BANGKOK, Sept. 18, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- As an Instructor at Devawongse Varopakarn Institute of Foreign Affairs (DVIFA), the training academy under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, David Smith has been invited to visit Angkhang, the birthplace of the Royal hill tribe projects in Thailand. His article titled "Angkhang: Insights from a memorable visit" depicts the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej's reasons and solutions to help the hill tribe people and transform the remote mountainside area to be the sustainable agricultural area.
According to David's article, in 1959, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej became the first Thai monarch to visit the remote mountainside village of Angkhang on his arrival by Royal helicopter. What His Majesty encountered then would contrast starkly with today's lush mountainside setting, featuring healthy forested terrain and vast farm lands. The once bountiful mountain-top jungle had mostly become barren due to the slash and burn cultivation methods used by refugees from Yunnan, China and the Black Muser hill tribe people, who had been using the terrain to grow the poppies used to produce opium.
Due to the village's remote location and limited access to the area, His Majesty realized that only a long-term solution would Angkhang Royal Hill Tribe Project suffice. His solution was to, "Help them to help themselves," representing the birth of the Angkhang Royal Hilltribe Project.
To make his vision a reality, King Bhumibol the Great first determined that the most pressing need for the villagers was access to a steady supply of water for their personal usage, along with a much-needed irrigation network for farming purposes. Through diligent research of the surrounding mountainside terrain, areas of natural mountain runoff were identified, and irrigation conduits and small reservoirs were established.
Fresh water did not address the larger issue of the poverty that was rife in the area. To begin with, farmers needed sustainable cash crops to replace the opium-producing poppies that led to the use of the slash and burn method in the area. His Majesty decided the best approach was to take advantage of the cool conditions and look outside of Thailand for suitable high-value, low-yield, non-native crops that would thrive in the unique region, instead of traditional Thai crops that are typically grown at lower altitudes.
In his article, David said Peach was the first of the non-native crops to be introduced to the region. Subsequently, vegetables that thrive in cooler climes, as well as a number of fruits, including pears, strawberries, persimmon, kiwi fruit, pomegranate, and blueberries, as well as tea, coffee, and flowers were cultivated in the area.
Just as important as ensuring there were sustainable sources of water, and introducing crops that would bring greater economic freedom, was to teach the hill tribes how to balance their personal and communal needs with those ensuring the sustainability of the local environment. His Majesty stressed that in order to optimize life in such a remote location, a balance between nature and man must exist.
Since the establishment of the Royal Agricultural Station, continuous research has been carried out to determine the best species of plants and flowers suitable for the cooler climate and, therefore, the program in terms of their yield potential. In addition, the Royal Agricultural Station conducts research projects, organizes training and circulates the results to government organizations and local farmers. The station also provides training to better equip the farmers with expertise in agriculture and the skills required to ensure the preservation of the natural resources locally, all in order to help the farmers to become more self-sufficient. It also serves as a beautifully-landscaped flower garden, restaurant, and plantations to serve a growing number of tourist visitors.
Attracting over 200,000 tourists each year generates additional sources of income, which have helped to further support the hill tribe people's lives, supplementing the income they receive from their high-value cash crops - handcrafted goods and freshly-picked fruits and vegetables.
Since His Majesty's inception of Angkhang, Royal Hilltribe Projects have now spread to cover 300 hill tribes, comprising nearly 375,000 households. In addition, 38 more agricultural stations have been established throughout the country, including the latest one in Tak province.
While the work initiated by King Bhumibol at Angkhang helped to vastly improve the lives of hill tribe people, it also serves as an exemplary example for others to follow. That with careful planning and great foresight, people can repair damage done to the environment, live hand in hand with it, and achieve self-sufficiency and a more fulfilling way of life.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tel: +662-203-5000 ext. 22050
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