Forest Landscape Restoration : FLR349
Support farmers to restore watershed forests and create sustainable careers through the FLR349 reforestation model. Planted trees will be cared for and maintained for 6 years. Farmers will be incentivized to switch from agrochemical monoculture towards growing of perennial trees, fruit, vegetables and herbs in a mixed agriculture system which helps to restore and replenish the ecology. Through a development of sustainable value chain, products from the landscape will be sold to local food and retail markets, generating income for the community and enhancing livelihoods.
Duration 6 years Area Kong Kheak Subdistrict, Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai Province
The challenge: deforestation and failing food system
The lush green watershed forests in the north of Thailand are being destroyed. In just 50 years, forest cover in Thailand has decreased from 43% to 31%. The main cause of this is forest encroachment for agricultural purposes, especially maize plantations used for animal feed. In Chiang Mai alone, around 40% of the healthy forests have been replaced with maize plantations. Agriculture in the impacted areas has increasingly been transformed from traditional substance farming to intensive monoculture agriculture. This conversion has been associated with many environmental issues, including land degradation, erosions, landslides, and even the haze pollution problems suffered nationwide. Conversion has also led to serious ecosystem destruction with soil degradation, droughts, decline of pollinators, and reduced agricultural productivity.
In addition to the environmental harm, unsustainable monoculture agriculture also creates immense problems for the farmers and those living in the area. Apart from the health problems caused by pollution and chemical usage, social and economic problems are also seen. Due to the economic direction creating a demand for maize, the food system in the north of Thailand is collapsing. Local wisdom on sustainable agriculture has diminished and local food ingredients are now rare. As a result, farmers and others in the community can no longer rely on food grown in the area and have to source food from elsewhere, despite having the skills needed to grow their own food. Additionally, smallholder farmers’ income relies on monoculture crops, which has a fluctuating price. Due to the unsustainable income, farmers who grow maize become stuck in a cycle of debt. Degradation of their land from years of agrochemicals usage means that they are unable to grow other crops, leaving them unable to break free from the cycle. These social, economic, and environmental problems brought on by unsustainable monoculture agriculture have led to people losing their agency and their ability to be self- reliant.
In other words, we are losing forest and watershed areas that provides us with ecosystem services for an approximate price of just 300 USD per hectare/year
Caption: Intensive agricultural production (i.e. use of pesticides) in Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai to promote faster crop growth in order to meet increasing consumer demands
Project: “FLR349” is a nature-based solution with the objective of incentivizing farmers to turn their forest-encroaching monoculture agriculture practice into reforestation and sustainable agriculture in order to restore ecosystems and the local food system, improve livelihoods, and build resilient communities. This is achieved through an agricultural production system where farmers are promoted to grow perennial trees, fruit, vegetables and herbs together in a mixed system. Food production with diversified local varieties and perennial crops will help restore degraded lands and forests, biodiversity and pollinators, as well as restore the carbon back into the soil. This will not only mitigate climate change, but improve ecosystem services.
FLR349 comes from “Three Forests, Four Benefits” based on the King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s, King Rama IX of Thailand, “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.” The project has clear actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore ecosystems, in a way that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously improving human well-being and providing biodiversity benefits.
Funding for FLR349 is used as financial incentives for farmers to transition towards sustainable agriculture and forest restoration. Farmers are educated and trained on sustainable agricultural methods. This together with provisions, capacity building activities and value chain development, encourage smallholder farmers to permanently shift away from intensive agrochemical monoculture practices. To prevent forest encroachment and intensive use of chemicals, proper implementation of the forest-based economy is conducted, allowing farmers to produce agricultural products under forest cover without the use of agrochemicals.
The economic trade-off between natural capitals of a healthy landscape against the production of primary food will be mitigated through the FLR349 model that values the ecological, economic and social potential, and involves all actors within the decentralized local food system and social movements. It promotes agricultural production systems which value biological diversity and the services rendered by natural processes.
