Contents - Previous - Next
This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at http://unu.edu
Programme on the use and management of natural
Highland-lowland interactive systems in the humid tropics and subtropics: The need for a conceptual basis for an applied research programme
Northern Thailand: The problem
Programme on the use and management of natural resources
In a world with a human population that will double in the next 35 years at the present rate of growth and that aspires to an ever higher standard of living, the demand for natural resources can only increase exponentially. The provident use and management of natural resources is necessary not only to provide the basics of food. clothing. and shelter, but also to minimize tensions created as a result of a real or perceived scarcity. It was these considerations that caused the Council of the United Nations University (UNU) to establish the use and management of natural resources as one of the three priority programmes of the University. the other two being world hunger and human and social development.
In actual operation for only four years, the University is attempting to solve pressing global problems through scholarship-that is. research, training. and the dissemination of information. From a small headquarters in Tokyo the University is establishing a far-flung network of associated institutions in each of its priority areas, and the actual work of the University takes place primarily at these centres
The Programme on the Use and Management of Natural Resources (NRP), which only began operations in February 1977, is now concentrating on three main problems: (1) the increasing environmental deterioration and mismanagement of natural resources in the humid tropics with special reference to rural areas; (2) ineffective application of knowledge to the management and development of arid lands; and (3) limited energy supplies. especially in rural areas of developing countries. A series of meetings in early 1977 served to identify more specific topics where it was felt the Programme could have a significant impact. and also to outline proposals for action. Since then nine associated institutions and seven research and training units have been established and begun operations, by 1980, 11 associated institutions and 15 research and training units will be part of the NRP networks.
The sub-programme on the Ecological Basis for Rural Development in the Humid Tropics is created in response to the first of the three problems It has been organized using the concept of resource systems. In the initial stage four types of resource systems are being studied and developed as the means for more effective and ecologically sound utilization of natural resources in the humid tropics. These are (1) rural energy systems, (2) agro-forestry systems, (3) water-land interactive systems, and (4) highland-lowland interactive systems. In addition, efforts are being made to further develop and test the methodology of the resource systems approach.
The first category, rural energy systems, is analysing the production, distribution. and utilization of various fuels, especially wood, as it is still the primary energy source in most rural areas of tropical countries. This project is developing strategies for the prevention of the degradation of the vegetation cover. for more effective management of energy resources in order to improve the available energy supply. and for the introduction of technological innovations.
A second set of research and training activities is concerned with agro-forestry systems. These systems combine both tree and field crops, and often livestock as well. as a means of sustaining high productivity without the environmental deterioration that so often accompanies efforts to increase productivity With the emphasis on small-scale farming, this project will synthesize new and existing knowledge, and then disseminate the management techniques developed.
Water-land interactions is the basis for the third set of resource systems. This project will emphasize freshwater swamps and coastal areas. as these two areas are tremendously productive, but little understood. and often under-utilized.
The final set of resource systems is concerned with highland-lowland interactions. Here the UN University will not be as much concerned with the usual erosion, flooding. and sedimentation problems, but more with developing an integrated understanding of all the resource flows: capital, labour. and raw materials as well as. and as part of. the "natural'' systems, between the highlands and the lowlands. This understanding is critical to the formulation of effective natural resource planning and management at any level. In addition, a project on natural hazards mapping is being initiated in Nepal to provide a basis for land use planning.
The second sub-programme is Assessment of the Application of Knowledge to Arid Lands Problems. As its name implies, this sub-programme is not concerned with the development of new information through research but with the more effective utilization of existing knowledge. Initially a series of studies are being conducted to analyse the transfer of knowledge from scientists to planners, decisionmakers. and the individual resource-users. Differences in perception of resources and their use are also being investigated. Once the barriers to the transfer of knowledge have been identified. a number of means to overcome them will be implemented, including the delineation of management options. the development of an arid lands management curriculum, publishing of management guidelines, etc.
