Forest villages: an agroforestry approach to rehabilitating forest land degraded by shifting cultivation in Thailand

  • Published source details Boonkird S.A., Fernandes E.C.M. & Nair P.K.R. (1985) Forest villages: an agroforestry approach to rehabilitating forest land degraded by shifting cultivation in Thailand. Agroforestry Systems, 2, 87-102.


The Forest Village Scheme, introduced by the Forest Industries Organisation (FIO) of Thailand in 1967, was an attempt to halt the spread of rapidly increasing shifting cultivation and deforestation in the country; the number of people engaged in shifting cultivation in Thailand is estimated to have risen from 300,000 to over 700,000 in the 15 years prior to the study. The underlying principle of the scheme was to link reforestation with social welfare of those people involved.

The same general procedures were used to set up Forest Villages: The FIO selects degraded land where a village is to be established and the surrounding degraded land reforested. The benefits and features of the scheme are publicized within the locality. Families who agree to give up shifting cultivation for settled land use are given tenure of a plot of land to construct a house and develop a 'home garden' where a few animals (e.g. cows, pigs, chickens and ducks) can be reared and crops grown. Each house is provided with a source of drinking water and electricity free of charge.

The farmers are required to help establish and maintain forest plantations, in which they are also allowed to grow crops during the first three years of establishment. Families are provided with free agricultural advice, primary education and medical services via 'development teams' set up by FIO.

The original target was an initial 2,000 forest villages (100 families in each village) covering 32,000ha. However, by 1981, there were only 26 villages within the scheme. However, although the scheme runs well below target levels, opportunities have been provided for people to settle, with long term employment prospects and affording a higher standard of living than previously. These families have abandoned shifting cultivation thus reducing pressure on native forests.

Numerous weaknesses and constraints of the scheme were identified, these included:

i) setting up of villages with promised facilities required significant expenditure and there was a scarcity of capable managers to oversee village function;
ii) where forest was still plentiful, ensuring adherence to forest village policy was difficult, illegal shifting cultivation continued;
iii) some sites were on steep slopes with poor soils thus cultivating crops was hard and yields low;
iv) cash flow problems arose as payments of bonuses etc. were not made until the end of the first year of participation;
v) financial incentives were too low for some, resulting in their leaving to seek work elsewhere.

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