From 25th to 27th November 2017, the CMU team participated in a Rotational Farming Workshop hosted by the Huay Hin Lad Nai community and young chefs from all over the Thailand. In total, over 30 people attended the workshop, including academics, writers, baristas, and food entrepreneurs. The workshop aimed to enhance awareness and to create a deeper understanding of the Karen rotational farming system, the variety of food products, as well as the community’s traditional forest conservation and management practices. Based on their integrated farming systems, the community is able to produce more than 100 different kinds of vegetables, such as rice, sweet potato, sesame, chili, tomato, pumpkin and Hor-Wor (a local herb).

It was particularly interesting for the participants to explore the abundant and ecologically diverse community forest in small groups, led by the village elders and youth. Participants were able to experience Karen livelihood and the intimate relationship between the villagers and nature as a part of their everyday life. The Karen villagers in each group provided information on plants and herbs, including their nutritional and medicinal value and usage. Moreover, the workshop attendants learned about sustainable resource use by the examples of wild tea, bamboo shoot production and natural beekeeping. All participants also had a chance to collect forest products (e.g. herbs and plants) for the preparation of their own meals, and to taste natural dishes entirely based on ingredients from the Karen agroforestry system.

In discussion groups, workshop attendants and village members had the chance to exchange their knowledge and experiences. It turned out that the majority of the participants had never experienced forest life at first hand before; most had a rather limited view on forests and national parks (e.g. as tourist destination or attraction). The workshop activities thus greatly enhanced the participants’ understanding and appreciation of the relationship between local people and the forest, as well as of the traditional Karen way of life and food production practices. The forest area of approximately 5,000 hectares around Huay Hin Lad Nai is able to provide food security to the community, as well as a variety of natural products to the wider society.

Through the workshop, the CMU team has gained valuable insights into Karen traditional resource management practices, in particular into the sustainable use of forest resources and products. The information gained serves as an input for the current CESD’s field work and the conceptual framework for its study on the relationship between the Karen villagers of Huay Hin Lad Nai and the wider eco-system.

Malee Sitthikriengkrai and Siya Uthai

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