The final sub-programme, Energy for Rural Communities, is concerned primarily with establishing a series of pilot projects to test and demonstrate the use of non-conventional energy sources in rural areas of developing countries. With the emphasis on solar energy and biogas. the relationships between architecture and energy use will be studied as well as the development of specific devices such as hot water heaters. Since the basic technology has already been established, social and cultural considerations will play a major role in the projects. In this way. the energy available for development will be increased while minimizing the environmental deterioration that results from a heavy dependence on wood and avoiding the high cost of fossil fuels. In keeping with the network concept, these projects are being linked together by an exchange of UNU Fellows, researchers, and engineers. Furthermore. in order to break the usual isolation of researchers in developing countries. a much broader informational network is being established through the monthly publication of ASSET Abstracts of Selected Solar Energy Technology. A final area of interest to the NRP is geothermal energy. As the general goal is to develop the capability of countries to utilize resources. the emphasis is on training and curriculum development.
In summary, the Natural Resources Programme of the United Nations University is designed to solve particular pressing resource problems of regional and world-wide importance. The Programme is oriented around two cross-cutting themes-ecology and energy, with emphasis on two major ecological zones-the humid tropics and the arid lands. The solutions proposed, or, more appropriately. the instruments of attack, are those of scholarship- research, training, and the dissemination of knowledge. A specific mix of these activities is being carefully developed for each project at each location. While the emphasis is on developing countries, each activity will stimulate the growth of scientific communities and promote the critically needed exchange between scientists. Although the experience of most of the participants and the nature of the work itself might be academic, beyond the academic publications and methodologies developed, practical results will emerge in the form of policy recommendations and more information for decisionmaking. Equally important is the training of personnel, a result that is difficult to measure in tangible terms but critical to the solution of future problems. It is this general function, increasing capabilities to solve problems through scholarship, that is probably the most valuable and distinctive function of the UNU Programme on the Use and Management of Natural Resources.
The workshop at Chiang Mai University concentrated on two aspects of the total Natural Resources Programme-those relating to agroforestry and highland-lowland interactions. By promoting research and training activities at Chiang Mai University, the workshop amply demonstrated the enormous potential of the UN University to make major contributions to renewable resource management in Northern Thailand and. through the UNU network, elsewhere in the humid tropics
Highland-lowland interactive systems in the humid tropics and subtropics: The need for a conceptual basis for an applied research programme
Jack D. Ives
A study of highland-lowland interactive systems as a basis for improved resource management is one of several major systems studies that together constitute the United Nations University's Programme on the Use and Management of Natural Resources (NRP) An intellectual basis for such a topic can be traced back to the work of Carl Troll and to the more recent increase in awareness of the urgency to understand destructive environmental processes that result from continuation of traditional land-use practices in a situation of virtual uncontrolled human population growth. Thus, it was perhaps inevitable that Vice Rector Walther Manshard and Professor Gerardo Budowski would propose the inclusion of this project within the UNU programme It was perhaps also inevitable that they should recommend the harnessing of the existing resources of the International Geographical Union Commission on Mountain Geo-ecology and of the conceptual advances achieved under the Unesco Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, Project 6: Study of the impact of human activities on mountain and tundra ecosystems.
By a process of small group discussions, pragmatic considerations, and field inspections. the Project on Highland Lowland Interactive Systems. in terms of actual field-work, now has three main components. Two of these are centred on the highlands of northwestern Thailand and Papua New Guinea respectively, and another is concerned with natural hazards mapping in the central or eastern Himalayas While the present workshop is concerned overwhelmingly with the refinement and development of research plans for the first component. I think it essential that we all devote some thought to the construction of a conceptual framework for the Project as a whole The need for this, I think, is two-fold. First, a conceptual framework would serve as a means of building a series of hypotheses to define more precisely the problems we wish to tackle and to identify the practical. manpower. and intellectual linkages between the three components of the project. both for its own sake and especially as a means of developing a uniqueness for the United Nations University such that we do not fall into the trap of merely undertaking a few small service projects indistinguishable from those of other United Nations and bilateral and unilateral agencies Thus, if we are to justify retention of our title-Highland-Lowland Interactive Systems-we must define what it means within the context of a series of precisely stated primary and secondary objectives that will not only contribute to geo-ecological science but will also achieve practical goals. These will presumably involve the improvement of the quality of life for at least a small sector of humankind, not at the expense of natural environment deterioration. but nopefully as a complement to increased environmental stability. If we achieve this, we will have fulfilled our commitment to the United Nations University, but a larger goal would be to develop our conceptual and practical approaches to the degree that they can be used as a general model, applicable to wide areas of the humid tropical and subtropical highland-lowland systems.
