- Friends: Below is an excellent article about how village people in
Thailand are doing their own research to find out how development is
affecting their lives. It is a wonderful example of the power and
wisdom of the grassroots......max
Village researchers show the way
Published on November 24, 2004
Research initiatives by Thai villagers could serve as an example to
other countries in their quest for sustainable development, a senior
officer with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) said yesterday.
Villagers affected by development projects here are conducting their
own research into the impact of development projects on their
communities and livelihoods known as Tai Baan, meaning villagers in
northeastern dialect while non-governmental organisations provide
consultants and financial supports.
Their experience would soon be applied in the Mekong countries of
Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, said Richard Friend, an IUCN Mekong
Citing the example of Tai Baan research in the Songkram river basin,
Friend said villagers had been engaged from the beginning.
"Villagers will participate from the research design stage. We
provide consultants and financial support as necessary," he said. "We
are learning together, and it's quite successful."
Beginning with research into the impact of the controversial Pak Mool
dam a few years ago, villagers also conducted their own research in
four other areas the Songkram river basin in Sakhon Nakhon, Sa-iab
district in Phrae, Chiang Rai's Chiang Khong area, and the Rasi Salai
dam area in the Northeast.
Pak Mool villagers conducted a study to show how the dam would hurt
their traditional fishery as part of a mechanism to fight for
According to Friend, the strength of Tai Baan research is that it is
rooted in the local community.
Since researchers are the very villagers affected by government
development programmes, their research benefits from their intimate
knowledge of their communities, he said.
"These strengths should be keys for sustainable development," Friend
said. "The process creates various types of activities through which
villagers taking part in the research learn a great deal."
"We never thought it would get to the point where our research can be
applied to other countries," said Surachai Narongsilpa, 52, a
villager from the Songkram river basin.
However, Laothai Nilnuan, a coordinator for the Songkram River
Conservation Project, slammed what he called the IUCN's cash-centred
approach in luring local communities to its project.
He said the practice undermined existing local initiatives to empower
communities and achieve sustainable development.
"Moreover, the IUCN takes credit for everything they do," said
Laothai, who has been working in the Songkram basin for nine years.
"Its logos are all over the place. It's like the IUCN is trying to
build monuments to itself wherever it goes," he said. "This is in
contrast to the way we do things here everything is a communal
initiative. We don't promote the hero-style of working in
The Nation, Thailand