Thailand: Participation of Local Communities in Mangrove Forest Rehabilitation (Pattani Bay)


By working together with local communities in three villages around Pattani Bay, Thailand, this project aimed to restore severely degraded sites of former mangroves. The project followed an approach of combined environmental rehabilitation and socio-economic improvements, placing greater emphasis on the process than on outputs, and facilitating initiatives of the community, rather than ideas of the project team. Local ownership of the project and effective community participation were considered crucial to achieve sustainable impacts.

The project focused its main activities on strengthening community organisation, building environmental awareness ,mangrove rehabilitation through hydrological restoration and replanting of seedlings, support to alternative livelihood initiatives, and information dissemination. Although far from completely successful, the project has been able to support several income-generating activities of the communities, has successfully enhanced their environmental awareness, and has received their cooperation in the replanting of a community mangrove forest for which a community-based management plan has been prepared.

Quick Facts

Project Location:
Unnamed Road, Tambon Tanyong Lulo, Amphoe Mueang Pattani, Chang Wat Pattani 94000, Thailand, 6.896140263786269, 101.3043721485351

Geographic Region:

Country or Territory:


Estuaries, Marshes & Mangroves

Area being restored:
79 hectares

Organization Type:


Project Stage:

Start Date:

End Date:

Primary Causes of Degradation

Fisheries & Aquaculture, Urbanization, Transportation & Industry

Degradation Description

Threats to the coastal wetlands of Pattani Bay are characteristic of most of Thailand’s coastal areas, and include: reclamation for intensive shrimp aquaculture (and related conversion and pollution), major port developments (and related dredging), industrial expansion (and pollution),and destructive fishing by commercial trawling and by boats equipped with pushnets (Ruttanadakul et al.,1993).

Project Goals

The primary goal of this initiative was to sustain and restore the mangrove forest resources in Southern Thailand through the development of community-based resource use management practices and improved cross-sectoral coordination of development planning.


The project does not have a monitoring plan.


From the start, the project involved community members, local environmental NGOs and local government offices in the planning, implementation and review of the project, thereby creating a strong sense of local ownership.

Both the management and the field team made special effort to listen to the comments, criticisms, and suggestions from individual community members, local environmental NGOs, grassroots organisations, and other institutions involved. By taking a flexible approach, the project allowed for changes in objectives, approaches and activities at any stage during the implementation. This was particularly important, as the involvement of local stakeholders in the early stages of needs assessment and project design had been far from adequate.

As part of this project, the project team arranged meetings for the villagers with the Prime Minister, Pattani Governor, Royal Forest Department and Harbour Department officials to discuss environmental threats facing Pattani Bay and its fishing grounds. Moreover, detailed information about this project has been widely and frequently disseminated using various media, as an integral part of the project activity framework.

Description of Project Activities:
A range of initiatives was employed with the intention to organise the local communities in the three target villages for common environmental action. These started with loose gatherings, and informal meetings and discussions in the villages, largely building on existing friendships with individual villagers, which had been established previously in the scope of earlier projects by the university. The team further strengthened the commitment and self-confidence of interested community members from the three target villages by facilitating their participation in peaceful demonstrations in Bangkok of the Forum of the Poor,and in public hearings, seminars and workshops on local and national environmental issues. The team also arranged meetings for the villagers with the Prime Minister, Pattani Governor, Royal Forest Department and Harbour Department officials to discuss environmental threats facing Pattani Bay and its fishing grounds. In addition, the project organised a one-week study tour (attended by 21 villagers) visiting various good and bad examples of community-based coastal resource management in Malaysia and Singapore. With the guidance of the project team, villagers replanted mangroves at two of the three villages, with mixed results, and at Bang Tawa, the villagers also replanted several hundred Casuarina equisetifolium trees on a nearby sandbar, along with indigenous plants and fruit trees in small gardens near their houses.

Ecological Outcomes Achieved

Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
Substantial achievements in mangrove rehabilitation were made in one of the three target villages, Bang Tawa. At this village, an area of approximately 80 ha of severely degraded mangroves, completely clear-felled in most of the area, was available for the community. Initial trials of experimental replanting by the villagers in collaboration with university staff and field workers of an area of approximately 5 ha were largely unsuccessful, with survival rates of the seedlings below 20%. After addressing hydrology and grazing issues, a total of nearly 30 ha have been planted with seedlings of several mangrove tree species at this community forest site. The survival and growth of the replanted mangrove seedlings improved greatly, the best results being achieved with Avicennia marina (the species most tolerant to high salinity). Despite the construction of a channel to improve tidal flooding and a windmill to keep the plot inundated during the dry season, most of the mangrove species other than Avicennia showed relatively low rates of growth and survival. Some initial trial mangrove replanting of approximately 5 ha was done at Tanjong Lulo in early 1996,but abandoned due to poor success and lack of community support.