My paper. therefore, will consist of two parts. The first part will be a preliminary discussion of general concepts and definitions that seem to befit the project title The second part will be an attempt to apply these generalizations to the opportunities at hand in northwestern Thailand with Chiang Mai University as the academic and administrative springboard in its role as an Associated Institution of the United Nations University. But I must stress that this attempt is very preliminary indeed. I hope that the final outcome, based upon our combined efforts over these next few days, will very greatly modify and refine this rather modest beginning.
A Conceptual Framework
Concern over human impacts upon mountain environments has grown rapidly over the last five years, particularly as a result of the Unesco Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, Project 6: Study of the impact of human activities on mountain and tundra environments. and the somewhat parallel work of the International Geographical Union Commission on Mountain Geo-ecology. The United Nations University's Project on Highland-Lowland Interactive Systems is serving both to broaden these considerations to embrace the lowlands, subjacent to the impacted highlands, which themselves are so frequently on the receiving end of progressive downslope impact under the influence of gravity, and to provide a sharper focus in the sense that we have adopted the humid tropics and subtropics for special attention. But consideration of the primary physical effects that environmental degradation in highlands perpetuates all the way downstream, even to the sea, is only a oneway view. Highlands and their neighbouring lowlands are frequently inextricably tied together by a series of both upslope- and downslope-trending processes that are physical, sociological, psychological, economic, and political in nature. Thus, as a first simplification it is perhaps advisable to attempt to describe the various sets of processes separately and to identify their principal direction of flow.
These can be described in simplest terms by considering a highland area devoid of human occupants. The interrelationships amongst climate, vegetation, soils. bedrock geology. and slope angle, under the influence of gravity, will produce a series of landscape adjustments controlled by base level and tectonic activity. This is best described as a series of processes by which the landscape seeks to attain a degree of geomorphic equilibrium in relation to a given time scale. These processes and their resultant landform assemblages can be modelled quite simply as a system of energy dissipation under gravity using the watershed concept to provide physical limits, or even two dimensionally (Figs. 1 - 3). All human impacts can be related to such a model through their primary and secondary modifications of it, and the complex feedback effects that can be hypothesized. Consequently, the watershed may prove the most convenient unit for the subsequent design of our research project, although it is by no means the only possible approach
FIG. 1. Model for the Study of Slope Processes. (From N. Caine, 1971, "A Conceptual Model for Alpine Slope Process Study," Arctic and Alpine Research, 3 (4): 319-329, Fig. 1.)
Before leaving our consideration of the physical processes, however, I would like to express a strong personal conviction. Any attempt to develop a long-term applied research project, with the objective of influencing human land-management practices, must have a conceptual framework that will facilitate an assessment of the possible range and magnitude of the impacts of any such changes in land-management practices on the environment that we begin with. While it is probably not possible to reconstruct the original natural landscape of the northern Thai highlands for use as a bench mark, we must attempt to understand as much as possible the extant physical processes and their changes through time. Without taking this into consideration we will never even approach the prospect of being able to predict what environmental impacts our research applications may have (prediction of their impacts upon human behavioural responses is an even greater task). Nevertheless, I believe we have here the justification for inclusion of a study of climatic and environmental changes through the last several thousand years, using methods such as those contained within the subdisciplines of palynology. sedimentology, dendrochronology. and paleoclimatology. I can perhaps best illustrate this with an example, or rather a parable that I used, unsuccessfully. I must admit. in an attempt to persuade the United States Department of the Interior to finance some palynological investigations in southwestern Colorado. My institute had been asked to be involved in a major research task to determine the possible ecological consequences of winter cloud-seeding in the San Juan Mountains. Winter cloud-seeding in the Rocky Mountains. if successful, should increase winter snow accumulation by a significant amount. Thus we were being asked to study the ecological impacts of artificially increased snowfall. not a particular problem in Thailand, but nevertheless an appropriate example.
