Baan Bang La Conservation Group Wins Global Equator Prize for Long-Standing Efforts on Mangrove ConservationJun 30, 2017
A UNDP Small Grant Conservation Group of Baan Bang La has been awarded the international Equator Prize for a decade of efforts to protect a mangrove sanctuary against the high tide of commercial land development on Phuket’s coast.
It is the first UNDP Small Grant community from Thailand to win this global award, which is announced annually to support community conservation efforts worldwide.
The Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Baan Bang La is one among the 15 winners of the 2017 Equator Prize, chosen among 806 nominations from 120 countries. Following a three-stage peer-review process, the community was selected as an outstanding example of nature-based local solutions to sustainable development.
Situated on the Phang Nga Bay, about 20 Kilometers east of Phuket town, in the South of Thailand, Baan Bangla or Bangla Village is a small Muslim community of 150 households. Their main incomes are from aqua-culture, coastal fishing, and small-scale para-rubber plantations. During the past 10 years, there has been a fierce expansion of commercial land development into their locality. The villagers have been fighting to resist illegal claims by private investors on their public land, by using community-based approaches to conserve marine and coastal resources as well as to strengthen their livelihoods security.
The group has managed to protect 192 hectares of the mangrove as a community forest, together with the 2 adjacent villages and in cooperation with local and provincial authorities, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, as well as universities and schools in the area. Over a decade of development, Bangla Community Mangrove Forest has systematic and participatory rules and regulations on the sustainable use of the mangrove among the members.
The living proof of their success is the return of the flagship species - the Phuket Sea Otters, after 20 years of disappearance from the area. These local small-clawed sea otters have not only returned but also proliferated as their habitats are restored and protected. Their sources of food and habitat such as horse mussels and sea grasses also becomes more abundant in the demarcated zone.
In addition to establishing the community mangrove forest initiative to protect their natural resource base, Baan Bangla also set up a community savings group to develop alternative livelihoods, to support financial and welfare schemes, and to provide financial resources to look after the community mangrove forest in the long run. The office of the savings group serves as a multi-purpose building and a center for peer to peer support, wherein women and youth are playing active roles as leaders and initiators.
As a winner, the Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Baan Bang La will receive US$10,000 to further support their work. A representative from the community will be invited to personally receive the Equator Prize 2017 at a high-profile event on 17 September 2017, in New York City. The representative will also participate in a dialogue workshop with communities from all over the world during the Award Ceremony.
“We are very glad to receive this recognition. It will help us go forward with more strength to conserve our mangrove sanctuary, which is our source of life. The money received from the award will go into our community conservation fund to support Baan Bangla and other communities in Phang Nga Bay Networks to protect the mangroves, coastal resources, and the otters,” says Mr. Aroon Bamroongna, the leader of Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Baan Bang La upon hearing the good news.
“We are extremely proud of our friends at Baan Bangla, both for their dedication, their achievements, and now for receiving this global award”, says UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Martin Hart-Hansen, and continues “the award recognizes the power of people to achieve great results for their communities, for future generations, and for the world, and the people of Baan Bangla have done just that, and will continue to do so. We are very proud to have been part of that journey and continue to work with communities across Thailand to do the same.”
Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Baan Bang La is one of the grantees supported by the Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), the South-South Grants Facility (SSGF), and the Mangrove for the Future – Small Grants Facility (MFF-SGF) in collaboration with IUCN, under UNDP Thailand’s implementation.