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close this bookAgricultural Expansion and Pioneer Settlements in the Humid Tropics (UNU, 1988, 305 pages)
close this folder6. Man in the mangrove forest: a socio-economic case study in Southern Thailand
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The importance of mangroves to the human population is becoming better recognized. people have depended on mangrove trees for many purposes, including firewood, charcoal, timber, and minor products such as tannin and wood tar. the significance of mangrove forests in fishery production has also been recognized. many commercially important fish, prawns, crabs, and various kinds of molluscs use the mangrove as a nursery ground and also as shelter during their juvenile stages. moreover, the mangrove forest still plays an important role in creating alluvial plains and protecting coastlines against tidal waves, cyclones, and soil erosion.

In thailand, the mangrove forests occur along seashores, lagoons, and rivers at levels between low and high tides in the southern, south-eastern, and upper parts of the gulf of thailand and also on the western part of the peninsula facing the andaman sea (see fig. 1). the area of mangrove forest, as estimated (1979) using satellite imagery, was approximately 287,308 ha, or 1,795,754 rai (klankamsorn and charuphat 1982). most of the mangrove forests found on the andaman coast are well developed and represent the best mangrove forests in the country (aksornkoae, iampa, and kooha 1982). mangrove forests in other areas are mainly poor, consisting of small-sized trees. during the past 18 years (1961-1979), about 80,592 ha, or 4,477 ha per year, have been destroyed (klankamsorn and charuphat 1982). sabhasri (1979) pointed out that the causes of severe destruction of mangroves were aquaculture, especially shrimp farming, salt pans, mining, industry, and harbour and road construction.

in thailand today there is awareness of the rapid decline of mangrove resources and of the deterioration of mangrove ecosystems under stress from population growth. this has called for recognition of the importance of conservation, managemeet, and the restoration of mangrove resources so that productivity may be optimized and the maximum economic value obtained on a long-term basis, without destroying the mangrove ecosystem. several organizations, especially the royal forest department, have encouraged scientists to develop a management plan for maximum and efficient utilization of mangrove resources. the objective of future management plans for mangrove forests will also emphasize improvement in the quality of life of mangrove dwellers.


FIG. 1. Distribution of mangroves in Thailand

The study was carried out in Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao villages of Ranong Province located in southern Thailand. These two villages provide good samples of different groups of mangrove dwellers. Both villages are about the same size and are similarly composed of about 26 households. They are located approximately 4 km from each other on the coast of the Ranong estuary. They are roughly 10 km south-west of Ranong City and about 650 km from Bangkok. Data on the socioeconomic characteristics of the mangrove households were gathered in 1983 by means of interviews based on questionnaires and a survey. In addition, observations of the daily life of the mangrove dwellers were carried out.

Ko Lao is in Tambon Paknam and Had Sai Khao is in Tambon Ngao, both of which are in Amphoe Muang. They are situated on the fringe of the mangrove forest of the Ranong estuary. The Ranong climate is humid tropical with little variation in mean monthly temperature, which ranges from 25.5 to 28.3°C. The annual rainfall is about 4,320 mm, which is the highest in Thailand. The rainy season occurs from April to November, with a total number of 204 rainy days.

Both communities are similar in having a linear settlement pattern. The total populations of Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao communities recorded in the last census were 151 and 119 respectively. Ko Lao is composed of two different religious groups, Muslims and Buddhists, while the Had Sai Khao dwellers are exclusively Buddhists. For Ko Lao village, 52 per cent of the total population is Buddhist and 48 per cent Muslim.

The present population of Ko Lao migrated from southern Thailand; the majority of the Had Sai Khao population came from the centre. Different dialects are therefore spoken in the two mangrove villages. Ko Lao dwellers use a southern dialect as well as Malay, whereas the Had Sai Khao dwellers use the central dialect. Ko Lao households have a larger family size (5.9 persons) than the Had Sai Khao households (4.6 persons), as can be seen in table 1. In addition, Ko Lao families have more children than those of Had Sai Khao.

