Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thailand Community Spotlight: Huai Mak Liem

Plant With Purpose works with rural hill tribes in Northern Thailand to help holistically address the social, economic and environmental issues plaguing these upland farmers and their land. Since 2003, we have built relationships with 55 families living in the Huai Mak Liem community in the Palaung village in Thailand. The biggest projects these people are working on, in conjunction with our local partner the Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP), are backyard agriculture, fish farms, building latrines and cisterns, animal husbandry and a community pig project, and family gardens. One community member, Mr. Sang Lawan, is a 62 year-old former community leader who specializes in making Palaung jewelry. He is only 1 of 3 in the entire northern Thai region who can make this unique type of craft. Mr. Sang purchases 1.5 kilos of silver at an acquisition cost of 15,000 baht, but is able to convert that into 35,000 to 40,000 in a few months. He acquires much of his silver from Indian coins, (rupees) that circulated around in the early 1900’s and he melts them to make the jewelry. Once he is finished, he is able to sell a silver bracelet for 1,000 baht with a cost of 400 baht. Mr. Sang says that he sees Palaung jewelry as an important part of the Thai culture and he wants to preserve this tradition. Unfortunately, he has an eye problem and has not been able to make any jewelry lately. He is being treated by a doctor and hopes to return to his craftsmanship soon. According to Mr. Sang, the biggest felt need in the community is the lack of land. Most land is owned by one family. The owner does not charge rent, the tenant’s residence is only a verbal agreement, but he is willing to sell to the tenants at 5,000 baht for each house. Therefore Mr. Sang is worried if something were to happen to the landowner. Since the agreement is verbal, he is concerned about the stability of the community’s living situation. A total of 11 families have moved here with the owner’s permission. That’s all for now…stay tuned for more updates from the field! Click here to read more about Plant With Purpose's work with local farmers in Thailand. Click here to sponsor a village in Thailand.

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