Caption: A forest a few weeks after being burned. There are small green plants growing from the wood stumps that were completely burnt black. The picture above is a familiar site for passersby in Mae Chaem District, Chiang Mai Province, as the monoculture maize farms have grown rapidly over the past 10 years. An estimate found that in 2016 there was a total of 123,229 rais of maize plantations in Mae Chaem District alone.
Our pilot project area in Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province will be used to shift careers towards reforestation and sustainable food. FLR349 has a target of reaching 2,720 hectares and 2,000 smallholder farmer households by 2025. FLR349 will fund a maximum of 1.6 hectares per household at approximately 64 dollars (2,000 baht) for every 0.16 hectares (1 rai) to be converted to the ‘Three Forest, Four Benefits’ model. The area will be funded for 6 years to aid with transformation efforts, and so the smallholder farmers remain self-reliant after the project ceases. FLR349 aims to expand the project nationwide and for it to become a viable solution model to ecosystem degradation caused by industrial agriculture in all areas.
In 2020 we expanded the project by 32 hectares, which is expected to halt up to 160 hectares of forest encroachment.
Tracking tree growth
The FLR349 Traceability Platform is a database that connects production and consumption through a collection of data on a cloud based system. The platform tracks changes, activities, production planning, and includes information on the farms and conservation methods for agroforestry areas. Additionally, the FLR349 Traceability Platform also allows consumers to trace the origins of their produce and support smallholders through a QR code system. The QR codes are fixed to each individual planted tree, creating a specific database for every product grown in the area.
In order to maximise the impacts and reach targets, WWF-Thailand formed multi-level strategic partnerships with leading organisations from various sectors. This includes a strong partnership with the Central Group – one of Southeast Asia’s leading conglomerates with subsidiaries in retail and hospitality- as well as the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, Thailand leading agricultural bank. With the Central Group’s reach, FLR349 is able to create a market place for organically grown products from the project sites, helping to generate demand and income. Currently, products from the project sites can be found in many of Central Group’s retail store, including TOPS supermarkets. BAAC’s role in the partnership is to provide funds and backing for the small-holders. With a strong reputation and trust within the agricultural community, BAAC was the perfect financial institution to partner with on this FLR project.
Caption: Rice terraces stretching over several hills in Chiang Mai. It is a beautiful view that has gradually been reinstated after villagers chose the means of organic rice farming instead of using chemical fertilizer as in the past. In addition to the environmental benefits that lead to an abundance of rice paddies, small crabs, small fishes, and local insects, the rice terraces are also an attraction for many tourists from around the world. In Mae Chaem District, every year tens of thousands of tourists come to visit these rice terraces.
Forest Landscape Restoration Fund (FLR349) activity plan
- Build network in target location: Create a network made up of groups/community enterprises/cooperatives/and any others that are facing issues relating to monoculture agriculture land overlapping with 1,2 watershed areas and are prepared to transition towards ‘Three Forests, Four Benefits’
- Survey coordinates area and calculate number of plots: Collaborating with local government agencies and Royal Forestry Department officials, survey area coordinates and calculate the number of plots that joined reforestation procedures, perform a surveying trip around the plots, and analyze information from aerial photographs and satellite imaging
- Prepare area: Prepare area by eliminating weeds along the planting line, setting up stakes along the planting line, digging holes with organic soil on the bottom, and making the area more fertile with organic fertilizer.
- Landscape management: Dig swells and build water storage stations with machinery and plan land use map.
- Prepare saplings: Raise furrows to prepare greenhouse grown forests, fruit and economic tree saplings, as well as banana trees saplings for planting and organic agriculture.
- Planting trees: Organically grow forests made up of forest, fruit, and economic trees along with agriculture crops.
- Enter information into database: Update QR codes attached to trees to enter planting data into the growth tracking database via satiate. The QR codes will be updated at least twice a year.
