2013 produced a drought in the area of Thailand where I had previously agreed to have the majority of our saplings planted. By the end of December that year, Dio had told us that things were not good and that conditions were so dry that flash fires had added to the decimation of vegetation.
In January 2014 we visited the area where over half of our saplings had been planted. I do fundamentally trust Dio and also feel an obligation to those who have contributed to this scheme to witness and record this state of affairs.
For sure it was most apparent that saplings had been planted over a large area. Although some would object to the planters just leaving on site the black plastic bag they use to put the soil and cuttings in, seeing the plastic helped locate the dried remnants of an unsuccessful attempt to become a tree. Dio's assistant was able to point out where the rats had been chewing at the saplings in an attempt to quench their thirst.
The saplings that were not planted in this extensive area were taken by the local villagers for them to plant around their homes. These trees, although more difficult to ascertain their location etc, will be better cared for, ie watered and the area around them cleared of weeds. We do not need to log their progress, it is necessary to have some trust in peoples whose rural lifestyle confers in them the need to protect and encourage the nature around them to support that lifestyle for future generations.
'the sticks show where the saplings were planted, despite the drought being primarily several months prior to our arrival, the pipe in the background of the reservoir photos was still had no water coming out of it.....
Old chinese proverb. 'If you want to plan for next year, plant rice. If you want to plan for twenty years, plant trees and if you want to plan for 100 years, educate the people'
After the sadness from witnessing the efforts of those whose intentions were thwarted by drought, Dio took us to another place several kilometres away. Here a new reservoir had been built where decades ago the locals had channelled the flow of the mountain stream to create a small 'reservoir'.
The new reservoir lake was not so full, and at the far end was a huge concrete pipe that channelled the stream into the lake. Dio told us that this is the first time in living memory that there was no water in the stream, the pipe did not have any water flowing out from it. It is in this area around the rersevoir that our next batch of trees will be planted.
That was quite upsetting to realise that even in the mountains where one would consider local precipitation should occur when the larger global weather fronts are weaker and have less effect on local microclimates. Obviously not in 2013.... the global weather cycle should have brought the heavy seasonal rains but it did not.
I am sure that this story is not limited to the areas around Chiang Rai. So I told Dio that for this coming year, , all the saplings should be planted by villagers close to their homes where their chance of surviving is much higher.
March 2015 I went to Chiang Rai again to meet Dio. My wife had to visit her family at that time, consequently our meeting was fairly short. He does not speak English and my Thai is not good enough for more than basic communication. We could speak to each other but for most of the discussion, I spoke to my wife with the phone and then handed the phone to Dio, and so on. Having discussed this with Leam prior to meeting Dio, I was pleased that our meeting went smoothly and was without issue. Of course anyone witnessing the event would have seen the foreigner talking with the local, then the three way conversations with the phone and finally me handing over a bag of cash and us both driving off in opposite directions. Funny really.
Although a level of trust has been established I am aware that it needs to be maintained. Early next year I will return to the reservoir to see how things are progressing. That will have more meaning to me than a paper receipt for the £3,000 I handed to Dio back in March. I have offered money to Dio for himself as a thank you for his help in facilitating my tree planting scheme, he refused it with a smile. I like him, consider him conscientious and caring enough to be sincere in his acts. Bring on the rains [especially in the rainy season]... hopefully next year's report will be more positive than this one....
Thank you for your time in reading this update.