Jarin Cheicheichom is a fisherman based in Phum Raing Bay, Thailand. He had been leading the Baan Phum Riang Conservation Group for many years, to protect marine life and natural resources in Phum Riang Bay. Although the group’s work had begun to bring back marine life to Phum Raing Bay, in the villagers’ eyes they were considered to be outliers, a peculiar group of fishermen. Crucially, the group was also unable to gain support from local authorities. When they later initiated tourism activities to support this effort, they found the problems persisted.
Jarin decided to bring his group to join the Sustainable Tourism in Mainland Surat Thani Communities Project 22 months ago, together with nine other Surat Thani community-based tourism groups; with a total of 700 members. The project, through financial support from Chevron, is building the capacity of CBT groups in managing tourism enterprises and the development of their own communities. This is part of Kenan’s larger community development work that is helping local Thai communities protect their assets and earn income from their natural resources.
Jarin and the group attended a total of 33 capacity building activities, including tourism management, marketing, participatory leadership, networking and study tours. They learned how to build strong CBT group structures in which members know their roles and responsibilities; how to manage visitors; and how to communicate their unique local culture. In addition to business related training, the activities helped local communities build an understanding of how to conserve their natural resources and promote environmental concerns.
With his new learned professionalism, Jarin managed to gain the support he had been seeking for many years. His group, the Mangrove Development Station 13 (Tha Chang), Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and the Community College of Prince of Songkla University, Surat Thani Campus together organized an environmental event bringing local children in the Phum Riang community to nearby Ko Sed, to plant mangroves and collect trash from the beach. Station 13 provided young mangroves, fish to be released, and built the environmental knowledge of participants, while the community college helped run the activity. The Kenan team contacted local schools and bought about 30 students. In addition, two other community-based tourism groups in Amphoe Chaiya and Amphoe Ta Chang participated in the event, resulting in a total of 88 participants. Jarin was delighted to see communities working together, inspired by the initiatives that he and his group had kick started.
Jarin learned to co-operate better with local partners and stakeholders, and he was able to network with local school heads, which allowed him to plan future activities with local students. He began collaborating with conservation officers and was able to ask for their support. He successfully raised awareness of environmental problems among local children, especially regarding the importance of marine conservation and sustainability. Jarin now believes there will be a positive future for Phum Riang Bay with an abundance of marine life to support his local community. Rare species such as manatee and dolphin will come back, and with this, there will be an increase in visitor numbers. Jarin now feels secure that Baan Phum Riang community is on the road to becoming a prosperous and pleasant place for its residents.