Community Development Projects
Making A Difference with Community Based Tourism
Below, you can find a list of all our service projects, from 2007 until now. Also you can see how we spend our budget and contribute to poverty reduction.
Highlights from the Last Year
Just looking at the past year, Andaman Discoveries has accomplished many great things with the help of guests, volunteers, and friends like you:
- We sponsored 130 students with another year of full scholarships, ensuring these students will have access to an education and the funds to cover textbooks and materials
- Helped shine the international spotlight on innovative solutions to conservation challenges such as mangrove restoration and protecting a critically endangered water lily
- New long-term volunteering programs at the Southern Thailand Orphanage and at theBurmese Learning Center have brought desperately needed income and educational opportunities to disadvantaged children
- Sponsored livelihood training and marketing outreach that resulted in increased orders for local handicraft cooperatives
- With the help of the North Andaman Community Tourism Network (N-ACT), we responded to the needs of several new communities interested in using tourism as a tool for development.
As we reflect on our accomplishments and partnerships, we are extremely grateful — especially in these difficult times — for your continued support and interest in our pioneering work.
Projects by Category
Volunteer and Service Learning
Sustainable Communities & Ecosystems
Students and staff from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) turned Thailand into a classroom for their field study course: “Thailand: Sustainable Communities and Ecosystems.” The course is a community-based, integrated, and social and natural science field research program. Students engage in sustainability research, intercultural activities, and fieldwork. Students used their knowledge to join Thai villagers and organizations in community service.
The study tour was sponsored by the UCLA Institute of the Environment. Professor Michael Silverman was involved at each step of the development and implementation of the program. The dedication of Professor Silverman and the UCLA Institute of the Environment were crucial in the success of the program.
Students learning about Nipa palm weaving, one of Ban Talae Nok’s sustainable livelihoods.
“The thing that I liked the best about this program and AD is that it allowed me to go to places and get involved in activities that I would not have known about otherwise. If I were to come to Thailand on my own, I doubt I’d have ventured too far from the major cities, so this definitely made for a worthwhile and more authentic experience with Thai culture,” said Michelle Honda, UCLA student.
For the final project, students had the opportunity to do their work in different places. Some students spent five days at Ban Lion Village on Koh Phra Thong Island. The group’s activities included two mangrove study visits, interviews with the locals regarding the opinions and impacts of community-based tourism at Ban Lion, homestay sign preparation, making certificates for the winners of a garden competition, as well as repairing the school-kitchen garden fence.
Students also spent three days at Koh Ra Ecolodge. Awe, Study Tour Project Coordinator said, “On Koh Ra, the students did a hornbill and strangler fig count. This type of information has not been recorded before and is essential if we are to know the impact of humans and ecotourism on the island. They also learned how the sea nomads use medicinal plants and natural resources.”
UCLA students present their community-mapping project to the group.
“For our final project, we came to the island to do community mapping with the kids but ended up having the kind of unbelievable experience that can never be planned. While we collected a great deal of information and conducted many mapping exercises, I think that we learned the most through simply spending time with the warm and welcoming people that we met. Adults in the community welcomed us into their homes and we were able to talk to them about their livelihoods and their hopes for their children. We helped the children clean the temple and the monks even presented with necklaces and Buddha pendants. As our boat left the pier on Saturday afternoon, the children waved goodbye from the dock. I did not expect that I could ever become so attached to a place where I spent just three days.” Anuja, UCLA student.
“Our mission was to collect water samples from five different areas of the Naka stream. We also had to collect a water sample at each site and record the stream’s depth, width and temperature. Our Thai partners (the Naka Youth Group) helped with everything and we all managed to get by and get along very well. I’m really glad that I learned my numbers in Thai because they came in handy when we all took measurements for the width, depth and temperature. We finally came across the infamous and endangered water lilies that can only be found in this area (in the world).
And special thanks to everyone who collaborated to make the UCLA study tour possible.
Week Without Walls
The International School of Bangkok (ISB) became AD’s first high school community service group in February! The pack of 21 students hailed from around the world, forming a truly diverse mixture of guests. Lead by Tui, our fearless Director and Translator, the students experienced a variety of activities that the Northern Andaman Coast has to offer.
The trip started in Ban Talae Nok where the students got a taste of traditional Thai cooking. The local youth group lead ISB through the nearby Nipa palm conservation project, explaining their efforts to preserve the environment by working with natural tidal processes to sustainably harvest crops. The ISB students then had an afternoon of weaving nipa palm leaves to make traditional roofing materials, and working with the Ladies’ Soap Cooperative to mix up a batch of fresh soap!
The students spent the next day at Koh Ra Ecolodge, an environmentally sustainable outfit on an island off the Andaman Coast. They learned about local wildlife, conservation efforts at the lodge, and the nearby Reef Check Project.
