Tree bank scheme warmly embraced in Songkhla

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Thailand’s tree bank programme, launched two years ago, is bearing fruit in many parts of the country. The concept is to encourage tree planting on a massive scale, while at the same time offering those joining the scheme the ability to generate sustainable income from the commercially valuable trees.

The northern region was the first target of Thailand’s tree bank project which entitles members to pledge or mortgage their trees with the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), a financial institution which then grants loans as start-up capital. When the mature trees are cut and sold, the tree farmers pay back the loans plus interest to the BAAC.

Southerners are no less keen on participating in the tree bank programme. We have seen many success stories in different parts of the country.

Thai News Agency recently visited a village in Thailand’s southern province of Songkhla where villagers proudly showed their intrinsically valuable trees.

Planters in Kuan Jong village in Na Mom district of Songkhla have adopted the concept of integrated plant growing in their rubber plantations during the past four years. They grow various types of trees in between existing rubber trees. The new trees are yielding commercial value. Their next step is to join the tree bank programme in order to ‘deposit’ their trees with the bank.

Pairoj Iadmun proudly witnesses the prolific growth of woody trees in his rubber plantation. The leader of Taweepol agricultural group has witnessed an improvement in the ecological landscape in the neighbourhood in the last few years.

“The woody trees create moisture, shade and a balance of nature. I have not seen edible wild mushrooms for years. I can eat and sell them this year. Wild mushrooms only grow in a balanced natural environment and climate,” said Pairoj.

Kuan Jong villagers started growing long-lived trees in 2008. More than 50 members in the group will join the BAAC’s tree bank scheme soon in order to have their trees registered as collateral for loans, or certified as assets. Registered living trees can continue growing.

In addition to encourage reforestation and adding value to existing lands, the tree bank programme also cultivates the love of nature.

“The happiness of growing trees is to be close to nature,” Sanan Semathammachak, member of tree bank programme, said.

“It is most important that we love the King. Every single tree that we grow is an expression of loyalty to His Majesty,” said Pairoj.

Over 10,000 woody trees have been grown and nurtured in Kuan Jong village. The tree growing network will definitely expand with more people joining the scheme, bearing in mind that trees play a significant part in reducing erosion, moderating the climate and generating income for them.