Food Security for the Karen Hilltribes in Thailand

By Kira Day, Give2Asia Programs Intern

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As darkened clouds signal the arrival of “April Showers,” we dust off our rubber boots, unwieldy umbrellas, and – for the worst days – a waxed jacket from the closet corner. We gripe about worsened commutes, expressing contempt for traffic congestion and pesky puddles that drench our pant legs. For Northern Thailand’s Karen people, however, the rain is more than a nuisance; it threatens their livelihoods.

Monsoon season arrives in villages across northwest Thailand each July, bringing with it the risk of extreme flooding. Rather than providing necessary irrigation in the aftermath of increasingly severe droughts, massive water flows destroy fragile irrigation systems. These structures, often made of wood or bamboo, support a community of subsistence farmers whose production depends largely on unpredictable weather. The susceptibility of these irrigation systems to extreme weather means that Karen food production routinely meets just 40% of the population’s need. Food shortages result in malnutrition, and ultimately displacement, as children and young adults migrate to cities to support their families.

To confront the issue of food security, the Karen Hilltribes Trust (KHT) invests in building durable and flood-resistant dams, which provide communities with reliable water sources year-round. Previous KHT irrigation projects have led to 5-fold increases in rice production yields, decreased reliance on harmful slash-and-burn methods, and income generation from the sale of surplus crops. Most importantly, these dams are built to last over 10 years, without the need for repairs. Rain becomes a resource rather than a menace in these project communities.

Particular villages, such as Ban Nong Haeng, have an urgent need for these projects. Recent floods have left the area without any form of flood protection. With the wet season on the horizon, the community is vulnerable to having their crops – and homes – destroyed entirely. KHT hopes to undertake the project by June 1st, working expediently to preempt the impending storms.

Karen Hilltribes Trust embodies the ethos of Give2Asia: local knowledge counts. The organization consults village leaders to ensure that the infrastructure will meet community needs – a small yet fundamental step for effective development. What’s more is KHT’s commitment to sustainability. By involving local villagers in the construction, they build the capacity for long-term impact. Community members gain the skills to repair or replicate the dams, and see first-hand the value of their work.

With 64% of the Karen province Mae Hong Song living below the Global Poverty Line – just $1.90 per day – there is much work to be done. Poverty, health, and education are just a few of the issues that need to be confronted. The KHT irrigation projects, however, come with a greater sense of urgency. Delaying construction leaves an entire community defenseless. Their food security, safety, and ultimately lives remain at the mercy of nature.

To contribute to Karen Hilltribes Trust, visit Give2Asia’s donation site here.

The Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction

May 11: Disaster Risk Reduction Webinar

Give2Asia Webinar Series

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Strategic investments in the sector of Disaster Risk Reduction can reap multiple benefits. Apart from saving lives and resources, it can enhance sustainability of business ventures, create a viable environment for development and economic growth and increase community resilience, especially in regions that are prone to disasters. This webinar will explore the causal pathways for attaining optimum community resilience through Disaster Risk Reduction.

This webinar will include:

  • An Introduction to Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Strategic Investments - A Paradigm Shift in Disaster Philanthropy
  • Grassroots Experiences - Narratives of Community Resilience

In order for us to better address your queries during the webinar, please submit your questions when you register. We look forward to your participation.

Best Regards,
The Give2Asia Team

Give2Asia's webinars feature practitioners and subject experts representing different perspective on the social sector in featured countries. These webinars will provide an opportunity to learn more about the social sector in Asian countries; however, due to the dynamic nature of the region careful due diligence and partnership selection is necessary. 

Date

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Time

USA West Coast (PST) - 7:00 AM

USA East Coast (EST) - 10:00 AM

India (IST) - 7:30 PM
 

Registration
To register, please fill out this form. You may submit your topics of interest or questions you would like to discuss. Please register by May 9th, 2017.


How to Participate

Join the webinar by following this link.

If you have never attended an Adobe Connect meeting before, click here to test your connection and click hereto get a quick overview. 

