Chaiyong Phumphabu

Ashoka Fellow
Thailand,
Fellow Since 1994
Yad Fon Association (Eastern Office)

Citation

This profile was prepared when Chaiyong Phumphabu was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
Chaiyong Phumphrabu's work is based on the premise that in order for something to be preserved it must first be valued and that all involved must trust one another. Using education and taking a positive approach, Chaiyong is successful in reaching the hearts and minds of those living near the protected forest areas as well as reorienting the approach of those who work for the forest preserve system. Chaiyong's program galvanizes primary and secondary school students and teachers, governmental agencies and local private organizations that live in the vicinity of the forest to band together to preserve it. He has created a new model in forest preservation by educating eight- to sixteen-year-olds to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the forest. Through classroom work that is reinforced by a three-day, two-night camping trip in the forest, Chaiyong's program is creating an army of young conservationists who bring strong forest conservation messages back to their parents and communities.
Chaiyong teaches the children that people's lives are enriched when they are fortunate enough to live near the forest. They learn that the trees, mushrooms and other edible forest vegetation, the animals and the cool shade are precious amenities gained through the forests that make people's lives better. Chaiyong warns the children that if the forests are destroyed and disappear, it is the neighboring people who will suffer the most loss, and not the rich commercial exploiters who usually do not live near enough to the forests to be affected by its demise.
The government's use of enforcement by police/forestry officers has failed to stop the illegal activities that destroy the forests. Part of the problem is that citizens view forest officers as faceless law enforcers who have been imposed on them by a faraway central government. Furthermore, the people believe that the government does not really care about them and only wants to catch them and throw them in jail for acts that the people do not perceive as being particularly criminal. The responsibility of the government agencies to use educational methods has been neglected. Chaiyong is helping these officers transition into roles that are more in tune with the human communities around them and that position the officers as partners rather than enemies of the forest people.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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