Community-Based Mangrove Forest Management in Thailand: Key Lesson Learned for Environmental Risk Management

Surin On-prom

Abstract This article discusses community-based mangrove forest management and its implications for environmental risk management. The article draws on the case study of Pred Nai village in Trat province, near the Cambodian border in southeast Thailand. The village of Pred Nai has successfully re-forested 1,920 ha of mangrove forests that were previously converted into shrimp aquaculture ponds in the mid1980s. The village has set up a community forest committee and a community resource use regulation and management plan in order to regulate, control, and manage the use of resources by community members. In the process of community mangrove forest management, local villagers have been encouraged to participate in every single step of forest management and planning. It is the active involvement of the local people together with the support of the relevant authorities and national institutions that makes the Pred Nai example a success. The article concludes by pointing out the key lessons learned from community-based mangrove forest initiatives in Pred Nai that can be applied in natural disaster risk management processes.

Keywords Community empowerment • Community participation • Communitybased mangrove management

8.1 Introduction

In developing countries it is widely recognized that community participation helps to ensure sustainability, makes development activities more effective, and builds local capacity. The participation of local people also ensures equitable benefits for the diverse interest groups within a population as well as ensures effective stewardship. This is partly because communities often have better knowledge and expertise in the management of local resources than government agencies/private industry. Indeed, the involvement of local people in such development business may help reduce government costs. As such, local participation and decentralization are currently being promoted in many developing countries as an alternative approach to development and resource governance. Brown et al. (2002) argue that such a community-based approach often leads to more equitable and sustainable natural resource management. These authors provided a number of reasons to support their argument. One of those reasons concerns the issue of proximity to resources. Those in closest contact with, and whose livelihoods are impacted by, natural resources are best placed to ensure effective stewardship.

Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) is an approach under which communities become responsible for managing natural resources (forests, land, water, biodiversity) within a designated area. CBNRM gives communities full or partial control over decisions regarding natural resources, such as water, forests, pastures, communal lands, protected areas, and fisheries. The extent of CBNRM control can range from community consultations to joint management or to full responsibility for decision making and benefit collection, using tools such as joint management plans, community management plans, stakeholder consultations and workshops, and communal land tenure rights. Together with decentralization reforms, CBNRM ensures stakeholder participation, increases sustainability, and provides a forum for conflict resolution (World Bank 2006).

In Thailand, participation of local communities in natural resource management has been recognized and promoted by government agencies. Evidence of this is provided by the current National Constitution, which contains some articles giving rights to local people and communities to participate in such state-owned development projects. These local communities currently have a say in decision making processes related to natural resource management. In the forestry sector, the Royal Forest Department (RFD) promotes community forestry projects where local communities living in or adjacent to national reserve forests are given usufruct rights to resources within the community forest areas. The RFD also provides them with technical and financial support. It is worth noting here that the most economically and ecologically successful CBNRM is achieved when community participation is accompanied by the devolution of ownership rights over resources. Once a community has been given tenure over the resources they are helping to manage, they are able to gain benefits from the use of these resources and their interest in participation is naturally increased.

The village of Pred Nai in Thailand's Trat province has successfully re-forested 1,920 ha of mangrove forest that were previously converted into shrimp aquaculture ponds in the mid-1980s. Community conservation of mangrove forests in Pred Nai village emerged without outsider intervention more than 20 years ago. Clearly, the initiative by the Pred Nai villagers qualifies as community-based mangrove forest management and numerous lessons can be drawn from it. The successful implementation of community forestry has reaffirmed the role and significance of a communitybased approach in natural resource management. This community-based approach to mangrove management has achieved the twin objectives of restoring coastal and marine biodiversity, and generating income for all socio-economic groups of the village. The initiative has also been able to integrate the marginalized and poor households in the entire process, and tangible benefits are even generated for inhabitants from surrounding villages (Silori et al. 2009).

The aim of this paper is to illustrate the successful case of Pred Nai communitybased mangrove forest restoration and management, and to draw key lessons that can be applied in environmental risk management. Following the introduction, the paper presents the theoretical background to the concept of CBNRM and its implications for sustainable development. It then sets out the case study of Pred Nai village. In conclusion, the paper draws some lessons learned and makes recommendations, as well as offers further research questions.

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