GVI Charitable Programs is situated in a traditional Karen village, five hours from the city of Chiang Mai. We collaborate with local community members to support both wildlife conservation and community development projects. Our main focus is to work alongside the local community to reintegrate elephants that have previously worked in the tourism industry, into a more natural setting. Our work is centered around capacity building and collaborative upskilling of community members. We also support the development and empowerment of our local partners through initiatives to create great economic opportunities.
– To create a viable self-sustaining eco-tourism program for the Karen village of Huay Pakoot.
– To develop and promote an eco-tourism model for ethical elephant experiences in Thailand, which other organizations can adopt.
– To assist with improved income-generating activities in the Karen village of Huay Pakoot.
– To relocate, in the long term, elephants being used in hands-on tourist activities into their natural environment.
– To improve the welfare of captive elephants in Northern Thailand.
The village community will set up, market, and operate a social enterprise that offers a range of tourism products. The products will be offered to nationals and internationals at local market rates. The products will be built around experiencing and learning about this endangered species in their natural setting, as well as raising awareness of this way of life and stopping misconceptions, and engaging with and learning about the local community and our culture through a range of cultural activities including; staying in local homestays, paying to participate in cultural activities such as cooking classes and weaving workshops, and buying locally made products at locally-owned shops. The income received from the clients will through time replace the requirement for funding, and support the long-term placement of the elephants in the village and the income achieved by the community members.
The requirement of having elephants in the nearby forest will drive the need to maintain the forest and the alternative source of income for the community will reduce the reliance upon agriculture and corn production, which is currently a principal source of income and driving habitat loss. Each elephant owner being involved in the project has to pledge to transition away from growing corn and focus on growing elephant food or reforestation projects instead.
The requirement to share and teach clients about the local language and culture has been shown to help reinforce the traditional culture and the use of the language, and help drive it being shared with younger generations and the enthusiasm to learn by those generations. There are many misconceptions about the mahout culture and ethical elephant treatment, and this project will give mahouts and community members the chance to share their knowledge on this, educating tourists.
At the beginning of the project, Huay Pakoot will choose 8 elephants to be in the forest initially, supported by donations and community members. After 7 years, the initial elephants will be supported by tourists visiting the project, and as profits begin to be made after this seven-year period, more elephants can be reintegrated into the forests.
The long-term aim once the first phase of the project has become sustainable, is to increase this number to 30 elephants, once reforestation efforts have been successful and there is more forest space for them to roam (and reduced elephant costs due to owners not having to pay extra for their food – they can retrieve it from the forest). The focus is on choice; long-term, the project aims to be able to support however many elephant owners choose to be a part of it.
We will apply a phasing down and phasing over method as part of the exit strategy.
Initially, the project will be supported 100% by donations, fundraising, and grants, achieved by our collaboration with Huay Pakoot.
The elephants need to be in the forests before the tourism project is launched, in order to adapt to their environment and for mahout training purposes. We will assist in costs for these elephants, as well as initially hiring and training local staff to run the project on the ground. They will also assist with the promotion and admin costs of the project.
Once the tourism program is established and is starting to create income, the required funding support will start to reduce, with the aim of the project being self-funding within a 10 year period. Once it is self-funding, the long-term objective to accommodate more elephants in this project can be worked towards.
Through our established partnership, the Huay Pakoot village has secured free access to training programs in English language skills, first aid and safety management, business support, and hospitality. The costs for these are covered through the existing relationship and additional support has been agreed for assistance and business mentoring including strategy, business planning, legal, finance, marketing, sales, and operations.
The products will include:
– Guided elephant hikes in the forest, led by experienced, trained, and qualified on-site community member guides.
– An insight into the mahout culture and education on elephant treatment and ethical elephant tourism.
– Guided hikes to nearby caves and other natural points of interest, led by experienced, trained, and qualified on-site field staff or community member guides.
– Guided gibbon hikes, led by experienced, trained, and qualified on-site field staff or community member guides.
– Medicinal plant hikes, led by experienced, trained, and qualified on-site field staff or community member guides, followed by making elephant medicine balls.
– Introduction to Pakinyaw language lesson.
– Introduction to the culture of the Karen people.
– Weaving workshop with a local woman.
– Cooking classes with a local woman.
– Elephant conservation lectures.
– Homestays, accommodation, and food.
We will define both our domestic target audience and the channels we will use to target them, and our target international audience and channels.
Through our existing connections, we already have access to universities in Chiang Mai, respected animal and elephant welfare organizations which recommend our project, and a network of youth, cultural and educational travel agents and organizations, and a network of educational institutions that engage in experiential education.
Once phased over, the collaborating partners will continue working together and employ a transition strategy where GVI Charitable Programs will provide continued contact and ongoing support as required. The original project will be evaluated by GVI Charitable Programs after 6 months, then 1, 2, and 3 years after phasing over is complete. This will be done via onsite visits, an inspection of data sets, interviews with stakeholders, and collaborative partner meetings.
Phase 1 – Set Up & Establish
8 elephants from the village reintegrated into forests surrounding Huay Pakoot and funded by GVI Charitable Programs. Business plan and strategy developed including review of the marketplace, target audiences (nationally and internationally), products, prices, and costs.
Phase 2 – Plan Enterprise & Set Up
– Business plan in place include price and costs.
– Village starts recruiting for an onsite manager to drive and manage the project.
– Plan for community capacity building developed.
– Training required for community members identified and training program designed.
– Onsite manager hired and begins shadowing the current program manager.
– Sales and marketing infrastructure build begins.
– Community members selected for initial training.
Phase 3 – Launch & Start Enterprise
– Marketing and sales started.
– First leads being managed.
– Feedback loop to marketing, sales, and product in place.
– Community members trained in required skills.
– First bookings taken both nationally and internationally.
– First locally sourced clients have arrived.
– More community members selected for training.
– Program manager hands over to a trained local manager.
Phase 4 – Expand Enterprise
– Second intern begins, shadowed by a local community member.
– Funding required begins to scale back in line with locally self-generated profit, to be decreased by 25%.
– First internationally sourced clients have arrived.
– Self-generated profit allows funding requirements to be decreased by 50%.
– Intern hands over to the local community member.
Phase 5 – Phase Over Completion
– Self-generated profit allows funding requirements to be decreased to zero.
Run an awareness workshop for 10 community members.
Fund emergency food for an elephant for 1 week.
Fund a vet to visit an elephant that has been rescued.
Fund an outreach program to engage with over 200 tourists.
Cover the monthly cost of rehabilitation for 1 month.
Project Target: 10,000 USD
Raised so far: 5,206 USD
Funds still needed: 4,794 USD
Thailand has a long and proud history of working with elephants, but their numbers are in rapid decline. In Thailand alone, there are only about 3,000-4,000 elephants left in the wild.
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.
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