Ban Mabchan Ecological Learning Center: Model of Water and Forest Conservation and Sustainable Community
Over ten years ago, the areas around Khao Yai Da in Rayong were parched and arid, often plagued with wildfires in dry spells. There was no reprieve when the rainy season came either; not only did the soil fail to retain the rainwater, but landslides would ensue, wreaking havoc on the topsoil. Driven by the trials that his villagers and he had to endure, Wandee Intraphrom, Village Headman of Moo 7, Ban Mabchan in Rayong, embarked on a mission to revitalize the forest.
“Our area was arid, and wildfires broke out every year. We started a reforestation project and kept planting trees. However, we had no idea how to make our forest lush. We wanted to build check dams, but we did not know how. Concrete dams did not turn out successful either. Then, I recalled what His Majesty once said. Temporary check dams which could be rebuilt could also be used.”
Emboldened by the words of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Wandee decided to soldier on and join the check dam construction organized by SCG, which had earlier hosted check dam construction and its Conserving Water for the Future projects in Lampang.
SCG Chemicals: A Friend with Experience
SCG Chemicals offered suggestions and cooperated with the communities around Khao Yai Da in building check dams, which now total over 6,800. SCG Chemicals’ Community Relation Manager Pandara Sutherawongsa remarked on the initiative:
“We began constructing check dams with communities around Khao Yai da in 2007. Initially, only a couple of communities joined us, but we successfully expanded the network to 10 villages, one of which was Moo 7 Ban Mabchan. After a while, the villagers started to see that their check dams helped bring rain to the mountain. Previously, when there were no check dams, rainwater could not retained and would just drain away. When dry spells came, the trees changed colors as in a deciduous forest. Their leaves turned yellow and dry. As a result, wildfires broke out. However, after these communities began building check dams with us from 2008 and 2010, they began to notice changes in Khao Yai Da. Because the check dams required constant maintenance, they could see each time they went to inspect them that the lushness had been restored to the forest. Wildfires during the dry season also stopped.”
To build these check dams, SCG Chemicals adopted the recommendation of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the construction of check dams in Huay Hong Krai, in which natural materials were placed in brooks and rivulets in mountains to slow water flow and allow the soil to absorb the water like sponge.
Because rock is abundant on Khao Yai Da, it was used as the main material for the check dams. Repaired no fewer than 10 times each year, these check dams have restored lushness to the mountain and given the Mabchan villagers hope to make a living, guided by self-sufficiency and sustainable development, with SCG Chemicals as a friend and a mentor working closely with them in the process.
Extending Community Development Ideas
“SCG Chemicals has supported us not only just for the check dam construction and the reforestation project, providing us with trees to plant in sparse patches of the forest. They are there for us all the time. Whatever we say we need that will benefit the village and the community, they will support us immediately. Even when the headman entered the village in the provincial competition “Happy Village of Sufficiency Economy,” SCG Chemicals came and provided us with direction signs, signage for important attractions, and brochures.”
Furthermore, SCG Chemicals has also lent vocational knowledge support as well as helped find markets and distribution channels for the villagers. The village, which comprises about 240 families and a population of 400 people, is planning to form groups to process or produce agricultural products.
The groups are divided by the lanes in the village into six subgroups called khums: Khum 1 grows straw mushroom, Khum 2 manufactures pleated fabric ornaments, Khum 3 produces ready-to-eat chili paste, Khum 4 makes organic manure, Khum 5 carries out forest growing in the communities, and Khum 6 produces shrimp paste.
The products from each khum are sold not only to fellow villagers but also visitors of Wat Mabchan, including volunteers of the check dam construction project, SCG Chemicals employees, and people who come to the village to learn about its development after Ban Mabchan opened itself up to people outside as an ecological learning center – another pride of the village. Village Headman Wandee said:
“SCG Chemicals has taught up to process our products to create added value and found distribution channels for us. They have helped up manage our community flea market and transform local products. They have shown us that even just a bunch of bananas can be sold to visitors. We have also been taught to grow organic crops. When people visit us to learn about our initiatives, we serve them lunch made with the shrimp paste, chili paste, and vegetables produced by our khums. Thanks to SCG Chemicals’ advice, these projects have generated income for us and broadened our knowledge sustainably.”
These projects reflect SCG Chemicals’ aspiration to strengthen the community and enable it to develop sustainably. The relationship that began with just check dams has flourished and brought contentment to all, not unlike the water on the mountain that has restored abundance to the forest and filled the hearts of everyone at SCG Chemicals and the villagers of Mabchan and the communities around Khao Yai Da with joy.
“They have been a mentor to us, teaching us to become stronger and better. Whatever our wishes are, SCG Chemicals has always been ready to support. They advise us to generate additional income and earn our livelihood. If they are not equipped to help us with, they will find experts on that subject to teach us. If one day they are no longer here with us, I am confident that to we will be able stand on our own feet.”
Ban Mabchan Ecological Learning Center
Located in Moo 7, Klaeng Sub-district, Muang District, Rayong, Ban Mabchan has become an ecological learning center for interested visitors and organizes reforestation and check dam construction activities all year round. Because of its commitment to sustainable development, the village has earned itself many accolades, including the community forest award from the provincial forest conservation and community forest project in 2013. Those interested in visiting or organizing an educational excursion to the village can contact Village Headman Wandee Intraphrom, Tel. +66 8 9248-1204