The household labour force (all family members who are at least 14 and not more than 55 years old) in Ko Lao averaged about 2.9 persons, or 50 per cent of the household members, half of whom were male (table 1). This implies that those in the labour force of Ko Lao village have to work hard to maintain a subsistence level for their families. A large proportion of their family members is composed of children and older people (more than 55 years old) who have to be taken care of by the relatively few in the household labour force. This can be seen clearly from the ratio of the number of dependents to the number of family members of working age or to the number of workers in the family. This dependency ratio of approximately 1.01 means that each family worker has to support one dependent. The ratio is much higher for Muslim (1.21) than for Buddhist households (0.86), mainly because of the higher proportion of children in Muslim households. In Had Sai Khao, there are approximately 2.8 persons per family (61 per cent) of working age with a dependent-to-worker ratio of 0.63 (table 1).

TABLE 1. Composition of mangrove village families by age, sex, and religion in Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao villages

 

Ko Lao (%)

Had Sai Khao (%)

 

Buddhist

Muslim

Total

 
AGE M F T M F T M F T M F T
0- 4 10.3 5.1 15.4 6.8 10.9 17.7 8.6 7.9 16.5 5.0 3.4 8.4
5- 9 5.1 7.7 12.8 6.8 6.9 13.7 6.0 7.3 13.3 4.2 3.4 7.6
10-14 7.7 3.8 11.5 6.8 8.2 19.0 7.3 6.0 13.3 8.4 10.1 8.5
15-19 5.1 9.0 14.1 5.5 9.5 15.1 5.3 9.3 14.6 6.7 10.1 16.8
20-24 5.1 2.5 7.7 6.8 2.7 9.5 6.0 2.6 8.6 4.2 3.4 7.6
25-29 2.6 1.3 3.9 4.1 4.1 8.2 3.3 2.6 5.9 4.2 2.5 6.7
30-34 3.8 3.8 7.5 1.4 1.4 2.8 2.6 2.6 5.2 1.7 1.7 3.4
40-44 - 1.3 1.3 2.4 1.4 4.2 1.3 1.3 2.6 3.4 3.4 6.8
45-49 3.8 1.3 5.1 - - - 2.0 0.7 2.7 3.4 1.7 5.1
50-54 1.3 6.4 7.7 - 1.4 1.4 0.7 4.0 4.6 2.5 3.4 5.9
55-59 1.3 1.3 2.6 5.5 1.4 6.9 3.3 1.3 4.6 0.8 1.7 2.5
60-64 2.6 - 2.6 - - - 1.3 - 1.3 0.8 0.8 1.6
65-69 - - - 1.4 1.4 2.8 0.7 0.7 1.4 - 0.8 0.8
70-74 - 1.3 1.3 - - - - 0.7 0.7 0.8 1.7 2.5
75+ - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total (%) 52.5 47.5 100.0 49.2 50.8 100.0 51.0 49.0 100.0 48.5 51.5 100.0
Total (persons) 41 37 78 36 36 73 77 74 151 58 61 111
Average (persons per household) 2.9 2.6 5.5 3.0 3.1 6.1 3.0 2.9 5.9 2.2 2.4 4.6
Labour force (per household) 1.6 1.4 3.0 1.4 1.3 2.8 1.5 1.4 2.9 1.4 1.4 2.8

 

TABLE 2. Educational breakdown for Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao villagers

 

Ko Lao

Had Sai Khao

 

Buddhist

Muslim

Total

Total

Education No. % No. % No. % No. %
Illiterate 14 17.9 20 27.4 24 22.5 20 16.8
Pre-school (children under 7 yrs. old) 18 23.1 21 28.8 39 25.8 17 14.3
In school 14 17.9 14 19.2 28 18.5 23 19.3
Schooling completed                
Before grade 4 8 10.3 2 2.7 10 6.3 18 15.1
Grade 4 16 20.5 14 19.2 30 19.9 28 23.5
Grades 5-7 7 9.0 2 2.7 9 6.0 11 9.3
High school 1 1.3 - 0 1 0.7 2 1.7
Total 78 100.0 73 100.0 151 100.0 113 100.0

Comparison of the age composition of the two villages shows that in Ko Lao a larger proportion of family members is composed of young children. This difference suggests that the Ko Lao households have a heavier burden in looking after their dependents than the Had Sai Khao households.