I proposed to the review panel that we could describe climatic change in the form of God's impact upon world or regional climate. And since God frequently appears well ordered, His impact could be construed as a curve of set wavelength and amplitude which is usually regarded as climatic change. Be the curve regular or irregular. something simple can be drawn for the sake of illustration. The crucial questions then are, thinking in terms of the United States Secretary of the Interior and winter cloud-seeding. will the Secretary be in phase or out of phase with God, and will his impacts be of greater or lesser amplitude and wavelength than God's? Without an answer to these related questions we cannot determine the ecological impact of winter cloudseeding, and because the review panel remained unmoved to my golden-tongued and possibly blasphemous approach to raising money for palynological research, eight years and many millions of dollars later we still do not understand the ecological implications of cloud-seeding. Hopefully I have a more sympathetic audience on this occasion!
FIG. 2. The Hillslope Waste Budget. This model is intended for only small parts of the slope (on a scale of under 10 m). R is the waste discharged downslope; A is the waste acquired from upslope; W is the waste acquired from the weathering of bedrock in situ. (From N. Caine, 1974, "The Geomorphic Processes of the Alpine Environment,'' in J.D. Ives and R.G. Barry, Arctic and Alpine Environments. [London: Methuen], pp. 721-748, Fig. 12B2.)
Under this category we must include the original, relatively well-balanced, subsistence agricultural. hunting. and collecting systems that have prevailed in the highlands for centuries In the Northern Thai highlands this has presumably been a variety of forms of swidden agriculture with the production of opium frequently occurring as a cash crop. Next we must consider the impacts of rapid population growth on this subsistence system and its primary impacts on the highlands themselves, and their downstream effects. This presumably involves increased soil erosion and lowering of soil fertility through the ever shortening period of fallow and forest regrowth after fire. and a progressive change in the highland flora and fauna which in turn further accelerates loss of soil fertility and erosion to produce a vicious and accelerating circle. This quickly leads to the lowering of human nutritional levels and perhaps out-migration of the younger and more vigorous sectors of village society, with its own set of deleterious feedback effects. The results again tend to move downhill and have complex effects on the neighbouring lowlands.
Traditionally. the world over. mountain or highland societies have been relatively small. fragmentary, and isolated. Thus people in the neighbouring lowlands with their greater ease of communication, larger societal units. richer land, and hence more powerful political institutions, generally have been able to exert political and economic control, to a greater or lesser degree, over the highland groups. In relatively primitive areas this may take the form of extraction of tribute, taxation, or military service; in more complex societies it can take the form of extension of land ownership through application of lowland capital and even development of a massive tourist industry with a high-cost infrastructure such as is characteristic of much of the Alps today.
Development of lowland "control" of highland areas, through application of political and/or economic power, will in turn have its own set of environmental and societal impacts and their attendant feedback mechanisms. These also must be taken into careful account as we reach the stage of changing the application of such political and economic power with the objective of altering land-use practices. This is of vital concern if our aspirations are the improvement in the quality of life of the hill peoples and their lowland neighbours. Evidently these processes, including those of the very research effort itself, proceed predominately from the lowlands to the highlands, although feedback effects will flow in both directions.
An outline for research
The foregoing has been admittedly rather simplistic. I hope you will excuse this, although it is perhaps adequate enough to serve as the basis for development of a research design as ambitious and as complex as we care to make it. Fig. 4 may help explain what I think could form the main elements of such a design.
Fig. 3 can obviously be exploded into a research design that would be completely beyond our technical, intellectual, and financial capacities. A vital component is also missing, namely recognition that a considerable body of knowledge and experience is already available. Thus we must make provision for the accumulation of the available relevant knowledge presumably in the archives of the project headquarters here at Chiang Mai University. We can also quite easily incorporate into any research design the ongoing research efforts. I believe we are all here today largely because of the strength and relevance of the Huai Thung Choa highland field project directed by our friend Dr. Pisit Voraurai. Similarly. the experience gained through the Thai-Australian Highland Agricultural Project and several others will provide a running start.