ISB followed up Koh Ra with two days of fun and games at local school events. First, they visited Kuraburi High School, sharing their English conversational skills with the younger students. The following day they attended the Family Fun for National Children’s Day in Khoalak, an event encouraging Burmese family interaction and integration with the Thai community.
We sent ISB off with a farewell dinner in Khoalak, where they shared their favorite learning experiences throughout the trip. As the waves crashed on the beach in front of the restaurant and we enjoyed a delicious Thai dinner and sent the ISB students back to Bangkok in style. After returning home, the students wrote a class blog to recount their time with AD!
Helping Hands – University of Birmingham
The volunteers join a community planting day at the local school.
In their third year of partnership with us, nine students from the University of Birmingham International Volunteer Society (Intervol) joined us after having raised 1,900£ (about 180,000 Thai Baht) to fund a variety of projects over a five-week period.
“The nine of us spent five days in the village of Ban Talae Nok. Four families in the village offered their homes to then us to allow for a taste for the Thai way of life. We spent each morning teaching English to children aged between seven and 13 in the local school. The children were very pleased to see us, very eager to learn and participate in activities we’d prepared for them. By the end of the week they seemed to have made good progress. We also cleared a sediment-filled drain with the villagers, acted as ‘pilot’ tourists for the batik group and Nipa palm craftspeople so they could practice with farang (westerners), made roti for breakfast with our homestay families and cleared a nature trail near the beach. We found the village so welcoming and friendly that we were sorry to leave it behind. The younger generation of the village seems set to be a great success for the eco-tourism industry, and we wish them all the luck in their future endeavor.” International Volunteer Society, Birmingham University
Crooked Trails to Villages and Schools
Environmental activist Edward Abbey famously said: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” Crooked Trails, the non-profit, community-based travel organization whose name was inspired by this quote, joined Andaman Discoveries for a service tour in November seeking their own amazing view of the North Andaman region. They found it at the Burmese Learning Center and in Tung Dap village.
“I have fallen madly in love with some Burmese children. They follow you with their eyes until contact is made and then they might smile at you. Once these two things have happened, you realize your heart is no longer your own,” said participant Noelle, who helped the group paint classrooms at the school. Todd, who led the group of ten, added, “the school project was wonderful and meaningful. The group felt their presence was appreciated.”
You can read Noelle’s complete Blog entry on our website.
The group also spent two days in the village of Tung Dap, where they enjoyed a homestay and helped with mangrove conservation. Of their homestay in Tung Dap, Noelle said “I am listening to conversations in languages I do not understand. The wind talking to the trees. The clucks of chickens and roosters beneath the beams of the house I am sitting in. The scent of onion, sizzling as our hosts prepare dinner. Children’s brief calls. The silence of cats and dogs sleeping. The rumble of man and machine. The dash of geckos on the roof. I may not understand them, but knowing them, in this moment, gives me peace.”
Meeting Basic Needs
Moken Community Assistance
The Moken are an ancient sea people who have travelled among the islands of Thailand’s North Andaman coast for thousands of years. Traditionally nomadic, they would spend most of their time out at sea in their boat houses and moored in sheltered locations during the monsoon season. In recent years, the Moken have responded to growing socio-economic pressures by settling permanently in Ao Bon Bay.
They have come to rely on selling handicrafts as an important source of income, but often have trouble communicating with visitors who wish to buy their woven baskets and hand-carved model boats. To help with this, Andaman Discoveries partnered with a local health worker to provide English lessons to the children of Koh Surin – we provided books, pencils, lesson plans, and a whiteboard. Andaman Discoveries is also sponsoring a “clean household” competition to encourage Moken to address the litter generated by goods from the mainland.
Andaman Discoveries doesn’t usually support the donation of food or clothing, as we would rather address the socio-economic circumstances that create that need. However, after an urgent request for assistance by Narumon Arunotai, a respected social researcher from Chulalongkorn University, meant we had to take action. Each monsoon, the Moken community on Koh Surin National Park is in need of rice and basic cooking necessities, as their limited job opportunities leave them without savings. Each family receives a a 10-kilogram bag of rice, fish sauce, dried chilies, and other ingredients to keep them going until the following month when they would be able to commence fishing again.
Life-saving Medical Support
Mustafa is a member of the Andaman Discoveries family, having worked closely with us on community education and guide training for the tourism groups. In late 2008, Mustafa had a stroke that left half his body paralyzed. Having dedicated his life to low-paid jobs in community development, Mustafa had no way of making money while he recovered, and no savings to help him pay for food, accommodation, and medical expenses. With the generous help of former volunteers and Mustafa’s friends, Andaman Discoveries covered Mustafa’s expenses for several months while he recovered from the stroke.
His course of treatment within the Thai medical system has been covered by the government, but he had no means to pay for his physical therapy and transportation to and from the hospital. The doctor also recommended acupuncture, which is a widely recognized effective aid in stroke recovery. Mustafa has responded well to acupuncture, showing significant progress after each of his sessions. The acupuncturist also helped Mustafa to give up smoking and drinking, and to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Mustafa is now teaching “English for Tourism” to locals in nearby Khao Lak and working once again as a guide.
