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Thailand field trip a new addition to IWC Diploma and Masters programs

A two-week field trip to Thailand, with students staying with village families in the Mekong region and looking at sustainable development and community development, will be subsidised by IWC as an elective in the Diploma and Master of Integrated Water Management programs in 2011.

In 2011 the module WATR7200 Community Development and Capacity Building for IWRM will be taught as a Field Studies module in Northeast Thailand. IWC will cover $1,000 of the cost of the trip.

Thailand 3This module introduces students to some current approaches to sustainable development and community development through a field trip to a rural community and community-based organisation (CBO) in the Mekong region. We travel to rural village communities in Khong Jiam in Northeast Thailand, where the Mun River meets the Mekong. 

Our hosts during the field trip are the CBO Villagers’ Committee for the Rehabilitation of Life and Livelihood on the Mun River and local villages along the river.  This CBO has become well known in Thailand and around the world for its activites and campaigns against the human and ecological impacts of the Pak Mun Dam, constructed on the Mun River in 1994. It also played a leading role in the Assembly of the Poor. 

The Villagers’ Committee represents about 2000 families from 50 villages along the lower Mun River and has very useful facilities at its headquarters, including offices and seminar rooms, a museum and meeting hall, an agricultural cooperative and community radio.  We learn from CBO leaders and NGO advisors about their experiences of mobilising people and resources, establishing and managing a highly effective community based organisation, networking and campaigning to defend the sustainability of river ecology and local people’s livelihoods.  

Thailand 2While in Khong Jiam, students are accommodated in ‘homestays’ with village families to gain an insight into their day-to-day lives, and their perspectives on water, development and community development. We learn about village water supply systems in the past and present, the role of water in local rice cultivation, villagers’ relationships with the Mun River and fishing ecology, the cultural meanings of rivers and waterways. Students learn some local skills from villagers such as rice harvesting, fish net and trap making, and help their homestay hosts prepare a local meal and other household tasks. 

During the fieldtrip we learn from villagers through dialogue and discussion, participatory research methods such as PRA, visits to the river, the Pak Mun Dam, village walks, and learning by doing with villagers. We explore the sustainable livelihoods approach and asset-based community development, and critically examine the roles of the state and NGOs, to develop a critical understanding of local responses to dam development, environmental, economic and cultural change. 

Finally, we link the local experience of the Mun River communities with development issues across the whole Mekong Region, and consider how local lessons about water and development can be related to development issues across the Mekong. 

For more information, contact the module Coordinator, Dr Bruce Missingham



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