For many years Thailand has worked to improve the rural literacy level by requiring universal primary education from the age of seven years. School attendance is compulsory between the ages of seven and thirteen. However, 23 and 17 per cent of the total populations of Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao respectively were found to be illiterate (table 2). Fortunately, the situation seems to be improving due to the fact that there is now a primary school in Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao with six teachers. Among the educated dwellers in both villages, a relatively large number are educated through to grade 4-roughly 20 and 24 per cent for Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao respectively.

The main occupation of dwellers in both villages is fishing. The simple fishing gear includes a scissor net, a barrier net, a bill net, a winged set-bag net, a crab net trap, etc. Most villagers are small-scale fishermen. Shrimp paste making appeared to be the major occupation for 80 per cent of the total population of Ko Lao village, while simple fishery (i.e. catching and selling unprocessed fish) was the major income earner of 90 per cent of the Had Sai Khao population.

The mangrove dwellers in both villages used the mangrove wood for cooking, fishing gear, and house construction, despite that the cutting of wood is illegal. Charcoal making from mangrove wood was seen only in Had Sai Khao, where the villagers used more charcoal for cooking than those in Ko Lao, where more firewood was consumed. The majority of villagers would like to conserve the mangrove forests for fishery production. The houses typical of both villages are very similar. Generally there is one bedroom, a living-room, and a kitchen, with platforms in front and at the back of the house. The platform behind the house is generally used for drying fish and making shrimp paste. The roofs are usually made of nipa leaves, the walls of bamboo, and the floors and platforms of mangrove.

Both Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao are traditional fishing communities confined to the inshore and near-shore zones. Here, only young fish are caught by the simple, traditional method. The catch composition of both communities consists of three major groups, finfish, crustaceans, and molluscs. The waters around Ko Lao are plentiful with small crustaceans, which are the base for making shrimp paste. The catch of each family varies from 540 to 4,000 kg per year. For shrimp paste processing, 2 kg of small fresh crustaceans have to be processed to obtain 1 kg.

For all household heads in Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao villages, the most common reason given for migrating to this area was the attraction of the abundance of marine animals and mangrove forest. Many of them were facing problems of population pressure and had fewer opportunities to earn an income for their families in the other areas.

Almost 91 per cent of the Buddhist respondents not born in Ko Lao were previously mainly cash crop farmers. No one from the Buddhist families had been in fisheries before. For Muslims, the previous occupation was dominantly fishing, although about 29 per cent were hired workers and 11 per cent were formerly orchard owners.

In the case of the Had Sai Khao community, almost 62 per cent of the respondents had faced a shortage of farm land for growing cash crops or rubber, and had thus been caused to migrate to this community. On the other hand, some 38 per cent of the respondents moved to Had Sai Khao particularly to pursue fishing as a livelihood.

According to interviews with household heads in both survey villages, the living conditions in their villages were difficult, as they earned less than before due to the decreasing number of mature sea animals and the deterioration of and encroachment upon the nearby mangrove forests. They also indicated that if the situation became worse due to the decline in their catch and in mangrove forest products, they may migrate out of these communities to other places which offer better opportunities.

All land in both Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao has been declared public land, as the mangroves in the area are part of a forest reserve. The mangrove dwellers cannot own land in their villages, but they are allowed to build their own houses. The houses are built close to each other, and on average, each home lot occupies about 15 to 20 m2 of land area.

Table 3 reveals that annual income earned by Ko Lao households is approximately B 31,885 per household (27 baht were the equivalent of approximately one US dollar in 1984). B 17,539, or 55 per cent, comes from shrimp paste. Fishery contributes B 9,011 per household, or almost 30 per cent. Wage income accounts for only 12 per cent, but it may be regarded as important, especially in large households. On average, the Buddhist households earn more than the Muslim households: B 36,679 against B 26,268 per year per family.

TABLE 3. Net household income in Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao Villages in 1983

 

Ko Lao

Had Sai Khao

 

Buddhist

Muslim

Total

Total

Source B/h'hold % B/h'hold % B/h'hold % B/h'hold %
Unprocessed fish 10,174.5 27.7 7,653.8 29.1 9,011.1 28.3 54,743.3 85.6
Shrimp paste 19,054.6 52.0 15,745.6 59.9 17,538.7 55.0 - 0.0
Charcoal - 0.0 - 0.0 - 0.0 252.2 0.4
Wages 6,021.4 16.4 1,118.3 4.3 3,758.4 11.8 5,050.1 7.9
Grocery shop 1,142.9 3.1 1,200.0 4.6 1,169.3 3.7 2,010.2 3.1
Trade - 0.0 - 0.0 - 0.0 1,923.1 3.0
Other 285.5 0.8 550.0 2.1 407.6 1.2 - 0.0
Total 36,678.9 100.0 26,267.7 100.0 31,885.1 100.0 63,978.9 100.0
Per capita income (B) 6,727.0   4,306.0   5,404.0   13,908.0  