In April 2008, Andaman Discoveries provided funding for the throat surgery of Travorn Prikunvat, the mother of our former handicraft coordinator, Su Andankan. Su had been part of the North Andaman Tsunami Relief/Andaman Discoveries family since 2005. Mrs Travorn was diagnosed with throat cancer and required treatment immediately. She has fully recovered.
As a Moken woman from Tung Dap, Jariya (Noi) has been one of the leaders in rebuilding her village after the tsunami, and has also been involved in our waste management and mangrove conservation projects in the village. Jariya needed an urgent heart surgery in January 2008, but was not scheduled for a government operation until six months later! We consulted an expert in Phuket, who realized there was no time to lose, and referred Jariya to a Bangkok hospital for immediate surgery. After a four hour open-heart operation, in which one valve was replaced and another extensively repaired, and a two-week recovery period, Noi has recovered from the surgery. Bodhi Garrett, the founder of Andaman Discoveries said, “The time I took to help Jariya with the operation was a reminder of why Andaman Discoveries was founded. Underlying the details of our work is a commitment to improving the daily lives of those we serve. In other words, compassion is at the root of what we do.”
Andaman Discoveries doesn’t usually support the donation of food or clothing, as we would rather address the socio-economic circumstances that create that need. However, after an urgent request for assistance by Narimon Arunonpai, a respected social researcher from Chulalongkorn University, meant we had to take action. The Moken community on Koh Surin National Park was in need of rice and basic cooking necessities as bad weather had prevented them from fishing in October 2007. Many of the villagers were growing weak and becoming ill. The community had come to the mainland for their Tenth Month Ancestor celebrations and each family received a 10-kilogram bag of rice, fish sauce, dried chilies, and other ingredients to keep them going until the following month when they would be able to commence fishing again.
Computers, Health, and High School Diplomas
A health fair and first aid training was held in Ban Talae Nok in May 2009, with support from YouthLINC. The volunteers provided hands-on training on emergency medical care. Other topics included: dental care, hygiene issues, and family planning.
Many adults in the region lack a formal education, with many leaving school early to assist their parents. As a result many are illiterate and do not have a high school diploma which makes it difficult to gain formal employment. Free informal education classes have been set up at the community centre of Ban Talae Nok. Andaman Discoveries donated the books to the villagers in early 2008. Since then, 15 persons have obtained their high school diploma, and the number of graduates continues to grow as the books continue to be passed onto others.
A volunteer provided a month long computer training for 20 participants in Ban Talae Nok village in early 2008. Topics included: computer basics such as how to turn on a computer, and using software applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel. The majority of the students graduated from the program.
Education and Youth Development
Child Nutrition Project
Lunch for disadvantaged children at the Burmese Learning Center
At the moment we are trying to raise money to establish a lunch program for 90 Burmese refugee children. This costs less than $1 per child per day. Please support our project to feed them for a whole year and make a big difference in their quality of life and general health!
Andaman Discoveries administers long-term scholarships to a total of 135 students, providing financial support for primary and secondary school education for a total of seven years (2005-2011). Our criteria for acceptance into the program includes: financial need, tsunami-affected status, motivation of the applicant, academic performance, community service, and the opinion of our village contacts. Almost 300 children initially applied to the program.
The cost of sending children to school has always been a challenge for needy families, and the loss of income after the tsunami made this an even greater challenge. The earning capacity of many families was halved, and some remain without sufficient income. Despite these obstacles, families place a high value in education as a means for opportunity.
Our staff regularly monitors the sponsored students through a mandatory yearly interview with the child and parents. We receive an update on the child’s well-being, academic performance, and community service activities. Upon satisfactory completion of the interview, we then transfer funds for uniforms and school supplies. Each year, children are required to send a copy of their grades and proof of registration for the next school year. Sponsors are provided with regular updates on their child’s performance, including a hand-written letter from the child.
We have partnered with several organizations in order to ensure the long-term viability of the program, and are grateful to these sponsors for providing a full seven years of funding. Sponsors include Annika Linden Foundation, Tanglin Trust, Helen Doron Group, Rotary Club of Koh Samui, Tomas & Thisbe Ander Memorial Fund, Whatever Pte. Ltd.
Andaman Discoveries would like to expand the program to include even more deserving children. If you would like to support a child with a scholarship, please contact us for more details.
Every year from 2006 to 2010, Andaman Discoveries has joined hundreds of community members for the annual Children’s Day celebrations at Tung Dap and Ban Talae Nok villages.
In Tung Dap, we sponsored popsicles and drinks for over 50 children that gathered to dance in a specially adorned sala while guests and friends cheered them on. We also enjoyed a brief walk down to the beach, where you could see the devastation of the tsunami, even now, after six years. The coast was beautiful, as were the smiling faces that welcomed us into the community. We left feeling full and sun-baked after a revitalizing trip to one of the villages we hold dear.
