Villagers in Nan Province have lived off the land for centuries, but in 1964, 85% of Nan Province was declared a national forest. Suddenly, many lifelong residents were illegal inhabitants.
To survive, they were incentivized to grow corn, which started an ongoing cycle of low incomes and environmental damage. Since corn doesn’t naturally grow in Nan, locals needed to cut and burn protected reserves to transform the forest into a farmable “plain.‟ This caused widespread deforestation and consumed 28% of headwater forest, which is an important watershed that feeds many vital waterways.
The situation in Nan province has wider implications that extend throughout Thailand, and the world. 45% of the Chao Phraya River, which nourishes the lives of countless Thai people, originates here. Unless poverty and deforestation are simultaneously and holistically addressed, we won’t make the necessary progress to mitigate and restore these critical forest lands.
“Eighty-five percent of Nan is forest preserves.
Deforestation is evident and progressing.”