The annual income of Had Sai Khao households is more than twice that of Ko Lao households. The average annual income in Had Sai Khao is about B 63,979 per family, where fishery appears to be the major income earner. Fishery excluding processing contributed nearly 86 per cent of the total annual income of Had Sai Khao households (table 3). Wages are an important secondary source of income for Had Sai Khao families, accounting for approximately 8 per cent of the total annual income. Demand for hired labour, for fishing crews, comes from those households that are operating relatively large-scale fishing operations. Thus, the Had Sai Khao households that have more adult males in their families have more opportunities to hire out their family workers as fishing crew. Commercial charcoal making is found in two households, while four households produced charcoal for their own use.

Two households buy fish for resale in Ranong and also engage in fishing for themselves. Therefore, Had Sai Khao fishermen have an option to sell their catch either to these two village merchants or to merchants in Ranong. Most sell their catch to the two village merchants, since it is more convenient. When the catch is big enough to cover the shipping cost from the village to Ranong, they may sell it to the merchants in Ranong.

Where the matter of per capita income is concerned, it is clear that the per capita income for the Ko Lao population is not only lower than that of Had Sai Khao but also lower than the national per capita income (table 3). The per capita income of Ko Lao is B 5,404, whereas the per capita income of Had Sai Khao totals approximately B 13,908, just under the national figure of B 13,822 (Office of Agricultural Economics 1984).

TABLE 4. Household consumption expenditures and net family income of Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao villages

 

Ko Lao

Had Sai Khao

 

Buddhist

Muslim

Total

Total

  B/h'hold % Bh'hold % B/h'hold % B/h'hold %
A. Gross income 36,699.9 - 26,267.7 - 31,885.1 - 63,978.9 -
B. Production expenses 19,129.9 40.4 13,207.3 37.3 16,396.4 39.3 19,368.4 30.8
Fishery 6,082.2 12.9 2,437.4 6.9 4,400.0 10.3 19,242.3 30.6
Shrimp paste 13,047.7 27.6 10,769.9 30.4 11,996.4 28.8 - 0.0
Charcoal - 0.0 - 0.0 - 0.0 126.1 0.2
C. Consumption expenses 28,086.0 59.5 22,194.5 62.7 25,365.0 60.5 43,591.3 69.2
D. Total expenses (B+C) 47,216.1 100.0 35,401.8 100.0 41,763.4 100.0 62,959.7 100.0
E. Net family income (A-D) -10,516.2 - -9,134.1 - -9,878.3 - 1,019.2 -
F. Total cash expenses 29,203.2 - 21,899.3 - 25,832.2 - 47,920.6 -
G. Net family cash income (A-F) 7,496.7 - 4,368.4 - 6,052.9 - 16,057.4 -

Note: Some costs are necessarily estimates.

A summary of household production expenses incurred in family fishery and shrimp paste and charcoal making in both mangrove communities is given in table 4. In Ko Lao village, the average outlay of all families for fishery and shrimp paste making is B 16,396 per household per year, B 11,996 per household for fishery and B 4,400 for shrimp paste production. These costs account for 51.4 per cent of the gross household income. It should be indicated that the total household production expenses include not only cash but also non-cash expenses. The reason for this is that some production inputs come from the family, for example, family labour. For instance, in the case of shrimp paste production, total cash expenses account for only 14 per cent of the total.

The proportions of household consumption expenditures were found to be different between the two mangrove communities. Food consumption of Ko Lao households takes a larger proportion (84 per cent) of total household consumption than in the case of Had Sai Khao (see table 5). The value of total household consumption exceeds the annual household income of Ko Lao families, in other words, Ko Lao households spend more money in consumption that they earn in cash income. They can survive, however, because 50 per cent of the non-rice food consumption expenditures were not paid but drawn in kind from their own family business.