On December 27th, 2009, as we have for the last five years, we celebrated an afternoon filled with innocent laughter and fun with the villagers of ban Talae Nok. Adults gathered to watch as children played games, sang songs, participated in an eco-quiz, and received gifts courtesy of Andaman Discoveries. December 26th marked the five-year anniversary of the tsunami, the catastrophic event that brought the Andaman Discoveries global family together on this mission of compassion. We’re constantly amazed by the degree to which the villagers of the North Andaman have recovered since that life-altering event. Despite 47 fatalities — eight of whom were children — and the physical loss of half their village to the wave, the people of Ban Talae Nok have worked diligently to create a better future for their children. Today, the village is an award-winning model of sustainable development with a highly engaged youth group and a successful responsible tourism program.
Andaman Discoveries has provided long term support for improved waste management in various villages since 2007. In particular, Ban Talae Nok now has a trash bin for every home as well as in public areas. After a series of campaigns and lobbying, the local government now makes weekly trips to collect the trash, and a recycler goes to the village to buy recyclable waste. With environmental education, more and more villagers get into the habit of collecting and separating recyclables.
The Ban Talae Nok Youth group has been encouraging younger members to Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse with the help of their fun and informative puppet shows. The group regularly collects the garbage in the village and on the beach. With donation from the Hannan Family, who visited in June, 2009, the group works to ensure that the village and the beach area are clean. The donation supports the purchase of snacks and drinks after the weekly cleanup.
In addition Ban Talae Nok now uses organic fertilizer, made from the compost of organic waste collected regularly from each household by the youth. This encourages villagers to continue reduce the amount of household waste by separating it into organic waste, recyclables, and other waste. Andaman Discoveries collaborated with Mangrove Action Project and International Union for Conservation of Nature, who provided the technical support and training to realize this goal.
Youth Welfare – Music, Gym, & Library
Andaman Discoveries donated gym equipments to a local Thai boxing gym in Kuraburi town in 2007 to support the gym owner’s idea of providing free classes to youths in the area. “Young people get bored easily and this can lead them into trouble,” explained Ajarn Mon. “This training centre allows them to focus on something and keep them fit at the same time.” Visitors can join morning and afternoon training sessions to learn about this much respected ancient sport.
Over 200 books were donated to the library located in the Ban Talae Nok community centre in 2007 by Andaman Discoveries. The library was opened to all villagers. It has been closed since the beginning of 2009, but will soon be reopened again.
Ban Talae Nok School received a donation of Thai traditional instruments that have been locked up in the music room for months, as no one in the village could provide proper training on them. Andaman Discoveries hired a traditional music teacher to teach the children in the school for three months in late-2007 and early-2008 to learn about the basics. The students performed in front of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, at the official opening of the Ban Talae Nok School in May 2008. The children continue to play the instruments since then.
Handicrafts – Income Generation
To provide supplementary income to those affected by the tsunami in the North Andaman area, Andaman Discoveries provided training and marketing assistance to handicraft groups in a number of villages. Handicrafts include: soap, batik, tie dye, and handmade cards from recycled paper. Andaman Discoveries supports these groups through interactive soap and batik making workshops, an online store, and a local craft sales display in our office.
The Ban Talae Nok youth group is now producing recycled paper cards, a project Andaman Discoveries has supportde since the tsunami through training and marketing. Andaman Discoveries supplies waste office paper, which the group uses to make greeting cards. In addition, “Pink,” the youth group leader, was inspired to make bags from recycled materials such as used paper, plastic, and scrap cloth. The group is currently refining their process and design, and plan to start selling these products as guest souvenirs and through the Andaman Discoveries gift shop and online store in 2010.
The Ban Talae Nok soap cooperative is making substantial progress in domestic marketing, garnering increasing interest from hotels and crafts shops in Bangkok, Khao Lak, and Phuket.
Nature Trails and Village Beautification
In 2009, the youth group of Ban Talae Nok enlivened the village environment by building a “green path” along the main road that had no trees previously. Locally grown plants such as Pak Leing, a local vegetable, rose apple and mango trees have been planted on both sides of the road. This project was supported by Andaman Discoveries financially in 2009.
Andaman Discoveries worked in partnership with the Birmingham University International Volunteering Society (UK) in August 2008 to provide a safe access to Samakeetham Temple in Tung Rak. Khun Likid, a local villager, said that “the community thought this would be a worthwhile activity for the volunteers and a great way for them to learn first hand about Buddhism.” The nine volunteers spent three days to help with sand moving, bricklaying, cement mixing, paving and planting to construct the path.
