Thailand’s disappearing forests alarm farmers, botanists

Kampheng Phet – For many botanists, the Green Farm in Kampheng Phet is a very special place where almost extinct flora is rescued in an effort to save the Kingdom’s native species.

The saddest thing about flora is it is often underappreciated. When an animal species are killed off, there is anger and outrage. But when plants are exterminated, it doesn’t get headlines, much less a mention in the news.

Thailand’s huge deforestation and plant extinction were made worse by a mad race to industrialize and urbanize.

2Herbs have medicinal qualities and is used in preparing Thai dishes.In the event the past five decades, many hundreds, perhaps thousands of species have been uprooted, chopped down and discarded without any thought whatsoever.

At Kampngphet’s Chalermprakiat “community forest” rare trees are replanted by farmers and forestry officials to save what’s left of rare species.

“What many people fail to see is that several of these plants possess precious medicinal properties as well as ingredients that can serve as health supplements,” says CPF assistant president Sayan Jansarangwan.

“For instance, many of the plants – herbs included – were used as protection against sickness in the days of old,” says one forestry worker.

“For hundreds of years these plants were vital to curing and preventing disease.

“Trees and flora were taught as part of Thai education among the farmers for centuries. This was the case until the coming of the Modern Age after World War II.

“Since then our knowledge and appreciation for local flora has been diminished and less frequently taught at schools,” he says.

“As a result, many of these natural forms of medicines have been lost.

“They have been done away and replaced by Western drugs.”

“But I believe there is still a place for local natural medicines,” Sayan says. “In China, traditional medicine using local plants is still recommended. In some cases, they are more potent than the Western drugs that are very costly and unsuitable for Asians.”

The replanting of forest is not easy. Then they began six years ago, half of the 2,500 saplings did not survive.

“It was then that we realize we lacked knowledge about these plants. Experts had to be brought in to test soil conditions and what certain plants may require. They are all different.”

In this community farm and forest reserve in Kampheng Phet, a great deal of effort is currently employed to not just reforest the Kingdom but learn about lost plants, their qualities and if they could one day be used as health remedies.

There are several forest types here such as mangrove, tropical rainforest and highland hardwoods.

Visitors can view the replanted species along a large garden that is linked by pathways and bridges.

It forms part of CPF’s “Green Farm Centre.” The project covers 4,000-rai, one of the largest in the country.

The community farm was started almost 40 years ago. Initially, 64 farmers obtained 25 rai each on the condition they stayed and cultivated the land for 10 years.

3.Plants are vital sources of local medicines that are cheaper andnd more ptent than some Western drugs.It was part of a successful contract farming scheme that tried to share the profits from receipts more fairly with hardworking farmers. CPF also wanted partners who could be counted on to deliver good quality crops on time. The farmers were expected to keep the properly and not behave like speculators.

For farmers it was a good way to work with an assurance of some profits when harvest comes.

They had a committed buyer who would honor agreed prices, establishing long term relationships that would weather times when market conditions turn unfavorable.

CPF has set aside 30 rai for the forest research on rare plants with nurseries and display grounds.

“Another 50 rai may be added later to expand the project,” says Sutee Smudraprabhud, assistant vice president for sustainable development.

Last year the team began efforts to replant 62 species of trees including rare mangrove and other wild species that were once thought extinct because of rapid deforestation.

The center has to date planted 142 rare species of flora.

“I was only able to identify four that I heard of,” says Sayan.

“What we discovered in locating rare plants is astonishing. Yet we feel sad that so many plants have been destroyed over the years. We will never see these species again.”

The extinction of plants has gone unnoticed. Unlike wildlife, he warns, plant species are harder to differentiate.

“Many people cut trees without any understand about their value. Our children will know even less about plants than we do.

“At the same time, botany teachers are also diminishing in numbers. All this could point to a crisis in human-plant coexistence.”

About 20,000 hogs were also being raised at the farm.

The hog farms help to channel much needed fertilizer for the center to enrich the vegetation.

As a green farm, Sutee says the objective is to attain a zero-waste system.

“All waste should be recycled and carbon emissions reused.

“It serves as a good model that other farmers can learn from in conserving the environment and protecting human settlement from negative effects.

“The farm also aims to shape a new generation of green plantations that are more sound, balanced and safer for people and the planet.”

Thailand is a tropical countries teeming with diverse flora and vegetation. The diverse vascular plants of Thailand with estimated number of no less than 10,000 species, have been recorded and published since 1970.

During the past decades, an increased population combined with economic and infrastructure development have been responsible for forest destruction in every region of the country.

Since the establishment of the Royal Forest Department in 1896 and the inauguration of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation in 2002, both departments are authorized as the main agencies for the forest and wildlife conservation and sustainable management of the forest resources.

At present, there are 147 national parks, 108 forest parks, 57 wildlife sanctuaries, 49 non-hunting areas, 16 botanical gardens and 55 arboreta throughout the country covering 60 % of the remaining forest areas and containing most of natural resources of ecological importance in the Kingdom.


Top: Visitors take photographs of the community forest inside a 4,000-rai “Green Farm” in Kampheng Phet.

First inset: Plants hold medicinal value and serve as health supplements when used in cooking. They are vital in an ageing population who require food supplements to remain mobile.

Second inset: Local herbal medicines are cheaper and more potent than some Western drugs.

Below: One of the replanted species at the community forest in Kampheng Phet.

By Cimi Suchontan

4. One of the replanted plants at the Green Farm in Kampheng Phet


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