Developing REDD+ strategies in Thailand: A case study of drivers of deforestation, forest degradation and possible countermeasures in the Phu Wiang National Park (PWNP) area, Khon Kaen Province

Commissioned Report

To develop their REDD+ strategies, the UNFCCC has encouraged developing countries to identify land use, land use change and forest activities, in particular those that are linked to the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and to their potential contribution to the mitigation of climate change (UNFCCC 2010). For Thailand, this means there is a need for better understanding of the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation as well as of suitable countermeasures to protect and enhance carbon stocks while also contributing to sustainable development.

Previous studies indicate that drivers of deforestation and forest degradation vary a lot between different parts of Thailand. Therefore, to develop and implement its national REDD+ strategy, the national government will have to work closely with provincial governments. With this understanding, this study proposed and applied a set of methodologies for studying drivers of deforestation and forest degradation at provincial (subnational jurisdictional) level that would be useful for provincial governments preparing for REDD+. The methodologies applied were:

1) Use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to assess land use and land use change (LULUC) between forest and agriculture using available spatial data over the past decade;
2) Assessment of the carbon stock changes and emissions from conversion of forest land to agriculture; and
3) Assessment of appropriate practices to strengthen the conservation and management of forests at provincial level, including sustainable agricultural production engaging local communities in forest management. Sustainable agricultural practices were identified from an analysis of their emissions, production efficiency, and impacts on forests. The potential for involving communities in forest management was assessed by studying selected communities living in and around the protected forest areas. Baseline information on community features, agricultural land use and forest management activities were collected through a questionnaire survey.

The area around the Phu Wiang National Park (PWNP) in Khon Kaen Province was selected for the study.

The study shows that agricultural expansion particular sugarcane and cassava was the most significant driver of deforestation in the study area. Due to increased demand for these crops, from 2008 to 2014 a total of 1,657 ha of forestland were converted to sugarcane (77%) and cassava (23%). A policy to increase the production of sugarcane, cassava and rubber for international markets was associated with a reduction in the production of some other crops and the illegal clearance of forests in the PWNP. The study also found that agricultural practices exposed the forests to fire risks and as a result that over 11,000 ha (37%) of the PWNP could be classified as high fire risk. Burning cane leaves before harvesting and crop residues after harvesting, and making fires in the fields for hunting wild animals were found to be common in communities adjacent to the PWNP.

The study estimated that emissions from the clearance of forests for sugarcane production was about 370 t CO2eq/ha and that emissions from sugarcane production was about 2,115 kg CO2eq/ha-yr. This means that a policy for “sustainable sugarcane production” could link REDD+ and NAMAs by reducing emissions from deforestation as well as from agriculture.

The study found that while community support is necessary to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, community participation in reforestation and forest management was at a moderate level in the study site. The communities would only be prepared to play greater roles in forest management if they secure economic benefits from this.

While the study focused on one province, application of the methodological approach led to the creation of two guidelines that can be used in other provinces. The guidelines are on (i) soil management for agricultural production in Thai language for local people, and (ii) assessing emissions from conversion of forestland to agriculture and emissions from commercial agriculture. For REDD+ in the JCM, this study contributes ideas on possible REDD+ actions and how they might be nested within provincial REDD+ strategies.

Adcharaporn Pagdee
Thapat Silalertruksa
Doungjai Waijaroen
Salila Iamittipon
Poirada Phumee