Andaman Discoveries sponsored the construction of nature trails in the villages of Ban Talae Nok and Tung Nang Dam in 2007. Tourists and other guests can explore the forest around the villages while learning about the unique aspects of the jungle. In both villages, the trail development utilized local labor and knowledge, building a sense of pride within the community. They also have a conservation value, as they provide an income from the forest that does not involve hunting wildlife or removing plants. In Tung Nang Dam, the villagers identified several species of orchids and discovered a couple of new viewpoints during site survey. In Ban Talae Nok, signs and information have been posted along the way so that tourists can learn about the plant and wildlife that thrives on the hills. Both trails have been popular for tourists of all ages.
Tung Nang Dam Public Land Protection
The village of Tung Nang Dam is blessed with a pristine eight-kilometer beach front. Sea turtles and the highly endangered dugong have been sighted just off the shore. In addition to the scenic beauty and rare species, the beach area is utilized by villagers for fishing and community based tourism. In recent years developers have settled the land adjacent to the beach, with plans to build resorts and bungalows.
In Thailand, regulations prohibit construction of any private structures within 12 meters of the high-tide line. Despite this law, it is common for developers to build right up to the shoreline, restricting local access to the land they have always relied on. In 2007, two local women and our ACE program graduates, Chim and Noi, attempted to petition to different stakeholders, including villagers, landowners, government officials, to protect the beach area by building a trail next to the boundary line between the public and private land. Andaman Discoveries’s predecessor, North Andaman Tsunami Relief, supported their conservation efforts by providing a stipend to them for their outreach work.
English Teaching in Villages
Westerners are a rare sight in this region and both guides and villagers do not have the confidence or the English ability to have long detailed conversations. Many villagers have a basic level of English but they are often shy to speak and don’t say much. In the early years of community-based tourism development, our volunteers encouraged them to practice as much as they could, whether they were hiking on the nature trail or having a meal at the homestay.
In the past, our volunteers have developed several teaching materials for teaching in the school and at the homestay. A Thai/English phrasebook for both the visitors and the villagers were also developed. The phrasebook is always provided to every guest before they head to the village.
In late 2009, a visiting teacher from the Netherlands, gathered together our phrasebook, a dictionary, some pencils and paper, and stayed in Ban Na village for a week. After the experience he reflected, “It was meant to be. I had such a wonderful experience, being totally submerged into the village way of life. I had to learn to slow down the pace and do as they do. We had so much fun learning and interacting with each other. I feel very privileged to have been allowed into their homes. They made me feel so much like part of their family.”
Ban Talae Nok Community Center
The Ban Talae Nok Community Centre was built using funds and volunteers from Andaman Discoveries (then North Andaman Tsunami Relief), shortly after the tsunami, primarily as a coordination and distribution facility for aid. It was crucial to the well-functioning of the community in the chaotic time after the tsunami.
During that time, villager-based committees were formed through various focus groups, including livelihood restoration, eco-tourism and environment, community development, and education/vocational training.
The Community Center at Ban Talae Nok was central to village life. The center provided myriad services — vocational training, informal education, an information center, aerobics space, a community-based tourism office, children’s activity space, a handicraft production facility, a souvenir shop for local products, and a meeting space. Activities in the center included English lessons, summer camp for kids, and a waste management project.
Currently, the community center is home to the soap cooperative and the youth group, who use the center as a production space and as a location to conduct meetings and activities, respectively. The village has secured funding to refurbish a building in the village to serve as a permanent community center and thus ensure the continuation of this vital resource.
Tung Nang Dam Orchid Conservation
Orchids are popular decorations for homes and restaurants, and are becoming an increasingly rare sight in the jungle as a result of over-harvesting. Noi, a former Andaman discoveries vocational student from Tung Nang Dam, has started a project aimed at restoring the orchid population. The process involves transplanting cuttings from orchid stalks and incubating them in a community nursery; once mature, the seedlings are returned to the forest. The villagers are now educating others about the importance of conservation. The Orchid Conservation project is an excellent example of community-led conservation and shows what’s possible with a small start-up fund and plenty of encouragement. This is a highly enjoyable volunteer activity, popular with people of all ages.
Saving the Endangered Nakha Water Lily
In January of 2010, several members of the Andaman Discoveries joined with community members to spend an afternoon planting endemic water lilies as part of an effort to restore them to their native habitat. Nakha boasts stunning mountainous scenery, and is home to the highly endangered Water Lily, known locally as the “Yah Chong.” This fresh-water plant has unusually long leaves and delicate white flowers that bloom from October to December. Unfortunately, the water lily faces serious threats from river dredging and collection for resale as aquarium plants.
To help save the Water Lily, locals formed a conservation group to protect its habitat, and now offer rafting excursions to raise public awareness of this beautiful plant. Profits are used by the club to pay for school trips. The club also sponsors a nursery that is used by the youth group for replanting the water lilies.
In 2008, Andaman Discoveries worked with students from the Institute of the Environment of UCLA and the Naka Youth Conservation Group to collect water samples from five different areas of the Naka stream and record the stream’s depth, width and temperature. “Both us and the youth group seemed very excited to meet each other and as we started to step out into our individual ecosystem groups, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the youth were females. After learning a lot about gender issues in Thailand, it’s very natural to see females doing more humanitarian work than males. I think it’s even more interesting see this kind of gender dynamic at such a young age.” said Jun, a student from UCLA.
