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Thailand Update 7

Thailand Update # 7 by Blane Baker
January 17-18, 2017

In the morning, we worked on some final tasks at UHDP, including repairing some small leaks in our aquaponics system. During the course of developing this project, Jewell students from our group were able to use their expertise and knowledge of plants and their ingenuity to help make this project very successful. Overall, our aquaponics system prototype functioned very well during our stay at the project. Moving forward, Tui and his staff plan to make minor modifications to the current system in order to adapt it more to conditions present in villages. We will continue to interact with them via e-mail and Skype as improvements are made.

Following lunch at UHDP, we traveled by van to the Palaung village of Pang Dang Nai. We arrived before dinner and unloaded our bags at the village guesthouse. As we prepared for dinner, several of the women from the village set up to sell various jewelry, scarves, and clothing. Members of our group enjoyed bartering for goods and interacting with local community members. Our dinner consisted of traditional Palaung food including cooked pumpkin, a soup with rattan, pork, and forest greens, along with rice. After dinner, we spent time around the campfire near our guesthouse where we interacted with Tui, a ministry student working for Tui, and our driver named Pot. Pot wanted to learn more English, so several of us acted as teachers. Somehow we began to talk about holes in roads, so one of the new English words that he learned during our evening conversations was “pothole.”










The following morning, we went on a grand tour of the agroforest around Pang Dang Nai. We were led by one of the village elders, named Nam Sang who came to northern Thailand from Burma about 33 years ago. Sang and his family traveled with a group of 10 other families who had experienced trouble in Burma as various warring factions began burning villages and recruiting villagers to act as porters for military supplies and equipment. Those who did not agree to demands of these military or paramilitary groups often were killed on the spot. After much hardship, Sang and those in his group decided to cross the border into Thailand, but they did not reveal their intentions to anyone outside their families. They even received aid from the Burmese army in crossing a river; however, the army did not realize that villagers were planning to eventually cross the border illegally. Once in Thailand, Sang and his fellow refugees often experienced difficulties, but at least they had peace. Over time they purchased land, and began working with UHDP. Land purchases in these border regions are interesting in that local village groups understand what sections of land are owned by which groups, but there is no official paperwork (or land title). As a result, the Thai government can confiscate these properties at any moment. Fortunately, for Sang and his fellow villagers this has not occurred recently.

The agroforests around Pang Dang Nai are among the most advanced and well-developed ones in the northern hilltribe network. Crop rotation is useful as corn, beans, rice, and sesame are grown among trees and/or other large plants on hillsides. Hillsides here are protected against erosion by terracing, growing pineapples and other plants in rows along the terraces, and strategic mulching. Farmers also incorporate grafting techniques to grow very sweet mangoes that also have very deep root systems to take advantage of moisture far below the surface and to prevent erosion. In addition to food, many forest plants serve as medicines for hilltribe peoples such as the Palaung. During our walk, we saw various plants that can be used to treat ailments ranging from indigestion to toothaches. Sang and his fellow villagers truly have made great strides in developing and nurturing agroforestry here. We admire their diligent work, and we will continue to pray for them.

In late morning we departed the village to travel to Chiang Mai to enjoy some time of refreshment before our long journey back home. Please pray for us as we begin our travels on Friday at 2:30 PM (our time). We should arrive back in Kansas City around 1:00 PM on Saturday.