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ON THIS BRIGHT EARLY morning of the second day, we headed for Baan Mae Maa, Moo 11. Throughout the drive up the mountains we sat in awe of the splashes of purple, lavender, white flowers and vines coloring the view at every turn. About thirty minutes later, we spotted the sign to Nam Toke Hong Harn. This heavily forested area was proof the villagers had followed expert advice to plant trees that did not need much water to survive.
A further twenty kilometers from the main road was Baan Mae Maa. The housewives were ready and waiting for us at several counters that had been set up offering a wide range of herb teas, medicinal plants, mushrooms, brooms and baskets were available for purchase. Each woman spoke confidently advising as to how the medicinals could relieve aches and pains thus helping us city people find relief safely and economically.

Youngsters were showing off their skill to produce popular dessert item, "loog chid" by using an ingenious devise to extract the soft white pieces from the palm shells. "Loog saht" an ingredient used in herbal shampoos was demonstrated. Other herbals on display for us to use at home were those additives for a stash of white lightening (moonshine--all the better for you, my dear.)

The group settled down in an open sided house perched on a cliff over the river and the village chief eagerly commenced with a seminar on the environmental issues of the village. Their living motto is "to love and live off the forest but do not destroy it." There were no fires set around the village perimeters. Those who reported seeing a fire are rewarded Baht 100 to put it out. The found out initiators of the fires would be punished for damages at Baht 2,000 per rai. Also, the firebug's name is written up in the community meeting minutes for all his peer group to read.

Why are fires started at all? To find relished delicacies such as red ant nest or those crunchy ‘het top' mushrooms, or to catch small animals. Remember for many generations, it was acceptable for forest dwellers to live off the land using those methods. It is only this generation due to greed of many encroaching segments of society that frowns on perpetuating their age old lifestyle. Presently, the villagers' main source of income is picking and collecting miang leaves (similar to tea.) This crop requires part of the forest to be utilized for this agriculture.

The village chief strives to create awareness among radio listeners to educate them about the intriguing life-styles of forest dwellers. His village won selected as a green village along with a cash award amounting to Baht 30,000. Most of the money was spent on the bus rental to transport the villagers to participate in the award ceremony in Bangkok. Throughout the years villagers have received Baht 100,000 to carry out of the work of preservation and conservation of surrounding forest plots.

Near the village Musuer Daeng (Red) who are Thai nationals and Kariang (Karen) make their homes. The tribals agree to follow the village environmental rules or else they must leave the area and settle somewhere else. There is also a Museur Pa Loh village in the area. Up until seven years ago, the tribals planted large areas of cabbages that required pesticide and fertilizer. But these days each knows they must be responsible for maintaining a clean environment. Now they plant tea bushes, plums, lynchee and coffee and loog chid. These agriculture produce do not require chemicals. On the average each diligent villagers earns about Baht 3,000 per month. Most of the forest around the village is classified as protected area.

Even though the village is remote and located very high on top of the mountain they have the convenience of 24-hour electricity supply and phone lines for those families who can afford the luxury.

We boarded two boats to return to Chiangmai via the Mae Ping river. The scenic ride was a lovely break though it was quite a difference from the cool nippy temperature at Rim Doi the night before. Dr. Wasan and Dr. Pakpeng informed us of the history of many places built on the river's edge. We stopped at Wat Ka Chao temple to inspect the recently completed facilities. The residents continue to make their living by planting vegetables. After talking with several persons, it's evident their concern for conserving the environment is deeply heart felt.

Thanks to the organizers of this informative two day seminar : Public Relations Department, Region 3, Dr. Wasan of CMU, Dr. Pakpeng Bruns, the Rim Doi Resort and Khun Preecha of the Mae Ping River cruise.

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