The CMU team, as a part of its project, has been planning a workshop for the youth of Hin Lad Nai on Food Sovereignty and Community Forest Management. The workshop will aim at building the capacity of the ethnic youth to become community researchers, and thus, to be able to analyze and document their community background, resource management practices and their traditional livelihoods. In a previous blog post, they had written about a rotational farming workshop they attended at the village.
On December 22, 2017, the CMU research team consisting of Dr. Chayan Vattanaputi, Dr. Malee Sitthikriengkrai, Dr. Siya Uthai and Ms. Oraya Chao-nan had scheduled a meeting with the community elders, community leaders and the youth at Hin Lad Nai village in order to identify appropriate training activities for the planned youth workshop. However, it turned out that the majority of the Hin Lad Nai villagers were attending a funeral in the neighboring community, so only three members of the youth group and a research consultant were available for discussion.
But even though the meeting did not center on the preparation of the workshop activities as planned, it provided interesting data and valuable information on Karen traditional agricultural practices for the CMU team. The three youth members and the consultant narrated their experiences and shared their perspectives on rotational farming practices. They elaborated in detail how these traditional agricultural practices are performed, and how they are deeply entrenched in cultural and spiritual belief systems and respect for nature.
At the beginning of each cultivation cycle, each family prepares a small hut at the cultivation area that serves as both a ritual space and as a shelter for the farmers. A young man and a girl (who have never been married) will be selected to perform a traditional farming ritual. They will drop breeder seeds for rice and various kinds of vegetables (e.g. seeds for chili, lettuce, or Hor-Wor, a local herb) around the hut. The young man will dig a small hole, and the girl will plant the seeds into the ground. At the end of the cultivation, the villager leader will perform a blessing ceremony for the rice fields, called Kwan Kao ritual ( Kwan means spirit, Kao means rice). In this ritual, the Karen are thankful for a particular kind of bird, Kwan Kao, who is said to care for the rice and to protect it against all harm.
The information gained from this meeting significantly enhanced the CESD team’s understanding of traditional rotational farming practices, cultural belief systems and their interconnectedness with social relations and responsible resource management. It was also of particular interest that the youth was able to provide detailed information on the Karen traditional rotational farming system. This fact underlines that an active inter-generational exchange ensures the protection and transmission of traditional knowledge and cultural practices from the elders to the youth.
A long engagement
Over the last three decades, Dr. Chayan and Dr. Malee have established close relationships with the community members of Huay Hin Lad Nai. Around 20 years ago, when the community was facing land grabbing by State authorities, Dr. Chayan supported the villagers in their negotiations with the government. Currently, Dr. Chayan and his team aim to support and strengthen the community through youth capacity building, particularly related to systematic data collection on traditional Karen knowledge and practices under the project.
On 29th December, the CMU research team organized a meeting with 10 members of the youth group and two community elders in Hin Lad Nai in order to discuss training activities for the youth workshop on Food Sovereignty and Community Forest Management.
At the beginning, Dr. Chayan informed the participants about the project objectives:
1) To enable the community youth to systematically study their community background, traditional way of life, and the symbiotic relationship between human and nature; and to promote the collection and recording of data among the villagers;
2) To build and strengthen the capacity of the youth to become local researchers on forest livelihoods and on the inter-generational transmission of knowledge on natural resource use and protection; and
3) To train the young generation in using creative media for the documentation of the community’s traditional way of life, in order to promote a deeper understanding among the wider public.
Dr. Malee and Dr. Siya informed the project target group about the planned capacity building measures of the 4-year-project, e.g. the introduction of research methods and data collection techniques. As key project outcomes, a film and print media (e.g. a pamphlet) on traditional forest life will be produced. Moreover, participants were informed about the project budget, including allowances for study participants and research devices, such as notebooks and sound recorders.
Finally, the renowned community elder Pati (which is a Karen term meaning uncle) Preecha Siri who received the Heroes Award from United Nations Forests for People Awards in 2013, expressed his appreciation and support for the project. He underlined that it is important to encourage young people to acquire in-depth knowledge on Karen culture and traditions from the community elders.
Finally, all workshop attendants agreed to schedule the first training session on 23rd and 24th January 2018 at Hin Lad Nai village, and to invite other youth groups from the adjacent communities, i.e. Hin Lad Nok village, Pa Yueng village and Mae Ka Pu village.
Malee Sitthikriengkrai and Siya Uthai