Youth in Action for Next Generations
Youth in Action for the Next Generations is a global project based on the active involvement of around 50 youngsters from different backgrounds to provide education for sustainable development. This one-year project involves youth from Italy, Indonesia, Austria, Senegal, Thailand, India, France, and Hungary to allow young people to initiate the strong innovating local projects with an international dimension.
Organized by Pistes Solidaires, a French non-profit organization that promotes justice and equality in an intercultural society and an interdependent world, the project now has a web site database with all participating projects http://yia-nextgenerations.org/.
In Thailand, Andaman Discoveries collaborated with Mangrove Action Project, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, to create a network of ten youth groups in the North Andaman region. Participants shared experiences and ideas on conservation, waste management, organic gardening, income-generating projects (such as making batik, cloth bags, and recycled-paper cards). A local seminar was held in October 2009 where youth presented their ideas and experiences. Andaman Discoveries hosted the final meeting in November 2009, which summarized the various outcomes and was attended by NGOs from the eight participating countries.
Youth Action Conservation Training
Youth ACT project focused on a “Local Action, Global Change” philosophy and promoted youth understanding of the interconnections between society and the environment, and how each person can make a difference through collective action. The six-month projects took place in 2007, which was funded and administered by Andaman Discoveries.
This idea came up as many tsunami affected youth recognized the importance that a healthy environment played in mitigating the effects of the killer wave, as well as the importance of the environment to the local way of life. But there has been no environmental education in local schools, and even less opportunity for youth to be actively engaged in protecting the environment.
Andaman Discoveries sponsored 40 high school students from Kuraburi and Suksamran Districts, aged 16 and 17, to participate in the Youth ACT project. Half of them had never been in a forest or mangrove before the program, despite the proximity to their home. They were selected by application to join the Youth Environmental Education Program. Project participants learned more about the environment, human interactions with the environment, and local conservation efforts. Using this knowledge, students designed and implemented conservation projects of their own. Outcomes include participants being able to:
The youths participated in interactive activities roughly every two weeks. Learning took place in the field and in the classroom, and guest teachers included park rangers, conservationists, and educators. Throughout the course, we ensured that leadership and conservation skills were developed to the fullest.
Andaman Discoveries, in cooperation with Reef Check International, hosted a Reef Education Program in four communities along the Andaman Coast in November 2007. Over 60 people of all ages participated in the workshops. The practical workshops were designed for those communities participating in tourism and those wanting to minimize the effects of their activities in the delicate marine ecosystem. Workshops addressed everything from environmentally-friendly reef practices for anchoring and snorkeling to issues of boat safety. “I’m a fisherman,” explained 39-year-old Somsak Madsaron, “I’ve spent my life above the sea not under the water, but if our reefs and fish are to have a future, it’s up to me to take care of the reef.” Panya Surbhead, a community-based tourism boat guide explained,” I have lived all my life with the sea, but tourists are different. It is my responsibility to make sure they are safe while they are in my care.” A set of boat stairs were donated to each community to make it easier tourists to get in and out of the boat.
Mangrove Restoration and Protection
Community Action – Tung Dap
Many of our partner villages depend on nearby mangrove forests for food, shelter, and as a nursery for many of the fish they later catch on the open sea. As more and more outsiders start to fish in local waters, the mangroves are being depleted. The residents of Tung Dap have created a “no fishing” zone to protect the most sensitive part of the dense mangroves that surrounds their village.
Responding to increased incidents of poaching in the conservation area, community members want to start weekly patrols and make larger signs so outsiders can clearly recognize the “no fishing” area. Village leaders are ready act, but lack the cash for necessary supplies — so they asked for our help. We are proudly using guest donations to pay for gas for the patrol boat (a total of 20 trips over five months in 2010), and sign-making supplies.
Background – There were about 74 homes in the village of Tung Dap on the island of Koh Phratong, the majority of which were completely destroyed by the tsunami. The destruction of the tsunami not only immediately affected the lives of people in Tung Dap by taking or injuring loved ones, but also deposited massive amounts of rubble in the mangrove forests. Villagers wanted to revive the mangrove forest for crab and fish populations to regenerate, so the villagers could regain their livelihood. The mangrove conservation effort in Tung Dap was led by community members. Village elders advised on which areas to set aside for conservation, and which species to plant in different locations, and village youth gathered the seedlings. Andaman Discoveries provided funding, technical assistance and advice on implementation in 2007. Since then, villagers continued to monitor the conservation area on a regular basis.
Nipa Palm Restoration
Andaman Discoveries, in collaboration with Mangrove Action Project are assisting the youth group of Ban Talae Nok to restore mangrove forests on illegally encroached land. Planting nipa palm, which is commonly found in mangrove forests and is a durable natural roofing material, is a first step towards restoring the land through a natural process. The youth group uses transects to record biodiversity and physical information on the two plots to assess changes over time. The plotting activity is a learning process for the youth in appropriate methods of mangrove restoration.