FIG. 3. The Stream Channel Sediment Budget. R is the sediment discharged down the channel; Ab is the sediment acquired from the slopes surrounding the channel; Ac is the sediment acquired from upchannel; W is the sediment acquired from erosion and weathering of the channel bed and banks in situ; S is the volume of sediment stored within the channel segment. (From Caine 1974, Fig. 12B3.)
From this point I think I had better restrict myself to a series of simple, pragmatic proposals and then await your criticism and comments Nevertheless, we must be aware of the catastrophic status and rapidly changing economic conditions in Northern Thailand. These will make decisions based upon extant conditions invalid. One of the great challenges facing us, therefore. will be our ability to anticipate the direction and magnitude of these changes
1. To strengthen and build upon the existing structure of the Huai Thung Choa highland field project This would involve many specific additions and modifications to be recommended by Dr. Gerardo Budowski and the Agro Forestry Systems Project. Coupled with this is the recognition that significant contributions can be derived from links with the Tropical Agricultural Research and Training Centre, Costa Rica, including transfer of agro-forestry species and training.
2. Mapping of present vegetation patterns, using traditional field methods and air photograph interpretation and remote sensing. Full exploration of this suggestion must await the presentations of Dr. N. Wongtangswat and Dr. Michel Bruneau.
3. Mapping of land-ownership and land-use patterns and cultural features (allied to item 2).
4. Mapping of soils and landforms.
5 Establishment of a modest network of climatological stations representative of the field areas, range of altitude. aspect. and cover types. Amongst many other things. this should assist horticultural and agro-forestry applications by providing a framework for determination of ecological limits of introduced species.
6. Selection and instrumentation of a number of slopes with different altitudes aspects. and cover types, for determination of rates of soil erosion.
7. Establishment of hydrolopical stations on a few principal streams for study of hydrological variations and stream load
8 Extraction of lake sediment samples for pollen and macrofossil analysis to lay the foundation for a modest palaeo climatological investigation to provide a rough environmental trench mark. This latter project will he quite challenging because it will be necessary to build up a microscope reference slide collection for pollen identification.
FIG. 4. A Simplistic Model for Research Design for Highland-Lowland Interactive Systems
9 Extensive anthropological research so that a much fuller understanding of the relationships between the different ethnic groups and their environment can be developed. This understanding would then need to be extended to a study of the anthropologic and environmental impacts of any prospective land-use policy changes
10. Identification of ways and means of training graduate students and senior undergraduates to fit effectively into an interdisciplinary team project.
It would seem that there is a superb prospect of combining the existing Huai Thung Choa highland field project objectives with both the UNU Project on Agro-forestry Systems and the Project on Highland-Lowland Interactive Systems. My remarks. of course, are biased towards the latter. However, regardless of how we ultimately proceed, the research applications, as they take effect. should have significant environmental and human impacts themselves. It is imperative that adequate attempts be made to predict these possible impacts and to monitor the field area so that the predictions can be successively more precisely defined. It will probably be necessary to hold a small meeting to formulate the monitoring and prediction design after identification of the research objectives.
Northern Thailand: The problem
Jack D. Ives
Northern Thailand comprises Region Five, the administrative division of the North, which includes the provinces of Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mail Chianq Pail Nan, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, and Uttaradit. The national census definition would add to these eight provinces the bordering provinces of Kamphaeng Phet, Nakom Sawan, Tak, and Uthai Thani. Geographically this is a region of mountains and hills with relatively narrow valleys and occasional intermontane depressions forming a highly complex relief merging across the international borders of Burma and Laos and, further north, into Yunnan, China. Situated between latitudes 16' and 20 north. it experiences a pronounced monsoonal climate with heavy summer rains (mid-May or June to October) followed by a cool dry season (October to February). then a hot dry season. culminating in April/May with temperature maxima exceeding 40°C (cf. Yoshino, this volume. for a more detailed account of aspects of Northern Thailand climatology). The main physical lineations trend approximately north-south. The largest, and central, part of Northern Thailand is drained by the main headwaters of the Chao Phraya southwards into the Gulf of Siam, the northeastern sector into the Mekong. and the northwestern sector into the Salween and Irrawaddy, and so through Burma into the Andaman Sea.
