In an apparently endless monocrop dessert in Thailand there is a visionary group of communities that woke up to the destruction of their forests and took action to save them from loggers. Decades later these cherished forests provide abundant seasonal harvests of wild products to the villagers and are the home to great diversity (including king cobras). Protecting and managing these forests was made possible by great leadership and constant community support.  In this article we explore the story of these forests and the lessons shared by one of the community leaders, Uncle Nawm.

The fall and rise of a community forest

Deep in the countryside of Thailand, the community of Khao Din and their neighbours stand out as 100,000 acres of community forests contrast with the endless sea of monocrops surrounding them. These communities were established by a wave of migrants that settled in the 1960s in a land full of lush and bountiful forests. Initially life was very abundant, with trees becoming timber and plenty of forest products to harvest, eat and trade. As the years went by, most of the forest was cut down and substituted with industrial monocrops. The community eventually became dependent on fluctuating markets of rice and cane sugar. By the 1980s the once abundant communities were struggling with scarcity and rising social issues as they became one of the poorest districts in Thailand.