Hong Son. A temporary seedling storage facility has been established at Pang Mapha to maintain the seedlings before moving them into the planting site.

Seed collection for the 2013 Seedling Crop

Seed collection in preparation for propagating the 2013 crop of seedlings began in August, with approximately 100,000 seeds of 18 species collected during the month. (Approximately double the number of seeds is required to produce half that number of seedlings due relatively poor germination rates among many native forest species.) Seed collection will continue each month until end February 2013. It is hoped that the project will be able to economize on seedling costs by producing most of those required for the 2013 planting at the project nursery facility to be established at Mae Na Pak.

Nursery construction at Mae Na Pak

After the project confirmed availability of sufficient land for forest restoration activities in the north of Thailand for at least the next several years, development of the nursery facility at Mae Na Pak was scheduled to begin in August. Optimally, slower growing species often with only short-term seed viability after ripening, should be propagated in September for planting the following June or July. Producing most of the seedlings required by the project at the Mae Na Pak facility will help the project economize on Tree seedlings staged and prepared for delivery to Pang Mapha  District, Mae Hong Son. A temporary seedling storage facility has been established at Pang Mapha to maintain the seedlings before moving them into the planting site.  Following small group planning discussions, eachgroup presented their recommendations.Near unanimous consent was expressed to move  toward implementing the proposed project. seedling costs. Slow delivery of funds, however, has required that nursery construction be postponed for the time being.

Community Outreach

Potential collaboration with the Queen’s Brain Trust Project and aligned stakeholders PATT’s community outreach officer has continued to liaise with the Brain Trust Project of H.M. the Queen to explore potential for PATT’s collaboration on an integrated forest restoration and community economic development project being planned at Prao District, Chiang Mai . A day-long participatory planning session involving the entire village was conducted in August, facilitated by PATT’s outreach officer and Soneva PATT’s project manager. There is considerable enthusiasm among villagers to undertake a range of activities that would enable villagers to release land currently under annual crops to develop agroforestry systems and community forest restoration areas. Further detailed planning in coming months will lead to a project proposal to leverage the required funding from involved government agencies. A similar exercise will be held at another proposed project pilot site in Kalyani Wattana District, Chiang Mai, in September.

Environmental entertainment on waste management at Huay Rachabutri

To raise awareness regarding the importance of sanitary and environmentally sound village waste management and the relationship between proper waste management and community water resource protection, an edutainment session was held at Huay Rachabutr Village for young people and adults. Following the session, villagers determined to set in place village regulations restricting use of detergents and prohibiting garbage disposal at village water tap stands and in stream areas. Villagers also requested the Project to assist them in establishing proper waste bins for garbage separation and recycling.

Paang Chaang Community Fund audit and troubleshooting

As a trustee of the Paang Chaang Community Fund, the Community Outreach Officer assisted the fund board to audit its account. To date, accounts are being well-managed with books open and transparent for review by all members. Additional training will be provided to improve villagers’ bookkeeping skills.

Organizing for Nong Hoi Royal Project Forest Restoration Site Fire Protection

Preliminary planning discussions have been held with representatives of Nong Hoi Village and others surrounding the Nong Hoi Forest Restoration to organize collaboration for forest fire protection and suppression in the 2012-1023 dry season.

Consecration of the Nong Hoi Forest Restoration area

A traditional ceremony involving offerings to local spirits was conducted at the Nong Hoi Forest Restoration Site to thank local guardian spirits for enabling the forest restoration activities to proceed smoothly and successfully, and to enlist the assistance of the spirits in helping ensure that the forest grows to maturity.

Key activities in September 2012

During September, the Project will be engaged in the following key activities: Forest restoration planting at the Pai River Watershed Wildlife Sanctuary will be completed in the third week of September.  An additional 5 rai extension will be added to the Doi Pha Maa forest restoration area.  Nursery construction at Mae Na Pak will proceed upon receipt of required funds from the donor. Seed collection will continue as fruits of various species ripen during the rainy season and thereafter.  Preliminary discussions regarding potential forest restoration activities in 2013 will continue with H.M. the Queen’s Brain Trust, and with villages in the vicinity of the Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Center which have requested assistance from the PATT-Soneva Forest Restoration Project. Discussions will be held with local authorities and villages in the vicinity of the Pai River Sanctuary forest restoration plot regarding fire prevention and suppression. 

Next Steps

  • Quality control at Pang Mapha on tree planting and research plot establishment. 
  • Formation of community organizations at Nong Hoi and Pang Mapha to be responsible for site maintenance and protection. 
  • Training of community organizations.
  • Discussions with Soneva regarding ongoing support for the Soneva PATT Forest Restoration Project. 
  • Preliminary scoping of 2013 forest restoration area.
  • Nursery development and seedling propagation. 
  • Negotiation of agreements for forest restoration activities in 2013. 

Critical Issues

The Soneva PATT project is faced with possible shut down due to lack of funds to continue operations. Ongoing work at Pai River Sanctuary where the season’s main forest restoration effort is underway and poised for completion would fail if funds to pay the 50 (soon to be 70) local workers are unavailable. The project would be forced to cease operations immediately to avoid possible breach of labor law. Workers assembled over a month would find alternative employment since labor for planting winter crops is presently in short supply. The window of opportunity to complete the planting would be missed and the project would breach its contract and agreements with various Thai Government authorities. This could have serious negative repercussions for the future potential, work and aspirations of Soneva and the PATT Foundation in Thailand. 

Insufficient operating budget is also preventing the project from moving forward to develop in-house seedling propagation facilities which would significantly reduce seedling production costs in 2013 and onward. Seed germination for some of the rare and slower growing species should begin in September 2013 since seed viability diminishes quickly after fruit ripening, and longer growth periods are required to produce sufficiently sized seedlings for successful out-planting.