Our project in Chiang Mai is based in the village of Huay Pakout. We focus on SDGs 15 Life on Land and SDG 4 Quality Education. The main areas of focus are supporting the village with sustainable income initiatives and promoting the ethical treatment of elephants.
Most village families in Huay Pakoot own at least one elephant. Villagers in Huay Pakoot depend heavily on income from their elephants. They also rely on harvesting corn which contributes to much deforestation in the area.
Our project supports villagers to develop ways to make an income through an ethical elephant program in their own village. This will mean they are not as reliant on the income from corn harvesting or elephant tourism camps. This will help improve conditions for both elephants and their carers (mahouts).
The main goals of this partnership are
- creating a viable self-sustaining eco-tourism program for the village
- monitoring the social and physical well-being of the elephants in their semi-wild environment
- supporting the community to be empowered to develop avenues for alternative livelihoods
Workshops aim to upskill members of the community. This leads to opportunities for employment and further education. Speaking English is an advantage in the tourism industry. In 2019 eight adults and 57 students had consistent English lessons. We work with families to develop other workshop sessions based on local knowledge. The aim is for them to gain experience running an eco-tourism program. Weaving workshops and storytelling are two examples.
During 2019, 22 surveys were conducted per month on elephants and biodiversity. We trained seven community members in data collection techniques. The aim is to also teach locals how data can be used in planning for their eco-tourism and conservation initiatives.
A three-day litter pick around Huay Pakoot raised awareness of the impact of litter in the region. There was 738.2kg (1,627lbs) of litter collected in a three-day project. This improved the living areas of both people and wildlife including elephants. The project raised the profile of the importance of caring for the environment. Two members of our team attended the AZEC conference last November to share our project with others as well as receive ideas of how to effectively teach conservation to local communities.