For centuries large sections of this region constituted a no man's land of dense primary forest and extremely rugged relief sparsely populated by many ethnically distinct hill peoples that existed in a self sufficient manner. 1-his involved the practice of a variety of forms of slash-and burn (swidden) forest shifting agriculture with land to spare so that prolonged forest fallow allowed cyclical regeneration of soil fertility At the same time the lowlands were occupied by ethnic Northern Thai who practiced intensive irrigated rice cultivation supplemented by a wide variety of other crops. One of the main south-flowing tributaries of the Choa Phraya is the Ping, which drains the Chiang Mai depression, one of the largest areas of northern lowland, and the surrounding forested mountains that frequently rise 1,800 to 2,000 m above the lowland The town of Chiang Mai is Thailand's second largest city, but with a population of little more than 100,000 it is diminuitive compared with the giant southern megalopolis of Bangkok Fig 1 is a general geographical sketch of Thailand
Given the nearly 2,000 m of local relief it follows that the natural vegetation can be divided into a series of fairly distinct altitudinally arranged ecosystems, somewhat complicated by edaphic types on the steeper slopes and local climatic varieties in rain shadow areas. Above about 1,000 m to the highest summits at 2,600 m a Lower Montane Forest predominates consisting of oaks, false chestnuts, laurels. and birches. amongst others. Commercially valuable species are entirely unexploited because of rugged relief and inaccessibility. Annual rainfall is 1,500 to 2,000 mm. although sparsity of climatological stations in this upper altitudinal belt would lead us to anticipate somewhat higher amounts on the more exposed windward slopes. The Coniferous Forest is an edaphic type usually occupying steep slopes and exposed ridges between elevations of about 800 to 1,600 m. It is dominated by the two native pines, Pinus merkusli and P. kesiya which provide the source for much of the highland reforestation currently in progress. Oaks. false chestnuts, and other evergreen species occupy an understory beneath the dominant pines, while dipterocarps enter at lower elevations Somewhat lower elevations are occupied by the Dry Evergreen Forests, overlapped again at still lower elevations by several varieties of Deciduous Forests and Moist Mixed Deciduous Forests which extend down to the foothills, the upper river terraces, and plains These latter contain the economically vital and seriously over-exploited teak and other commercial species
Traditionally the lowlands have been characterized by the intensive irrigated rice culture of the ethnic Northern Thai and relatively little contact. at least on a regular basis, was maintained with the hill peoples These somewhat stereotyped landscapes and their human associations are shown schematically in Fig. 2. During the last 50 years. however, and especially since the end of World War 11. introduction of medical health measures, successful combating of malaria and other diseases, amongst other causes. known and unknown, have set off a major population expansion. both amongst the ethnic Northern Thai and the eight or nine ethnically distinct hill peoples The 1970 census showed a total population of approximately 7.500.000 and an area of 170,000 kmē. for an average density of only 44 persons per kmē. that is, about a fifth of the nation's population in about a third of its area. Total ethnic population in the area probably lies in excess of 300,000 These figures. however, are very misleading: the richer lowland areas have rural population densities up to 800 per kmē while the hill peoples' dependency on swidden agricultural forms is extremely land extensive and requires long-period forest fallow Also, population growth rates approach 2.7 per cent with rate exceedinq 3 0 per cent amongst the hill peoples.
