Thailand is located in the heart of the Southeast Asian peninsula neighbouring Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia. With a gross national income (GNI) per capita of US$4,210 (2011), it has recently been categorised as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank (World Bank, 2011). With an index of 0,682 it is placed at rank 103 out of 187 countries (UNDP, 2011), above average in the region East Asia and the Pacific. The positive social and economic development that Thailand has experienced during the past few decades is expressed in numerous socio-economic indicators (World Bank, 2011).
Conversely, in 2010, 64 provinces in Thailand were declared disaster areas by the Interior Ministry due to water shortages brought on by a severe drought (Emergency Operation Center for Disaster Mitigation, 2011). A year later, Thailand was under water: more than one million people were affected by severe flooding for several weeks as a result of persistent rainfall (Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, 2011). The media has commented on these events with the headline: “Living with the new stress. Climate change has become a catastrophic normality” (Die Zeit, 11.03.2011). This “normality” is characterized by increasing uncertainty that obliges the affected population– like those in Thailand– to develop new coping and adaptation mechanisms.
Northern Thailand, the region where Lamphun Province and the study sites are located, is situated within the tropical summer-rain region with three seasons per year. The summer lasts from March until May. The rainy season spans from end of May through October. The winter arrives in mid or late October and continues until February. Compared to other regions in Thailand, the average temperature in the northern region is relatively low with a wide difference between day-time and night-time temperatures. With regard to precipitation, the northern region is drier during the dry season, but wetter in the rainy season compared to other regions in Thailand. The study villages are typical rural upland settlements of Northern Thailand, whose inhabitants include both Thai and Karen communities. The area is hilly and forested.
Most households in the study area are engaged in semi-subsistence agriculture. Rice is grown for household consumption; maize is the most common crop of the area. A trend to agricultural diversification can be identified. Rural to urban as well as international migration is a common feature of the villagers’ livelihoods. Villagers reported both dry spells as well as heavy rainfall and the occurrence of flash floods. The extreme heavy and long rainfall in 2011 was a particularly dominant feature in the narratives of the villagers about climatic stress.
The Research Findings
Most households in the field research area are not able to grow enough rice to feed their families throughout the year, due to the limited paddy landholding size. Only 5.3 % of the households are able to produce sufficient rice for self-consumption throughout the year or have some surplus rice for sale. As the discussion during the PRAs revealed, in most cases the rice stock from own production is depleted two or three months (November – December) before the new harvest. This “lean time” which previously forced households to cope by substituting rice with less preferred forest products, can be overcome through market exchange today, as access to market is enhanced through better infrastructural connections. Furthermore, households generate cash income through cash crops and on-farm and off-farm employment, which enables them to buy food.
The household survey confirms that migration is an important feature in the life of the people in the study villages. 67% of the households reported that they have a member who has migration experience – that means a member that is currently away or who has migrated in the past and returned already. The total number of persons with migration experience is 224. Among these migrants, 76.3 % (171 person) reported that the main purpose of migration was employment related; 20% (45 person) migrated for educational reasons. All in all, more men than women have migration experience: 61.6 % of the migrants were male and 38.4% were female. Among persons with migration experience, the majority (62.9%) have migrated in the past and returned already. The number of current internal migrants is 83 persons, and current international migrants are 10 persons.
Read the full report : Thailand Case Study Report
The Adaptation Phases
Based on the research findings and participatory work with communities and local stakeholders, CARE started implementing a community based adaptation project in 2013. The first phase of the project went on from 2013 to 2014 and a second phase is currently going on (2015-2016).
During the first phase of the adaptation project, the team worked with 7 villages of Chiang Mai Region to support smallholder farmers of these villages to develop effective water management systems that increase their capacity to adapt to water-related shocks and stresses that affect their livelihood and food security, including impacts of climate change. The team set up a working group within the community to be in charge of the design, the implementation and the evaluation of small project to improve the water system. Gender trainings were done to ensure women active participation to the initiative and a particular attention to make sure that vulnerable people benefit first of the project. The installations made (improvement of traditional check dams, installation of water tanks,…) benefited to 60% of the population of the 7 villages e.g 1500 people. It helps people to reduce water lean period from 4 months to 2 months. The group also worked with the community to refine forest management rules to protect water sources in the long run.
Building on the results of the first phase, the project is still going on (from 2015-2016). CARE Thailand is working with the 7 villages targeted during the previous phase, and 14 new villages, always in close collaboration with the government, the local administration and NGOs, in order to improve information sharing and coordination between stakeholders and efficiency of public funds. During this phase, efforts are intensified and specially focus on the:
- Promotion of sustainable agricultural strategies, mainly to strengthen the resilience of populations and optimize water management.
- Design and Implementation of disaster risk reduction and adaptation strategies for vulnerable individuals thanks to the use of climate information.
- Improvement of land and water management system for the additional villages.