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close this bookConservation and Development in Northern Thailand. Proceedings of a Programmatic Workshop on Agro-forestry and Highland-Lowland Interactive Systems, Held at Chiang Mai, Thailand, 13-17 November 1978 (UNU, 1980, 114 pages)
close this folderSubcommittee reports, plenary discussion, and recommendations
View the documentReport by the subcommittee on documentation, training, and personnel
View the documentReport by the subcommittee on mapping and cover-type data requirements
View the documentReport by the subcommittee on climate, soil. and soil erosion data requirements
View the documentReport by the subcommittee on socio-cultural, demographic, and economic aspects
View the documentPlenary session
View the documentRecommendations

Plenary session


The objectives of the plenary session, held on 16 November 1978, were: first, to respond to the reports of the four subcommittees (which were generally accepted in the form presented above); second, to permit a general expression of viewpoints; and third, to formulate a group of major recommendations Dr Terry Grandstaff undertook the arduous task of rapporteur and prepared extensive notes, upon which this section is primarily based,


There was general expression of a primary concern that the three to five-year time frame of the proposed UN UniversityChiang Mai University agreement for research be kept in perspective Use of the pre existing Huai Thung Choa highland project as a basis for the grafting on of additional UNU-funded research was considered sound and had a number of important advantages. However, the opportunity clearly existed for accomplishing far more than this. The project is conceived in a necessarily narrow manner because of obvious financial constraints, Furthermore, one apparently serious disadvantage, the lack of strong representativeness of the Huai Thung Choa field area itself as compared with the Northern Thai highlands at large, needs to be overcome (this is discussed in more detail in the subcommittee report on socio-cultural. demographic, and economic aspects, pp. 9799). Thus a response to the first comment relating to financial constraints, is that a sustained effort be made to use the Huai Thung Choa project itself as a kind of core research operation that could be greatly enlarged through identification of an outer perimeter of research projects that may be funded through other agencies and institutions. This approach. in turn, through the enforced broadening of the core research operation. could be advanced in such a way as to ensure that the problem of lack of representativeness of the field area be overcome.

It was also pointed out that we face the need to tackle problems in both the natural and socio economic realms and to ensure that adequate linkages be developed. Thus in the natural sciences forest problems. development of Imperata grasslands, and soil erosion can be cited as related to land use and land-use adjustments. In the socioeconomic realm. for instance, analysis must be made of agricultural systems that relate not only to marketing problems but also to preservation of the different ethnic traditions, maintenance of soil fertility. and forest fallow difficulties. Thus it will be necessary to determine how the villages are organized and be aware that introduction of cash crops may induce sudden and possibly detrimental changes in cultural characteristics It was recommended that while development of a larger cash sector to the local economies will be necessary, this should be attempted in small steps, year by year This would recognize that the present life styles of the different ethnic groups are founded on their traditional subsistence systems and that as much as possible of the advantageous aspects of this foundation must be preserved. Thus an equilibrium must be achieved between land used for subsistence, land used for cash cropping, and energy expended for wage labour, both at the individual and village levels. Achievement of such an equilibrium will require definition of minimum standards of individual and group subsistence requirements and changing life style perceptions.

The dangers of becoming preoccupied with lists of crops, small projects, and so on, were stressed, especially since, in the past. this approach has led to unnecessary antagonisms between natural and human scientists. It would be more profitable if more natural scientists would investigate indigenous systems to obtain a broader data base. Thus studies should be made of soil types, vegetation successions over different periods of time and on slopes and old fields of varying steepness and aspect. Furthermore, we should work towards bringing forestry and shifting cultivation together. To achieve this it would be necessary to work within the traditional systems. It would also be important to do everything possible to ensure that results obtained from the Huai Thung Choa field area be applicable to regional planning for Northern Thailand as a whole.

Environmental change must be studied especially on the basis of micro-scale investigations. Thus a network of study plots would be required over a long time-period. Integration of Chiang Mai University students and junior faculty into such studies would benefit both the research effort and help fulfil the teaching and training role of the university. But this should be expanded beyond Chiang Mai University and involve visiting students and scholars from elsewhere in Thailand and from abroad Nevertheless, these ambitions must not obscure the need for precisely defined core project objectives and time scale.