“We want this demonstration plot, to become another source of knowledge for the local people and also non local people,” said 12-year-old Jiraprapa Hahnjit. “It’s good to learn about the importance of the mangroves while having fun with friends,” explained another 12-year-old Sudarat Padungchat. Other youth conservation members expressed the importance of community service and understanding the mangroves for the benefit of the village.
Had Phraphat Mangrove Rehabilitation
Andaman Discoveries supported mangrove rehabilitation in the North Andaman area. In 2008, we worked in partnership with the the Institute of the Environment of UCLA, the Birmingham University International Volunteering Society and the Rufford Small Grants Foundation. The students participated in the mangrove rehabilitation project in Had Phra Phad. Instead of using only one specie for habitat restoration, many different types of mangrove species are collected from the beach. This creates a mangrove eco-system that is more like nature and is more likely to survive. The students collected the seedlings on the beach, worked in the nursery and made a path and signs at the nursery.
The Rufford Small Grants Foundation funded the mangrove rehabilitation project in Had Phra Phad for one year in 2008-9. The goal was to improve knowledge of coastal communities through increasing awareness among the local villagers, which leads to the responsibility of a healthy mangrove ecosystem.
Why Mangroves Matter
Local wisdom appreciates the value of the mangrove forests; they are a diverse eco-system and play an important part in the marine and terrestrial environment. Many areas in the North Andaman were protected from the tsunami by the mangroves, and villagers are now taking a proactive part in their conservation and restoration. In addition to replanting mangrove habitat where it was destroyed by the tsunami, the villagers are simultaneously implementing standards to monitor and assess their progress, such as tracking diversity and mapping survival rates.
Andaman Discoveries is supporting several community-led projects in a variety of villages and helping to coordinate regional conservation projects at village level. Volunteers are always welcome to join the collecting, planting, and monitoring activities as a hands-on activity. You can encourage your local guide to share more knowledge about the mangroves — ask how the villagers used the mangroves in the past for food, medicinal remedies, thatching, cigarette papers, and for raising fish. Asking questions and being interested in the environment is a great way to demonstrate to the villagers that the mangroves are worth protecting, and that they may be able to earn additional income from carefully managed mangrove eco-tourism. It also creates a sense of pride about the region.
Mangroves trees are land-based plants that have evolved several features that allow them to inhabit oxygen deficient mud. These include roots that grow upwards, seeds that germinate before they fall from the parent tree, and some species that pump excess salt onto their leaf surface to avoid a harmful buildup. They act as a nursery for shrimp larvae, oysters, crabs, and a variety of fish — many of the fish you see while snorkeling grew up in the mangrove root system. The marine productivity of the Andaman Coast is dependent on the mangroves, and the fishing industry owes its existence to it.
In the past, the mangroves were removed to provide wood to build houses and make charcoal. Nowadays, the mangroves are under threat from large-scale shrimp farms (usually for exported Black tiger prawns). Shrimp farms have a life expectancy of three to five years before the soil is so full of bacteria and chemicals that it can’t be used any longer, forcing farmers to then clear another section of mangrove forest. Shrimp farms also pump all their nutrient-rich waste into the surrounding mangrove ecosystem, greatly impacting the natural balance of nutrients and chemicals in the soil. This greatly reduces oxygen levels in the soil and leads to the suffocation of many species. Other threats include palm oil and rubber plantations, ports, roads, and continued urban and tourist encroachment.
Ban Talae Nok Youth Group
The youth of Ban Talae Nok are very much aware of the importance of their surrounding mangroves and natural resources. In cooperation with Andaman Discoveries and Mangrove Action Project, the village holds frequent camps and environmental education activities to encourage the children to think globally and act locally. The Youth Group pass on their informative messages with entertaining puppet shows. They have also travelled to other villages to tell other children why the world is worth saving and how everyone has a part to play.
Pink is the all-star coordinator of the youth group, and over the last year has led the group in restoring a former shrimp pond, waste management and recycled art, and hosted an international seminar with youth from six other countries.
Environmental Camps in 2008 and 2009 took place at nearby national parks, and included bird watching, species identification, visiting a sea turtle hatchery, and creating a transect map of natural resources around their community. Techniques involved the measuring and observation of their surrounding environment, data plotting and presentation of outcomes. At a third camp, twenty students from Kuraburi and Ban Triam Schools participated in mangrove conservation efforts and exchanged ideas for future cooperation. The youth from Ban Talae Nok also took study trips to visit youth groups in Krabi and Koh Yao Noi.
