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Case study - 1998 Thailand
Beneficiary empowerment and accountability
- Wildlife Fund Thailand was funded by a WWF and Novib. Its main activities include a fisheries conservation scheme and a micro savings and credit scheme in a village called Baan Ao Lom in Southern Thailand.
- The donor priorities were termed fairly loosely: WWFs priorities were environmental conservation; NOVIB’s priorities were networking, empowerment, group formation and self sufficiency.
- Both donors had funding agreements that required evidence of consultation with beneficiaries as a condition for funding.
- The most powerful and influential people in the village were linked to the fishing activities. Even before the arrival of WFT, they were organised and interested in protecting their bay.
- In 1995 they had little contact with officials beyond the sub-district level and were too frightened to visit the district office.
- Four out of five NGO staff shared an important religious and cultural affiliation with villagers.
- NGO staff spent time in the community, listening to their needs. The activities were highly inclusive, including informal conversations with key individuals and more formal meetings with large segments of the village. Participation in these meetings carried prestige within the village.
- informed villagers about laws relating to forests and fisheries
- encouraged villagers that protecting the fisheries was worthwhile, and to voice their political demands
- connected villagers to a wider circle of allies
- compensated the expenses of villagers who travelled to rallies
- did NOT pay villagers to enforce the fishery rules
- Villagers cooperated to protect their local fishery by enforcing a ban on vessels using trawlers, push nets, explosives and poison. Villagers would assemble as many boats as they could and challenge them to leave the bay, using intimidation and force. This was exclusively dependent on collective action from within the village community. It resulted in improvements to the fishery.
- By 1998, meetings between district officials and villagers had become regular, with villagers confident to share their demands and grievances.
Key lessons learnt
- It was positive that donors’ priorities were loosely termed and that consultation with villagers was a condition for funding.
- Active engagement between the NGO and the community enabled the NGO to be relevant and responsive, while meeting donor priorities. (Eg Environmental conservation became a village enforced ban on certain types of boats from the bay. Networking, empowerment and group formation became a coordinated effort to induce the state to enforce laws restricting push nets and trawlers from designated areas. Self sufficiency became a community bank scheme.)
- Villagers were not paid to enforce the fishery rules, so their motives for participation were more complex and hopefully more sustainable.
- It was critical that the NGO had the support of the important political actors in the village, such as the village headman and the sub-district councillor.
For further information about this case study see www.odi.org.uk/resources/download/2018.pdf