From Fisherman to Nature Conservation Advocate
Phu Yai Daeng, or Village Leader Daeng, has lived his entire life in the coastal village of Bang Kaew on the Gulf of Thailand. Every household in the village survives on artisanal fishing, and from a young age, Mr. Daeng helped his father with the family’s fishing. Mr. Daeng is thus familiar with the waters in the Gulf, and also is an expert in operating a boat. In fact, he can only drive boats, and doesn’t drive a car or a motorbike.
Growing up in a natural setting, Mr. Daeng never had to be taught environmental science, or botany, or ecology. Stepping out of his home meant stepping directly into a nature classroom. Living amongst mangroves, fish and other marine animals, Mr. Daeng naturally observed and learned about ecology, sort of through osmosis of his surroundings. Also, traditional knowledge passed down from his ancestors emphasized the local ways to protect his environment.
As an adult, Mr. Daeng started operating his own fishing boat and noticed that there was less fish to catch and he had to go further out to sea to catch fish. He also saw how individuals and timber companies were coming to his neighborhood to chop down mangrove trees for wood. Not only did this denude the coastal area making it uglier with little shade, but with increasing impacts of climate change, the coastal area started eroding, and villages along the coast suffered increasing events of flooding, strong winds, and storm surges.
Mr. Daeng could see that it would be a disaster for his family, friends, and the entire village if such activities would continue. He was elected village headman, and became determined to protect his village. Over the course of 20 years, he has gradually convinced his fellow villagers to regenerate the mangrove forest. While the majority of the area of his village is once again protected by a mangrove belt, Mr. Daeng feels that his efforts are insufficient and the message of nature conservation has to be promoted to all Thai people.
A strong storm can destroy young mangrove trees, so the villagers maintain a mangrove nursery and re-plant when necessary. But more importantly, the nursery provides seedlings as part of an environmental education program. Mr. Daeng has gradually spread his message and government agencies and schools organize trips to visit the mangroves including getting down and dirty to plant new mangrove seedlings.
Mr. Daeng is currently upgrading his education program and is establishing an education center where people can have facilities for sitting and reading nature-themed reference books or simply relaxing and enjoying the natural scenery. Mr. Daeng might know just about everything regarding the natural resources of his environment, requested assistance on how to transfer his knowledge to the wider public.
Thus, 3C helped to build an open-air structure replete with posters and various other educational materials for all ages. Visitors are be able to learn from Mr. Daeng’s lectures on the importance of mangroves and nature conservation, as well as browse through reference materials to learn more about environmental science.
Photos: Top-Village Headman Daeng showing a mangrove seedling that will be planted. Bottom-Map of location.
Photo credits: K. Sudhinaraset.