It was emphasized by several participants that many aspects of existing swidden rotational systems may be ecologically sound and these must be identified and preserved; thus the caution against abrupt change was reemphasized. Present income from opium production is quite high; therefore cash alternatives must be competitive and associated marketing systems sustainable and dependable, Thus the rapidly developing concepts of agroforestry must be exploited to the full while simplistic reforestation and associated projects, and especially the taungya system, are probably very counterproductive in certain situations. One of the major challenges will be how to bring about improvement without sudden changes and preserve native cultural characteristics while at the same time achieving ethnic integration into the mainstream of Thai society. Primary schooling systems will comprise a major focus for this challenge, with the general aim of educating the next generation

Another major point of concern also focused around the representativeness, or lack of it. of the Huai Thung Choa field area Thus, if an experimental approach to the design of highland lowland interactive aspects of the project is to be used, a non-project''control''area must be utilized This should reduce the danger of projecting results of crop trials, for instance, but more especially of socio economic findings, to other areas. The basic differences that exist in highland land-use patterns must be recognized. The Lua'/Karen type involves a settled, community territory, managed largely on a community basis. This contrasts markedly with the cash croppers who lack community orientation towards maintenance and control of land. The implications here for managed agro-forestry and forest products are profound. The Lisu frequently follow the latter system, but even the Karen of the Huai Thung Choa field area, having recently moved in, are atypical in that they appear to lack community control.

Since a regular highway system as a means of access to markets is basic to introduction of cash crops, road maintenance will prove a problem, especially with erosion during periods of intensive rainfall. Foreign aid is not applicable in such instances. Another implication for the possible development of extensive monocropping is pest control. Permanent fields may induce much greater problems with insects and rodents, for instance, than in recurring relocation of fields. This also leads to vectorborne disease problems associated with environmental changes Development of permanent fields, furthermore will bring into ever sharper focus problems of social relationships with the land. Thus as land becomes a marketable commodity, it becomes much more subject to misuse and destruction. Central to many of the socioeconomic and cultural problems will be the land-tenure system

Concern was expressed that the discussion was leading to envisioning of research on a progressively grander scale, while the means available were modest Also, careful attention must be paid to the fact that the Huai Thung Choa Project was principally a forestry project within which Dr. Pisit had been given the opportunity of doing some very interesting horticultural and land-use work. Thus, if our intent is to look for alternative land use systems, what will be the attitude of the Royal Forestry Department? The prospects of achieving an integration of agriculture and forestry for the benefit of the hill peoples raise questions of defining implications and limitations in terms of current land management and control. The great challenge will be to incorporate the Forestry Department; if it can extend its work into agroforestry, then important policy changes can be anticipated, In this sense Dr Pisit's project could be truly seminal.

The experiences associated with extensive road-building in Nepal were described. This led to the important question that the need for road extension and decision on road location must be answered carefully. Road extension could become an especially dangerous form of highlandlowland interaction, both from the point of view of soil erosion, and also from that of opening up wider areas for unorganized movement of people and the attendant environmental impacts. This is another area where exchange of scholars could prove beneficial. It was pointed out that in Nepal when students obtain advanced degrees they are required to work in the villages for several semesters to assist with village development problems.

Dr Sanga Sabhasci concluded the foregoing discussion by explaining that he thought many of the proposed objectives and concerns could be accommodated within the limits of the Huai Thung Choa Project. He also thought that results deriving from it should be applicable to wide areas of Thailand, and that while Chiang Mai University personnel appeared very cautious he was convinced that they had the resources and expertise to accept the challenge, The Thai national policy for reforestation can be typified by the statement that ''the top of the country should be forested.'' The aim is to increase forest cover from its present estimated 30 per cent of total land area to 50 per cent. He thought, therefore, that agro-forestry should be concentrated in the lower hills, while hill crest areas should be reserved for forest cover development and maintenance, but cash components were still needed even in the highest areas Planning on a 10- to 20-year integrated time scale will be required. It would, therefore, be extremely valuable to examine the environmental changes that have occurred over the past 10 to 20 years.

In terms of agro-forestry business firewood and fuelwood production must be planned on a three-to five year cycle: post, pole, and fruit tree aspects, for instance, will involve a 10-year cycle; while lumber for construction may require 60 years. Integrated into this will be subsistence agriculture and year-to-year marketing of cash crops of many types.