- Maintenance: Maintain land by eliminating weeds, putting compost around the base of the plants, and trimming twigs to reduce the amount of water released by the saplings.
- Fire prevention: Build 4-6 meters wide fire buffer lines around the plots in areas prone to fires. Organize fire lookout shifts and prepare fire extinguishing equipment.
- Local Food/Supply Chain Management: Create a management network for produce from the area made up of community enterprises, cooperative members, organic farmer groups, and social enterprises by selling the produce to schools, shops, hotels, hospitals, community markets, and agricultural markets to develop a local food value chain in the area.
- Monitoring and evaluation: Monitor and evaluate saplings’ growth, survival rate, tree maintenance, local markets, earnings, and farmers’ livelihoods. 6. Produce management and creation of value added products
- Traceability platform training and updates
Several studies have been commissioned to partnering research institutions to study the impact of the FLR349 project.
- In 2019-2020, Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) revealed the social return on investment (SROI) of the FLR349 model is 8.367, i.e. for every 1 Thai baht invested in the FLR349 model. It generates the social benefits of 8.367 Thai baht, which contributes to various beneficiaries; for example, farmers, local municipalities, consumers, vendors, restaurants, networks, and the central government.
- A study commissioned to the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) revealed that that the net GHG emissions of maize plantation is at least 3,743.125 kg CO2 eq.Ha-1yr-1, whereas FLR349 model, could potentially generate at least total carbon stock of 209,293.75 kg CO2 eq.Ha-1 within 10 years. In other words, this innovative FLR model can not only contribute to forest restoration and community building efforts, but also be a part of any national GHG mitigation and adaptation strategies.
- Stop slash and burn agriculture and forest encroachment for monoculture agriculture in steep headwater areas. Areas that have done so have reduced amount of small dust particles (PM 10 and PM 2.5).
- Increase forest cover, restore ecosystems, and instill sustainable consumption and production practices in Kong Khaek sub-district, Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province. Target to increase forest cover and support organic agriculture on 32 hectares, halt 160 hectares of forest encroachment for monoculture agriculture, and plant 30,000 trees in the area (6,000 economic trees, 4000 fruit trees, and 20,000 forest trees.) In the past, encroachment in Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province reached 320 hectares
- Use Department of Lands’ policies in national forests and 1,2 watershed areas to solve worker rights issues for small holder farmers.
- Approximately 12.5 liters of agrochemicals are used per hectare of monoculture agriculture in the area. FLR349 will stop agrochemicals and chemical fertilizer usage, halt forest encroachment for monoculture agriculture, prevent landslides, and create clean water sources.
- Create sustainability in the supply chain, improve food security, restore foundational economy, and build an economic model that is based on local food. Create a market place in the area comprised of schools, shops, hotels, hospitals, community markets, and agriculture plots.
- The 100 smallholder farmers households that have joined the project are able to generate income, create incentives, develop and shift careers from monoculture agriculture towards organic agriculture, increase product value two fold through value added projects while reducing costs associated with agrochemicals, increase income by 40%, and reduce monopolization of product prices by middlemen.
Thailand Organic Agriculture Innovation Foundation (TOF)
The Central Group
Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC)
|· Banana||64 tree/rai x 100 rai x 25 baht||160,000.00|
|· Cacao and other food crops or cash crops||30 tree/rai x 100 rai x55 baht||165,000.00|
|· Fruit trees||20 tree/rai x 100rai x 70 baht||140,000.00|
|· Forest trees||100 tree/rai x 100rai x 10 baht||100,000.00|
|2. Land preparation||2000 baht/rai x 100 rai||200,000.00|
|3. Farmers’ incentive||1,2000 baht/rai x 100 rai||1,200,000.00|
|4.Management, monitoring and evaluation cost||6000 tree/rai/six years x 100 rai||600,000.00|
|5. Saving fund for farm maintenance , firebreaks and fireguard cost||4,350 tree/rai/six years x 100 rai||435,000.00|
|6.Taejai administration fee||300,000.00|