Helping others help themselves

Helping others help themselves
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

Now in its third year, the "Power of Human Energy: A Journey Inspired by the King", project has once again been busy rallying volunteers to design catchment areas - loom kanom krok or kok nong na as they are known in Thai - in and around the Pa Sak River to prevent floods and provide water in times of drought.

"We now have 27 catchment models that are suitable for individual plots, communities and schools. And the project is growing: it is slowly expanding into a much wider area of the country," says Pairoj Kaweeyanun, president of Chevron Thailand's exploration and production.

"This year, we are focusing on landscape design for managing water resources and creating different catchment patterns to suit areas of different sizes.

"This time, we will go to the Sap Langka Wildlife Sanctuary in Lop Buri, which is the last virgin forest in Thailand's Central region and one of the water sources along the Pa Sak River basin. There, we will learn about forest conservation and, most importantly, about restoration and melioration of the soil through natural farming and folk wisdom. This is particularly apt as the United Nations has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils to raise awareness of the importance of soils for food security and essential eco-system functions."

Designed by Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, the Institute of Sufficiency Economy and the Agri-Nature Foundation, this human-driven project aims to teach everyone about His Majesty the King's theories on water-resource conservation. It has been very successful, with hundreds and volunteers signing up to take part in natural resource management, according to Dr Wiwat Salyakamthorn, president of the Agri-Nature Foundation and the Institute of Sufficiency Economy. The project caravan, which runs from July 18-26, will visit communities between Bangkok to Lop Buri.

Other agencies have also become involved. The King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang held a three-day workshop on landscape architecture for water management at Mab Euang Natural Farming Centre in Chon Buri and followed up in May with a five-day theory and practice workshop on Geo-Social Design for Self-Sustained Environments and Disaster Resilience in Nan province. More than 80 participants worked with the students and architecture volunteers to design the land and implement the catchment project.

"Last year, we started offering free services for landscape architecture and quickly registered more than 70 areas in the Pa Sak River basin and more than 200 areas outside of it. By the beginning of this year that number had increased to more than 500 areas. Today, we have more than 700 areas in 19 river basins. The largest area covers more than 4,000 rai and is owned by Phra Ajarn Win of Wat Rakang, while the smallest, which is at my house, is only 30 square wah," says Assistant Professor Pichate Sowittayasakun, dean of the Faculty of Architecture at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang,

"Designing for the different size of areas depends on the geo-social conditions. For example, there are two villages in Tak's Amphoe Mae Ramad but different sub-districts that meet the same geographical criteria. But the villages are inhabited by Karen and Hmong hilltribe people who have very different cultures and well as different diets. That means the vegetation is also different and that in turn affects the design of the catchment,

"Our workshop helped spread the word and now many more people are paying attention to catchment design. We had a team of 20 architects and spent three days coming up with the landscape design for each area. After completing the workshop, we started a Line group so we could follow the participants. We took them to the area facing a problem so they could learn about the solution," he adds.

Four celebrities are joining this year's project. Young actor Jirayu "Kao" La-Ongmanee will work with headwoman Uthumporn "Oy" Sukpaet at Ban Kok Salung in Lop Buri on July 19, actress Kemmanij "Pancake" Jamikorn will team up with Malai Khumthong at Khao Ti Hin community also in Lopburi on July 20 and will be at Kok Charoen Natural Farming Centre on July 21. Pisanu "Boy" Nimsakul will pair up with Prasert Kwanpueak at Ban Tha Mai Thong in Phetchabun on July 22-23, and Siwat "Cee" Chotichaicharin will be with Dorn Petchnarong at Sap Langka Wildlife Sanctuary on July 24-25.

Boy and Pancake are particularly interested in the lessons to be learned as they have jointly invested in six rai at Ban Doo in Surin.

"It was very arid when we purchased it. Our project is called 'Kok Nong Na Dara Model', which loosely means the catchment by celebrities. We wanted a chance to express our feelings and to take part in this project. As celebrities, we are hoping to use our fame to inspire people to take part in this project and to watch how our land develops from drought-stricken to verdant," Boy explains. "On August 2, we will transplant rice seedlings into our paddy fields. For now, we have covered the dry land surface with straw stems to reduce wind and water erosion."

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