Factors limiting recovery of the ecosystem:
Drought and grazing by goats and sheep were identified by the villagers as the primary causes of the initial failure at Bang Tawa. Soil salinity also played a role in the low survival rate at Bang Tawa, as Avicennia marina was the only species able to tolerate the growing conditions. With the advice of an outside mangrove restoration expert, small-scale hydrological improvements were made to the channel and topography of the replanting site. These micro-scale corrections resulted in an improved drainage connection, allowing for increased tidal flushing by seawater, and proper drainage and run-off of rainwater to rinse out the excessive amounts of salt, which had accumulated in the soil after years of seawater evaporation at the site. These improvements are expected to reduce the soil salinity over time, and gradually lead to improved survival and growth of mangrove species other than the high-salinity tolerant Avicennia marina. Community participation in mangrove rehabilitation and management has been less successful in the two other villages, because the communities in these villages, plagued by a complex web of local political conflicts, have not yet reached the stage in which they were ready for environmental action and community-based resource management.

Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved

Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
Realizing the discrepancy between the outsiders' long-term interest in wetland rehabilitation and the immediate development priorities of the local communities in the target villages, the project extended its support to more general aspects of community development in addition to its environmental rehabilitation objectives. By improving existing livelihood activities and supporting alternative livelihood initiatives that promoted the community's self-reliance and quality of life, the project placed the emphasis on local benefits for the community. Existing livelihood activities were improved by value-adding processes, and by improving marketing strategies of products and commodities, by eliminating unnecessary middlemen, and expanding the markets to include other towns and cities. A special village development fund was set up with assistance of the project to establish a sustainable source of funding for alternative livelihood activities through profit-sharing, and to provide incentives for the initiation of collective community development initiatives. These efforts have offered villagers an opportunity for increased self-reliance, and at the same time, they have served to raise the interest of the communities in the restoration project.

Key Lessons Learned

The initial approach by the field team of working directly with the villagers clearly underestimated the powers and pivotal role of the existing local administrative structures and government-appointed leaders. A lack of involvement and understanding among the local administrators resulted in a lack of institutional support and poor sustainability of the project’s efforts.

Although friendships with selected individual villagers established during earlier projects certainly helped to get the process of village organisation started, this did not necessarily include the key persons of the village. Failure by the largely Buddhist project team to build an understanding and win the support among key Muslim religious leaders and scholars also contributed to the limited progress in community organisation. In addition, opportunities for fruitful cooperation and networking with existing grassroots organisations in the region (e.g. the Southern Thailand Small-scale Fishermen Federation) were missed, largely as a result of personality conflicts.

In establishing effective participation, therefore, it is not necessary to choose sides with the influential and most powerful persons in the village, but it is crucial to make an effort to ensure they are always informed and aware of why and what the project is doing to gain their understanding, and as such, their indirect support.

The project has placed perhaps too great an emphasis on the local community (in awareness building, education, participation and management), resulting in a lack of understanding, involvement and commitment from other stakeholders, such as the regional government institutions and the local administration.

One of the key lessons to date is the importance of facilitation, rather than implementation, for the role of the project team. Rather, effective community participation in environmental and socio-economic rehabilitation and management is a long-term process that can only be achieved through large-scale programmes with an incremental approach.

Long-Term Management

In order to catalyse the community’s interest in the long-term sustainability objectives of the rehabilitation and wise use of the coastal wetland in the wider study area, a large number of environmental awareness and educational activities were developed to run parallel to the other project activities right from the beginning.

In addition to these specific awareness-raising activities, the project has been implementing a strong information dissemination component. Regular project newsletters in Thai language (11 issues to date,up to 5000 copies), local press releases, three TV documentaries, and daily radio broadcasts (400 issues to date, reaching out through network stations to 17 Thai provinces) have featured reports on progress and specific information regarding project activities, stories on local resource use in the target villages, feed-back comments by the villagers on the project, educational information on mangroves, and regional environmental news and events.

Throughout the project, local ownership and involvement was encouraged as a way of investing people in project goals and creating a foundation for future, community-based initiative in mangrove management, conservation and restoration.

Sources and Amounts of Funding

1,132,163 ECU European Union under the Tropical Forest Budget: ECU 957,185; Wetlands International contribution: ECU 100,978; Prince of Songkla University contribution: ECU 74,000

Other Resources

Asae Sayaka
Wetlands International-Thailand Office

Primary Contact

Organizational Contact