Deforestation is one of the leading causes of the imbalance in the biodiversity in many developing countries especially Thailand (Pakkad, et al. , 2001). As a response to the problems and threats brought about by deforestation in the region, the Forrest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU) of Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai University was conceived (Blakesley & Elliot, 2003).
The FORRU is an environmental agency that does not only seek to study in theory the primary causes and effects of deforestation but also aims at contributing to the ongoing campaigns in protecting and restoring the health of the forests by actively participating in concrete environmental activities and releasing relevant publications which sustain the general awareness of the public regarding the developments made through the efforts of FORRU.
The brief history of FORRU reveals that the campaign began when a few number of students and staff of the Department of Biology of Chiang Mai University decided to do an investigation on the likelihood of restoring degraded forests in northern Thailand back in 1994. Through the use of the framework species method and by applying it to local conditions, together with the grant from Riche Monde (Bangkok) Limited and with the technical assistance from Bath University, the group was able to first establish a research facility.
Later, the organization was given the name Forest Restoration Research Unit or FORRU which already consisted of an office and park headquarters for research tree nursery by the time the organization was formalized. The method implemented by FORRU, which is the framework species method, depends on planting the smallest possible number of indigenous forest tree species so as to obtain the maximum ecological benefits.
Due to their potential to hasten the recovery of the biodiversity, framework species are chosen as they also enhance the natural regeneration of the forests which, in the end, produces a self-sustaining ecosystem within the forests out of a single planting activity. However, in order to fit the local environmental forest setting of Thailand, the framework species method has been successfully adjusted, thereby restoring tropical forests that are seasonally dry as well as to rehabilitate deforested areas in the northern conservation regions of Thailand.
FORRU has its own teams of researchers and scientists who focus on studying the current state of the forests in Thailand. By carefully studying and analyzing the main causes of the deforestation problem and its impact on the population of humans, animals and plants, FORRU’s team of researchers and scientists are able to provide the backbone of concrete efforts designed to counter these problems and prevent further damage to the forests and to the biodiversity in the long run.
One central approach of FORRU in meeting its goals of spreading the word about the needed efforts to revitalize the forests is through published journals and books as well as through maintaining its own websites that branch out to several other online resources where people can get to learn more about the present forest situation in Thailand. The drive to disseminate the information critical to preserving the remaining forests in the regions of Thailand provides the ways for FORRU to reach out to the larger public and accumulate more help, thereby giving more substance and form to FORRU’s environmental crusade.
FORRU also engages in educating the younger public with regard to its missions and objectives by establishing schools programs which specifically cater to the local schools in Thailand. In doing so, FORRU aims to expand the environmental awareness of the local residents especially the younger generation from kindergarten to high school students who can be of great help in resolving deforestation now and in the future.
The organization also aims to educate students studying in international schools by infusing parts of the organization’s researches and studies into the school programs. For instance, Prem Tinsulanonda Centre for International Education and FORRU have been collaborating since 2005 in teaching international students the techniques and concepts formulated by FORRU-CMU in their shared objective of keeping students updated with the latest information released by FORRU as well as the aim of inculcating in the minds of these students the importance and indispensable value of the forests.
FORRU-CMU has also been conducting training programs for professionals who share the same passion in caring for the environment. These professionals usually come from the ranks and files of non-government offices as well as those of several government institutions. Workshops and actual field exposure are carried out in order to make sure that these professionals get a first-hand experience of the motives of FORRU in addressing the pressing environmental concerns.
For instance, trips to the village of Ban Mae Sa Mai are given to participating professionals so that they can be able to directly contribute to the efforts of FORRU through experimental plots and to communicate closer to the local residents of the area who are immediately affected by the deforestation problem. FORRU has also engaged in collaborating with the Eden Project of Britain, a project that reaches to over a million individuals annually through its events, workshops and exhibits which emphasize the gifts of nature and remind the people about these things and on the need to look after nature in return for what it has given us.
The collaborative efforts focus on ensuring an approach to scale-up the restoration of the forests that is accepted by the society. From landscapes with multiple purposes to experimental plots, the two organizations were able to derive a project which is the “Trees for Thailand” which is also an extension of the Eden Project that will run for approximately three successive years. The collaboration is said to concentrate on the groups of small local communities as these are the groups who are most likely to push the efforts to reforest the local area successfully than any other.
These local residents of the 12 communities currently under the program are taught about techniques in plant nursery as well as techniques in forest restoration. On the other hand, the role of the Eden Project resides in overlooking the financial management of the “Trees for Thailand” as well as in handling the networking of all the twelve local communities involved in order to have an aggregate measure of how much the project has been able to achieve. Thus, FORRU is not only an organization that is exclusive to Thais and Thailand.
On the contrary, the organization is one which seeks to get help from institutions with similar ideologies regardless of geographical origins. Nevertheless, many of these collaborations by FORRU with other organizations from different countries are designed in such a way that they meet the needs of the local problems of deforestation in Thailand which keeps in line with the primary goals of FORRU. In more recent times, FORRU received more support from the Darwin Initiative as well as from the East Mailing Research based in the United Kingdom and the Wildlife Landscape.
The support obtained led to the furtherance of the expansion of the extended services of FORRU for the next three years since 2005, which include but are not limited to the facilitation of the forest restoration efforts in three regional countries located in Indochina which are Cambodia, China and Laos. Much of the renewed efforts concentrate on providing assistance to these Indochinese countries through the transfer of skills and technological capabilities.
Moreover, these efforts seek to help these countries in developing their own versions of the framework species technique that are applicable to their local environment setting. Another important aspect of the support received by the organization is that FORRU is now able to help key stakeholders in these Indochinese nations to form their organizational counterparts patterned after the existing system of FORRU in Thailand. These organizational counterparts are designed to apply to the local socio-economic and ecological conditions in these three countries.
And in order to foster the development of these organizations in Laos, China and Cambodia, FORRU has been more than willing to produce and give concise versions of its current techniques in reforesting deforested areas which will then be translated to the local language of these three respective countries. In doing so, it is highly expected that there will be more ease in propagating the successful measures done by FORRU in Thailand to its neighboring countries in Asia. Those are just some of the actual implementations for change done by FORRU thus far through the assistance provided by organizations who share the same environmental cause.
The fact that FORRU has already been able to establish its own internet website only reinforces the fact that the organization has grown through the years. Similarly, it also reveals how FORRU has been able to continuously develop its objectives and attain its goals by resorting to every means possible just to send their message to the rest of the world. Although FORRU mainly operates in the deforested and currently being reforested regions in Thailand, the organization has been able to transcend the boundaries of both geography and national identities.
It is with these things that one can truly say that the difference that one group can make in their own place can extend beyond the perceived limitations.
References Blakesley, David, and Steve Elliott. “Thailand, Restoration of Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest Using the Framework Species Method”. 2003. UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. June 27 2008. “Collaboration for Environmental Education Prem First Report 2005-06”. 2006. The Forest Restoration Research Unit Chiang Mai University. June 27 2008. <http://www. forru.
org/PDF_Files/PREM%20REPORT%20060415. pdf>. “How to Plant a Forest : The Principles and Practice of Restoring Tropical Forest”. 2006. Forrest Restoration Research Unit. June 27 2008. <http://www. forru. org/FORRUEng_Website/Pages/engpublications. htm>. Pakkad, G. , et al. “Forest Reforestation Planting in Northern Thailand”. 2001. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. June 27 2008. <http://www. fao. org/docrep/005/AC648E/ac648e0e. htm>. “What We Do”. 2005. Eden Project. June 27 2008. <http://www. edenproject. com/what-we-do/index. php>.