Phu Thum Phu Kratae Forest Community, Khon Kaen Province
“The Community in the Chi Basin That Survived the Drought”
Four Years of Drought, Two Years of Rain
Phu Thum Phu Kratae Forest Community is a highland with rolling terrain of sandy loam which made it difficult for the soil to retain water, thus, the area faced one of the most severe droughts in the Northeast as it received very little rainfall. Hence, the community confronted an important issue which was the rotating four years of drought followed by two years of rain which had been a vicious cycle for over the last 40 years. When it rained, the water would flow to the lowlands without any being stored for use as the community lacked an efficient water management system as well as the correct knowledge in addressing the issue. Though wells were dug, very little water was found, and all the streams in the area laid in the lowlands so all the water would flow downhill. When villagers needed to use water for agriculture, they would have to pump the water uphill which was a waste of resources and energy. Moreover, during the drought, villagers were not able to grow crops at all.
Surviving the Drought with Knowledge and Cooperation
With the area’s geography and climate posing major challenges for the community, villagers began to join forces to seek solutions to their problems starting from studying the terrain using their local map. Then, the villagers learned how to use GPS maps to survey their land and initiated several projects to manage water to address different situations:
- Digging the “Fah Pratan Chon” Canal to Store Water and Connecting to “Kaem Ling” Water Retention Systems in which the villagers dug canals to transfer water from higher areas to lower areas in a manner similar to roof gutters to drain water to the “kaem ling” water retention system in low-lying areas for the community to use during droughts or during long periods without rainfall.
- Using the “Kha Kae” Method which is a technique to transfer overflowing water supply from higher areas to lower areas without the use of drains. Villagers constructed an earthen dyke that forced the overflowing water to drain at the sides which enabled them to store only the amount of water that is needed.
- Using Gravity to Direct Water in Three Directions in which villagers distributed water from higher areas to lower areas in three directions using gravity that forced water to flow downhill in order to distribute the water into agricultural fields. Meanwhile, the overflowing water supply was stored in steps along the way so that water is recirculated without the use of a water pump system.
- Storing Overflowing Water Supply, Gathering Excess Water Supply, and Ensuring Sufficient Water for Consumption which villagers guided the flow of water from higher areas to fields and agricultural lands in lower areas. When there is excess water supply, the water will flow into canals and fields that gathered water as a way to ensure that all the water available is stored in the community reserves for further consumption.
- Setting a Rule for Joint Water Usage, meaning that should water levels reach a crisis, each family will be allocated no more than 10,000 liters per month to retain the amount of water in the community.
- Revolutionizing Land Allocation in which the community allocated land to be transformed into water storage ponds to store water. Formerly, villagers grew rice which used a large amount of water, however, they shifted to growing less rice and adding in other crops instead to ensure a sufficient water supply for agriculture. Moreover, villagers used to plant cassava as a monocrop which gave them only one stream of income. Today, villagers grow various crops that yield produce daily, monthly, and yearly.
Sharing the Success from One Community to Others in the Chi Basin Network
With their relentless determination combined with their knowledge and cooperation, the Phu Thum Phu Kratae Forest Community were able to store water for use year-round as well as reuse water without any additional costs. Moreover, they applied the New Theory Agriculture from King Rama IX’s teachings to land use in the community, resulting in better land management and agricultural production planning. Formerly, farmers here would practice monoculture such as growing only cassava on their land which would generate an income of 1,500 baht per year per rai, however, after applying the New Theory, farmers were able to earned as much as 200,000 baht per family per year. Today, there are 68 farmers in the network who have shifted their agricultural practices, with a combined income of about 12 million baht per year. Meanwhile, the water management network along the Chi Basin has expanded to 9 provinces, 60 communities, 37 subdistricts, and 12 districts. In total, the project was able to solve the drought problem in an area of about 200,000 rai across the Chi Basin.
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