This population growth in recent decades has been accompanied by increased urbanization, development of an extensive road and general communications system. and an increasing degree of incorporation of the entire area into the world market systems Added to this is the increasing immigration across the frontiers with Burma. Laos, and Cambodia and a concurrent expansion of opium production Ethnic Northern Thai are penetrating the hills and mountains as land hunger in the lowlands grows, little primary forest remains, even at the highest elevations, and increasing numbers of originally subsistence highlanders become dependent upon a partial cash crop economy or supplementary wage labour to maintain their increasingly marginal subsistence. Serious land shortage has reduced the traditional periods of forest fallow so that the old systems are on the verge of collapse. Soil erosion, decreasing soil fertility. increased variation in the hydrologic cycle with progressive deforestation and spread of Imperata grasslands are all contributing to a critical situation in the mountains, which also has increasingly heavy impacts on the settled agricultural systems of the lowlands. As Kunstadler and Chapman (1978, p. 17) have so eloquently expressed: "Land. of course, is not a free good. and even if it were an unlimited resource, use of the uplands would affect (through loss of watershed and soil erosion) the land resources at lower elevations. Thus the population planning motives of individual swiddening families may not be in harmony with the needs of people living in other ecological zones, or even with their own needs or the needs of their descendants.''
FIG. 1. Outline Map of Thailand and its Neighbours
Thus the problems, sketched here only briefly, are readily apparent and are discussed in much greater detail in the papers that follow The United Nations University. as only one of several agencies and institutions, has decided to attempt a major contribution to resolution of this complex of problems which involves a mix of the human and environmental sciences that are embodied in its agroforestry and highland-lowland interactive systems projects. This is to be developed through direct relations with the UNU Associated Institution of Chiang Mai University and the Royal Forestry Department. The broad objective is to adapt and enlarge upon the pre-existing Huai Thung Choa highland project, and to collaborate with all other interested agencies and individuals
Some of our primary concerns are: (1 ) reduction of watershed deterioration, (2) improvement of the welfare of the hill peoples and ethnic Northern Thai, (3) preservation of the richness, colour, and meaning of the traditions and customs of the local peoples, (4) contribution to the stability and security of the region as a whole, and (5) reduction of the hill peoples' dependency on opium production, in concert with several other appropriate agencies. To achieve these objectives many secondary goals of a substantially self-evident nature will have to be met. We must also recognize some of the serious constraints and stresses, however. that will arise, and indeed are arising, if we fail to adopt a fully holistic approach. The major problem, of course, is that the existing population pressures are too great for the current land-use practices. Yet intensification of agricultural production by. for instance, introduction of additional cash crops, multiple cropping, or intensification of irrigation, if labour intensive, as is so often the case. will merely serve to augment the rate of population growth. One of the great post-war disasters of developed-nation goodwill was the widespread attention to medical welfare and disease eradication without adequate thought about what to do with the increasing numbers who avoided infant mortality.
FIG. 2. Schematic Highland-Lowland Transect for Northern Thailand. (From P. Kunstadter and E.C. Chapman, "Problems of Shifting Cultivations and Economic Development in Northern Thailand" in Kunstadter, Chapman, and Sabhasri 1978, p. 8, Fin. 1.1.)
Our involvements must extend into the legal problems of land ownership, human perception of environment and personal and group welfare, education, religion, politics, commerce. and marketing systems, amongst others, since all these are integral parts of the essential holistic view. No easy panaceas are apparent; we may only help to delay the catastrophe, or slow the progressive deterioration of environment and associated individual and community well-being. But, in collaboration with other agencies and individuals, we may be able to do more than this and, concomitantly produce an applied research model that can be of value to other regions with similar environments and comparable problems. Within the spirit of the United Nations University's Programme on the Use and Management of Natural Resources, however, we cannot afford to avoid the attempt through fear of failure; and success may be closer than we may presently perceive.
Kunstadter, Peter, and E.C. Chapman. 1978. "Problems of Shifting Cultivation and Economic Development in Northern Thailand.'' In Kunstadter, Chapman, and Sabhasri 1 978.
Kunstadter. Peter. E.C. Chapman, and Sanga Sabhasri, eds. 1978. Farmers in the Forest. Honolulu, Hawaii. USA: An East-West Center Publication. The University Press of Hawaii.
Contents - Previous - Next