During the last generation, tighter restrictions on protected forest areas have forced many hilltribes to settle at lower altitudes, abandoning their traditional self-sufficient agricultural lifestyle to become low-wage laborers within mainstream Thai society. The slash-and-burn methods practiced for thousands of years are not feasible on the small amount of land alloted each villager and knowing no other way, many tribal people abandon agriculture altogether or spend hours daily walking deep into the mountains to illegal fields.
In response to this problem, The Mirror Foundation has created the Agriculture Project to allow the villagers to use their land to regain self-sufficiency. The project stresses management of the land to prevent exhaustion of the soil, organic farming to protect themselves and the environment, and general economic development.
The project has two parts, work based at The Mirror Foundation and work based in the village. At the foundation, we are trying to lead by example by raising our own animals and organic vegetables. The village work teaches techniques of sustainable lowland farming and encourages the creation industry. Using the Village Fund from the World Bank, the Foundation is able to lend money to people wishing to start a business in making banana treats or raising pigs. The "interest" demanded on this money is to help other villagers do the same. Employment generated in this project is, for many, the final step of rehabilitation in our Anti-Drug Programme.