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Impact on Thailand

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Lessons learned, challenges and achievements since after the tsunami.
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Building Back Better
Tsunami communities reborn - Rebuilding livelihoods better than before
Much progress visible in year after tsunami
Local resolve, many helping hands make the difference. Illustrating the rebuilding of livelihoods in fisheries and agriculture in Thailand, a story of rebirth and hope emerges, with the generosity of both the national and international public playing a major role.
Post-tsunami role
FAO assessment teams rushed to southern Thailand immediately after the tsunami ravaged the region, evaluating damage and rehabilitation needs in fisheries and agriculture to be able to assist the government at times overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

In the initial phase of emergency relief, FAO concentrated on restoring farmers' and fishers' access to seeds, tools and fishing nets to reduce the length of time people would be dependent on food aid. FAO also began programmes as part of efforts to kick-start local economies, and provided technical advice to governments and directly to disaster-affected rural households.

The main challenge now facing the affected coastal communities is rebuilding their livelihoods and economic base. In many tsunami-stricken areas, FAO helps by coordinating the work of NGOs so that the various organizations do not unwittingly target the same survivors for help while leaving others out.

“FAO officials keep track of the type of boats that should be introduced to avoid overfishing. They are keeping standards high," Seksan Matcha, district fisheries officer in Kura Buree, where FAO has distributed fish traps and aquaculture equipment to help fishers recover from the tsunami, echoes those sentiments. "Step by step, FAO projects are improving the livelihoods of the fishing households here," he says.
In Thailand, FAO is helping with a project providing fish cages and fingerlings to tsunami-traumatized fishers to rebuild aquaculture businesses in the coastal estuary area near the Maenang Kao mountains. Suleyman Tchidchewa, 48, works on the project. "After the tsunami we felt that we had nothing. We had no hope," he says. "Now my courage is back, not fully, but 70 to 80 percent."

Fish cages were provided for 38 fishers, including three women, in April. By May they had begun breeding sea bass and grouper in the project, one of many organized by FAO for fishing communities near Phuket.
Orchards blossom anew
Virut Hokhua spent 33 years cultivating his fruit orchard but nothing in his long experience prepared him for the day when dozens of bodies washed up among the trunks of his rambutan and durian fruit trees.

Mr Hokhua, 65, recalls how he helped some of the foreigners carried to the orchard by the tsunami and how one, a German tourist, died there. Among the dead was Mr Hokhua’s eldest son, Tamarat, 29.

The tidal wave flattened the orchard but now Mr Hokhua has replanted his plot of just under one hectare with rambutan, mangosteen and longkon as well as oil-palm, all of which he received from FAO. "FAO is the only agency that is giving some practical help in agriculture here," he avows. "Without FAO it would have been quite difficult. They gave me fertilizer and gypsum as well as the seedlings."

Like many farmers in the area, Mr Hokhua introduced oil-palms to his land for the first time because of the growing demand for palm oil to make biological diesel fuel and because they take four years to bear fruit compared with five years for rambutan.

Mr Hokhua's satisfaction is echoed by Wichien Kasemsri, district extension officer for the Khao Lak area, north of Phuket. "FAO has helped smallholders a lot," he says, assessing the plight of 600 households in his territory. "Its assistance is more sustainable than other forms of help. People here still are suffering from losing all sources of income, including tourism. But for agriculture maybe next year will be better."

Also helped by FAO was Wananek Wilai, 58, whose livelihood was interrupted when dozens of coconut trees she cultivated with her sister Malle Navaloi, 56, were uprooted by the tsunami. Both sisters received 50 seedlings from FAO. Ms Wilai lost her two daughters in the tsunami when they drowned in their home. Her grandchildren, Kanchana, 2, and Pensiri, 8, survived because they were on high ground with Ms Wilai, who fled with them to safety as the tidal wave approached.

Not all orchards suffered immediate effects. In nearby Lam Kaen village, farmer Somchai Plodtuk lost some mangosteen and durian trees as much as two months after the tsunami as salt attacked their roots. "My smallholding has suffered but FAO gave me gypsum, which I applied and which saved some trees," he says. "It made a difference."
Vegetable production and group marketing
Methinee Mongkol, 34, married with 3 children, was living in a house near the Khao Lak sea shore which also acted as a shop selling food. The house was totally destructed by the tsunami and her family is now living in a temporary house. She hopes to restart selling food again when she will move into a new permanent house being built by the Royal Princess project. Before the tsunami, family income averaged 12 000 Baht per month. Now the family relies solely on the income from her husband’s work as a construction labourer and part time tuktuk driver (a small car used as taxi) earning about 3 000 to 4 000 Baht a month - about one third what they used to have before the tsunami.

Her family received compensation money from the government (house damage – 20 000 Baht) and from foundations and charities about 40 000 Baht as well as a temporary house from the World Vision foundation. Besides taking care of the family, Khun Methinee has no other job or earning money.

She is delighted that she was among other tsunami affected beneficiaries to get one unit of hydroponics for vegetable production from FAO, realizing that – if successfully done – each crop cycle (about 17 days for morning glory, 25 days for chinese kale, pak choi and pai-sai) will provide vegetables for home consumption as well as a possible source for additional income of about 2 000 Baht. But marketing might be a worrying factor. She said that working as a group they need to be trained and learn how to solve problems. She is enthusiast to be an active member of the group and even volunteering to become a leader of the 11 hydroponic units if her group members wish her to do so.

Somnouk Chuduang, 56, father of 3 sons, used to live in house number 8/1 Moo 2 (Ban Khao Lak), Phang-Nga Province before tsunami. His family is now living at a temporary house for tsunami victims. He lost his wife and his father during the tsunami on 26 December 2004. About half of his six rai (one ha.) fruit orchard, growning rambutan, longkong and mangoesteen, was damaged. Fortunately, his rubber plantation of 16 rais was not affected by the sea waves, so that he is still earning about 5 000 Baht per month at present. However, before the tsunami he used to earn not less than 20 000 Baht per month. He received from the government 70 000 Baht for funeral costs of his two family members, 20 000 Baht for the loss of his house and about 2 000 Baht in compensation costs for the fruit orchard damage.

Recently he learned about the successful hydroponic vegetable growing project in Lamkean initiated by the local administration and district agricultural office. Like Methinee Mongkol, also Khun Somnouk decided to joint the project and received one hydroponic unit provided under the FAO project. His 26 year old son – jobless as a result of the tsunami – is now attending technical and management training organized by the project, and hopes that he will soon make money to help the family.