Getting an adequate supply of fresh water for drinking and other domestic uses is a common problem facing the two mangrove communities. Ko Lao village has three wells but only one supplies good quality water throughout the year. A strong need was therefore expressed for having one or two additional wells in the village. As far as Had Sai Khao is concerned, the villagers have to go to nearby Ko Kew island, where fresh water is available year round, but transporting the water to Had Sai Khao by boat is very inconvenient and risky. There are a few large storage jars in both villages, but they belong to the schools and are used only by the teachers and students. The villagers can use them only when the water in the wells is insufficient.

The overall health care, sanitation, and the general well-being of dwellers in these two villages are at a very poor level. Programmes are needed to solve these problems as well as problems related to the young people of both villages and to ensure a better quality of life in the future.

Following are some recommendations based on the study results.

1. An adult education programme should be established in both Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao villages in order to reduce illiteracy.

2. In Ko Lao, households are facing a major problem, since, on average, 44 per cent of their family consists of children (aged 13 years or less). A birth control programme should be set up and implemented in this village in order to reduce population pressure in the near future. Since Muslim households were found to have more children than Buddhist households, the former may need to establish some sort of natural birth control programme that will not be in conflict with their religious beliefs.

3. The two mangrove villages should receive more attention from the Department of Fisheries and other related agencies. Demonstrations of aquafarming techniques at the village level should be carried out.

TABLE 5. Average household consumption of Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao villages (In baht per household per year)

 

Ko Lao

Had Sai Khao

 

Buddhist

Muslim

Total

Total

  (%) (%) (%) (%)
Food 23,738 18,308 21,232 36,072
  (84.51) (82.5) (83.7) (72.8)
Rice 9,877 5,395 7,808 5,994
  (35.3) (24.3) (30.8) (13.8)
Other 13,861 12,913 13,424 30,078
  (49.3) (58.2) (52.9) (69.0)
Non-food 4,349 3,886 4,135 7,519
  (18.4) (17.5) (16.3) (27.2)
Clothing 1,033 993 1,015 2,185
  (3.7) (4.5) (4.0) (5.0)
Medical 1,181 821 1,015 1,735
  (4.2) (3.7) (4.0) (4.0)
Education 208 88 152 171
  (0.7) (9.4) (0.6) (0.4)
Charity 135 540 322 447
  (0.5) (2 4) (1.3) (1.0)
Entertainment 757 388 587 755
  (2.7) (1.8) (2.3) (1.7)
Housing maintenance 333 400 364 533
  (1.2) (1.8) (1.4) (1.2)
Charcoal 701 657 681 1,226
  (2.5) (2.9) (2.7) (2.8)
Other - - - 467
        (1.1)
Total 28,087 22,194 25,367 43,591
  (100) (100) (100) (100)

4. Most of the marine animals caught by the fishermen were sold fresh. Shrimp paste was produced in the old, primitive way; consequently, the quality was low and the paste making time-consuming. The result was that the Ko Lao households received a low price for their shrimp paste and so earned less income than might have been possible. In order to improve both the quality and quantity of shrimp paste products, some appropriate production techniques should be introduced in Ko Lao and in Had Sai Khao, although shrimp paste is not produced here at present. Other fish-processing techniques ought to be introduced in both villages to make possible additional income to that earned from selling fresh fish.

5. Regarding the utilization of mangrove wood, the government, through its Royal Forest Department, should provide the villagers a designated area of the forest to be used for firewood, charcoal making, and timber for house construction.

6. Fresh drinking water is an urgent need for both communities. Since the rainy season in this area lasts eight to nine months a year, one possible and cheap source of fresh water is the collection of rain-water. Most households reported, however, that only a small amount of rain could be gathered because they did not have enough water containers. This problem could be eliminated if the mangrove dwellers were trained to make their own, cheap water containers. In fact, a programme for this has already been established under the auspices of the Department of Community Development.

7. Health care services to cope with sudden illness are also necessary for Ko Lao and Had Sai Khao communities. In order to avoid a strain on the local government budget by building a standard health care centre, a viable and less expensive health care programme is recommended, for example, a village medical bank and a shortterm training programme for one or two selected villagers to become local or village health care officers.

8. A form of co-operative among the households should also be set up, before the above-suggested programmes and actions are implemented.