Organic Garden Andaman Discoveries encourages organic gardening to promote local self-sufficiency and good health by reducing the purchase of groceries. Mangrove Action Project and International Union for Conservation of Nature supported and trained Ban Talae Nok youth in organic gardening techniques. The result is six garden plots where vegetables such as lemon grass, long beans, chilies, galanga, eggplants, and morning glory are locally grown. Approximately 20 houses have been given seedlings to grow fresh vegetables, with the goal of even more villagers growing their own food. Andaman Discoveries will provide continuous support by developing organic gardening into a regular village tour activity.
The Bamboo Saving Project is the brainchild of “Pink,” the Ban Talae Nok youth group leader and a mother who wanted to teach village children the importance of saving. All the village children made a bamboo moneybox, which they put all their leftover school money into each day. Every three months, the children break the bamboo and see who has collected the most money, which is then moved into their bank account. “It’s better to save than waste money on sweets,” said 11-year-old Alongkorn Punchung, who plans to buy his mom a gift with his money.
Sustainable Tourism Development
N-ACT Community Network
The North Andaman Community Tourism (N-ACT) network is a group of people working to strengthen their communities and environment. N-ACT serves as an evolving platform to increase the contribution of tourism to sustainable livelihoods and sound ecosystem management. With support from IUCN, and facilitation from Andaman Discoveries, N-ACT is providing communities with access to the best available knowledge and practices.
The network’s success is based on careful selection of ethical businesses and capable community partners with genuine potential for tourism development.
“It’s important for those in our tourism network to meet regularly to exchange ideas, support one another, and share information,” says Nattaya “Nat” Sektheera, N-ACT’s multi-talented coordinator.
In partnership with Andaman Discoveries, Pistes Solidaires has championed education for sustainable development and responsible exchanges through the Solidarity Tourism program. Andaman Discoveries is currently hosting one volunteer for eight months and will reapply next year to host a new talent. You can follow Laura’s adventures on this EVS Global Change Blog.
The program is a unique opportunity to give to young volunteers the chance to live in indigenous communities, discovering new cultures while being an active citizen in developing local projects that promote sustainable tourism.
Study Trips and Learning Tours
Andaman Discoveries has sponsored learning tours to “best-practice” examples of sustainable development to understand how communities outside of the project area develop, organize, and manage sustainable agriculture, cultural empowerment, and alternative livelihoods. Through-out these activities, participants learn the fundamentals of community-based development, including: stable livelihoods, stewardship of natural resources; and the “community participatory approach” to making sure that efforts succeed in the long run. An informal atmosphere generates a learning environment based on interest instead of academic pursuit, with community members leading most of the discussion.
Examples of recent study tours include:
Community groups lack resources to access each others’ knowledge and learn from already successful examples. To address this, we have helped over 300 participants from ten community groups to visit each others’ villages and share their history, management, strengths, and weaknesses. Accompanying skills workshops demonstrate sustainable tourism activities such as mangrove and forest tours, volunteer activities, and homestay inspections.
In addition to these exchange tours, we have recently sponsored the following trainings:
Case Study: Ban Lions Village
Ban Lion was built in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, near the former site of Pak Chok village. Pak Chok was completely destroyed by the killer wave, and 75 people lost their lives. Recently, a number of interested villagers have formed a group to explore the potential of community-based tourism to assist with conservation and to provide an additional source of income.
From 2008 to 2010, we have been working closely with partner organizations Mangrove Action Project, Naucrates Conservation Group to move community tourism in Ban Lions from an idea into a reality. By hosting reciprocal exchange tours with Ban Talae Nok, Ban Lions was able to quickly understand necessary management strategies, and quality standards for homestays and tourist activities. To build capacity, we provided guide and group management trainings, and study tours to “best practice examples,” as mentioned above.
Activity development was encouraged by N-ACT’s “pilot guests” who tested activities and provided helpful feedback. Pilot guests were accompanied by photographers to provide promotional material and also build pride in the local guides. During the piloting process we worked with tourism group members to set prices for activities and guides, and identify which types of visitors would be most appropriate. Finally N-ACT worked closely with local businesses Blue Guru Diving and Golden Buddha Beach Resort to find customers for Ban Lions.
Recognizing that communities must be able to market themselves, and rely on a wide range of supporters beyond Andaman Discoveries, we have been working very hard to build marketing independent capacity within community tourism groups.
For example, in 2009, Andaman Discoveries and our sister group N-ACT:
With funding from IUCN Netherlands, Andaman Discoveries supported various marketing activities with Ban Talae Nok villagers in 2008. In particular, we assisted them to design and print their tourism brochure in Thai and English. Darunee Pakdee, a local villager, came to the Andaman Discoveries office for weekly marketing training. Motivation to do domestic marketing is the result of the CBT group gaining confidence in their CBT activities and speaking to other homestay groups offering similar services. Previously, villagers were reluctant to do any domestic marketing, because they didn’t think it existed or that they had the skills to do marketing. The CBT group approached the Ranong Tourism Association on their own, and applied for the Thailand Tourism Industry Award 2008, for which they won the silver award.