The fight for land
This village, Huay Lu Luang, has been established on this beautiful land for generations. But the villagers never registered any ownership and are therefore at risk of being evicted at any time by the authorities.
Ah Pee is responsible for the Upland Holistic Development Program's (UHDP) community land and natural resource management program. He travels around providing training, advice and technical support in order to strengthen the capacity of over 10 ethnic communities in northern Thailand.
“Ethnic people have lived in these highlands and forests for generations. That’s our way of life” says Ah Pee, himself belonging to the Akha people.
The rights of communities need to be recognised
UHDP, is part of a network that campaigns for communities’ rights to land and resource management. Their initial achievement is a regulation issued by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009. But the regulation does not fully respond to the people's needs and is not yet a law. Therefore, the network is pushing for a Community Title Deed Act which fully recognises the collective rights of local communities.
Have been through a mapping process
In close cooperation with the UHDP, Huay Lu Luang village has set up a community land title deed working group. With the participation of all the villagers, the group has been through a mapping process. They have demarcated the area into protected forests which are not to be touched and community forests where people can extract resources, after obtaining permission from a community forest committee elected by the villagers. The group has also made a map of the farmlands. If there are any conflicts, the committee mediates and solves the disputes between the affected parties.
Many of the conflicts are due to unclear boundaries
The new documents will be used as tools in negotiation with the authorities about the villagers’ legal rights to stay and manage the land. Many of the conflicts between the communities and the authorities in the mountain area are due to unclear boundaries between community land and forestry land. The mapping will help to show that the community takes good care of the forest, managing and protecting natural resources within clearly marked community areas.
“Without our fields on the slopes, we can’t feed our families”, says Ah Pee.