Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group of Thailand wins global environmental award

A forest community in northern Thailand won the prestigious 2020 Equator Prize awarded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group from the village Boon Rueang in northern Thailand convinced the government to conserve the largest wetland forest in the Ing River basin rather than develop a special economic zone. Since that momentous achievement, made through advocacy and dialogue, the Group has pioneered a community forestry model that is successfully protecting biodiversity, storing carbon, providing food and livelihoods, and enabling the community to preserve its identity and culture.

The Group was supported by RECOFTC as part of a four-year project to empower local networks and authorities for sustainable management of the Ing watershed. RECOFTC implemented the project in cooperation with the Chiang Rai Rajabhat University and the People’s Council of Ing River, with funding from the European Union. Other project partners included the Chiang Rai Province Wetland Committee and the provincial and regional branches of Thailand’s Ministry for Natural Resources and Environment. 

“I congratulate the Group and the people of Boon Rueang for demonstrating the power of nature-based solutions for tackling climate change, environmental issues and poverty,” said H.E. Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to the Kingdom of Thailand. “The community’s resilience and dedication to fighting for their rights and the environment is an inspiration for us all.”

The UNDP awards the 10,000 US dollars prize biennially to recognize outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. As sustainable community initiatives take root, they lay the foundation for overcoming the climate crisis and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

This year, UNDP selected 10 prize-winners from a pool of almost 600 nominations across 120 countries. They will be honoured at a virtual event or series of events in September 2020 during Climate Week in New York.

“The award showcases the knowledge of indigenous and local communities and their power to bring about lasting changes that will benefit all of society,” said David Ganz, executive director of RECOFTC. “It was an honour to support the community of Boon Rueang, and we intend to share their experience with other communities in the Asia-Pacific region that are struggling to protect precious natural landscapes and the forests that are their home.”

In August 2015 the community of Boon Rueang established the Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group to advocate and generate funds for protection of the wetland forest covering 483 hectares. These wetlands are the foundation of their livelihood and culture.

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The wetland forest is contained within the Ing River Watershed, a 260-kilometre river basin that flows from Phayao Province to Chiang Rai Province in northern Thailand and on to the Mekong River. The community generates income from managing the wetland fishery. The income is directed into a village fund, with a portion reserved annually for conservation and maintenance of the wetland. 

For more information about the 2020 Equator Prize and the other nine winners, visit the Equator Initiative or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter by using #EquatorPrize.


RECOFTC’s work is made possible with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).