Author: Kate Carrington
Recently, I had the exciting opportunity to visit the village of Sub Wai in order to explore the topic of land management. I found this unit particularly interesting due to the fact that I’ve taken a few classes on rural land management, but I’ve never had the opportunity to actually see related practices and arrangements in practice! After doing some preliminary research in class with other Development and Globalization (DG) students, I was eager to learn more about subtopics such as the management surrounding the expansion of national parks, the experience of villagers within these boundaries, and NGOs working for land reform. Before leaving for the village, we were able to hear from key speakers that explained the history of land management in Thailand, plans for the future, and complexities of policy surrounding this issue. Their stories reminded me of the importance of the inclusion of villager and/or activist perspectives in adapting the policies that I’ve only been exposed to on a removed, academic level. I genuinely looked forward to engaging with all of these topics, first-hand, through living within the Sub Wai village.
SUB WAI VILLAGE
Accepted with a warm welcome in Sub Wai, we were able to spend time outdoors sharing meals with host families and engaging in fun games with locals. Beyond the pleasant time at our homestay, we had the chance to explore the realities of land management through exchanges with involved groups and organizations. The first of these exchanges involved the village hosts that explained their experiences and ongoing efforts – offering an amazing amount of insight into the larger policies and government plans that impact their daily lives. In addition, we were able to ask questions and take part in lively discussions with Sai Thong National Park officers and the Chaiyaphum Provincial Office of Natural Resources and Environment. This experience was particularly memorable because the warm reception we received and the small details such as the range of coffee, desserts, and shoeless staff in the government office. Though small, these details were an important reminder of the importance of understanding the individuals who make up government departments. In having the opportunity to share stories and learn from the officials at the Provincial Office of Natural Resources, I was able to better personify the office and the work they do, enabling me to better understand their perspective and their inherent dedication to the environment.
After sharing sticky rice and a heartfelt goodbye with the villagers of Sub Wai, we travelled to the village of Baw Kaew. In Baw Kaew, we sat down with villagers in order to better understand current efforts and the ongoing fight for their future. Finally, the incredible week was concluded by having the chance to speak with leadership of Isaan’s Land Reform Network, offering me a broad perspective in which to better understand the issues I’ve learned about over throughout the last week. At the conclusion of the week, we travelled back to Khon Kaen and I felt fulfilled from the diverse range of positive exchanges I experienced over the last week. Our time studying land management encouraged me to find more creative and effective avenues in which I can transition from simply learning about topics through observation and towards taking action to contribute to the issues I care about.