The Karen people are an ethnic group who live along the Thailand-Myanmar border. Most of the Karen in Thailand live in the province of Mae Hong Son, where a recent United Nations survey concluded that 64% of the province lives below the World Bank Global Poverty Line of $1.90 per day. The villages in this northern region are completely isolated, ignored by their government and have little hope of receiving outside help.
The villagers of Ban Nong Haeng have recently contacted Karen Hilltribes Trust for support in building a dam and irrigation system, to provide food security through adequate irrigation to nearby fields. This village has been identified as having an urgent need, as a large flooding event has wiped out their dam and destroyed the river bank. The villagers are at great risk for food shortages if a concrete dam cannot be installed before the rainy season begins in June 2017.
In the past, Karen farmers have built small dams using rocks, bamboo, and brushwood to interrupt the flow of a river or stream just enough to divert water to their crops. However, heavy rainfall and flash floods can seriously damage these fragile irrigation systems just as the region receives the bulk of its rainfall for the year, which means that the opportunity to conserve this precious resource is lost. As subsistence farmers depending on unreliable rainfall patterns, the Karen are only able to produce 40% of their food needs for the year, resulting in widespread malnutrition and children and young adults having to travel to cities to work as laborers to send money back to the village.
In 2016, the problem grew worse, with Thailand experiencing its hottest recorded temperatures since 1960 leading to its worst drought in decades (see link in "Resources" section for link to news story). These worsening conditions have forced Thailand to ration its water as its rice production has fallen by 30%. These extreme weather conditions can lead to fields going dry for years on end, leading to paddies that are no longer productive. Insufficient rice yields push Karen villagers to adopt drastic measures such as "slash and burn" cultivation, which contributes towards further deforestation and environmental destruction.
The Bottom Line
For US$ 15,950.00 the Karen Hilltribes Trust will construct a durable concrete dam and irrigation system providing reliable, year-round water supplies for Ban Nong Haeng Village and surrounding agricultural areas, with an estimated combined population of 1,000.
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About The Karen Hilltribes Trust
The Karen Hilltribes Trust (KHT) is a charity dedicated to working with the Karen people of northern Thailand to help them build a better future for themselves. They have three key aims: improving health by installing clean water systems and latrines, increasing access to education by providing school buses, meals, dormitories and scholarships, and securing better livelihoods by building irrigation systems and regenerating land. Through these aims, KHT supports the Karen through community-led projects that lead to self-help and sustainability whilst still retaining their unique identity and culture. KHT has benefited around 200,000 individuals in over 400 villages in the Mae Hong Son province, an area of north west Thailand close to the Burma border.
The Karen are the largest ethnic minority group in Thailand, numbering around 400,000, and have lived for centuries as subsistence farmers in remotely located small mountain communities. The extreme climate has a devastating effect on crop growth, which adversely affects health and the local economy. These families are among the lowest income group in Thailand; the majority live in the rural province of Mae Hong Son, where a recent United Nations survey concluded that 64% of the province lives below the World Bank Global Poverty Line of $1.90 per day. Nearly half lack access to clean drinking water and only 1 in 4 children complete their education due to the distance to travel, lack of accommodation and funds.