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Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Hao
Association for Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities (AEPD)

AEPD is committed to improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities through economic and social empowerment and access to health care. AEPD has continued to expand the intervention areas in 24 communes of Quang Binh province, covering 74 communes in 5 districts/city since 2003. In order to comprehensively support the persons with disabilities, AEPD works in 5 sectors, including healthcare support, sustainable livelihood, social inclusion, advocacy, and community-based DRM/climate change.

Mr. Guillermo Luz
Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF)

The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) is the country's major private sector vehicle and coordinator for disaster management. PDRF works with field experts and reputable humanitarian institutions to organize and coordinate private sector solutions to disaster management. As the critical link among government agencies, civil society groups and local government units, PDRF provides a systematic and holistic approach in responding to different crises from the period of preparedness to recovery. Corresponding programs are focused on the post-disaster revival and recovery of five key sectors - shelter, livelihood, education, environment and water, infrastructure, sanitation and health (WISH).

Mr. Manu Gupta
Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS)
SEEDS works towards making communities resilient towards disasters. The 30-member multi-disciplinary team consists of social scientists, urban planners, architects, engineers, project management specialists, media & communication team, finance managers and logisticians. SEEDS brings a wide range of capacities through its experience in post disaster response, recovery and rehabilitation in last 20 years, and has won the CNN IBN Award for Public Service in 2010 for its work for flood affected victims in Leh (India). SEEDS has worked in every major emergency in India since 2001.

Disaster Preparedness: This is What Empowerment Looks Like

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By Jill Chang, Regional Manager

In March 2017, Give2Asia and IIRR hosted a 5-day “Disaster Preparedness & the Power of Local Leadership” conference in Silang and metro Manila, inviting international donors, intermediaries, as well as practitioners all around Asia to share their experiences. I was fortunate to be the moderator of an exciting session called “Unleashing Innovation for Disaster Preparedness.”

In the session, Mr. Shamim Arfeen of Bangladesh’s AOSED demonstrated how he uses Information and Communications Technology, as well as capacity-building programs and establishing strong fishermen communities to help reduce flood damage. Dr. Saroj Dhital of Nepal’s phect-NEPAL is a surgeon: he devotes tremendous time and effort trying to improve health care in rural areas, especially in the remote high hills. He uses internet, wifi, even drones to achieve those goals. Dr. Partha J. Das of India’s Aaranyak is an Environmental Scientist: he demonstrated his award-winning "Community Based Flood Early Warning Project" - a system that uses simple technology in local houses to provide flood warning.  

Simple and Violent

It was a mind-blowing 75 minutes for me, and I was truly amazed by their creativity and innovation. Taiwan is known as a tech island: it manufactures cell phone components and high-tech wafers at some of the best foundries in the world, but I hadn’t yet seen much use of these types of technology in disaster preparedness.

“Simple and violent” are the words that jumped right across my mind after listening to their talks. They probably would not agree on this, but to me they are changing the world in a hacker way: if there is a problem, go find a solution; and if there is no solution, create one on your own. It is that simple, it is that violent. And their solutions are low-cost, replicable, intuitive, based upon local knowledge  - and in fact it made us all wonder why no one thought of it before. The line between breaking new ground through reflecting on the old ways was entirely blurred.

Power of Serendipity

As the moderator, I was privileged to get a good understanding of the speakers and their projects. After the session, I introduced them to Mr. Paolo Lubrano, Regional Humanitarian Manager from Oxfam Asia office, also a speaker of the conference, about how these innovative models can be scaled up. These turned out to be productive conversations: partnerships may be established, they may work on projects and/or start scholarship together. It was almost magical that we come from different countries, live in different time zones, and before the conference we didn’t even know each other’s work, and all it took was 75 minutes to connect the dots, create synergy, and make impactful changes. It was living proof of the power of serendipity.

The Warm Empowerment

My hands were cold when I was on stage, but I felt warmth throughout the conference, then I realized: it was the people. I felt it when Saveetha Meganathan, Manager of Disaster Programs at Give2Asia, touched my face and said "I've got everything ready, don't worry," and when Dr.Dhital said to me on a busy street "it's your generation’s turn, be brave." It was a typical tropical day, in the typical fast pace of the financial district, but I felt unprecedented calmness and strength. For me, that's true empowerment.