PBIC organized a workshop on “Indigenous Practices for Sustainable Social Development” on September 25th 2018 at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan Campus. Accordingly, the presentation and discussion in this workshop is summarized as follows. You can also download a pdf version of the Summary Workshop Report in the link below.

Summary Workshop Report

PBIC Lecture Series

Workshop on “Indigenous Practices for Sustainable Social Development”

Organised by Pridi Banomyong International College (PBIC), Thammasat University, Thailand
25 September 2018
Kukrit Pramoj Conference Room, Thai Khadi Research Institute,
Thammasat University, Ta Prachan


The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030.

It is also well known that under the leadership of our beloved late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand advocated the self-sufficiency economy approach. Thammasat University would like to embed the idea of sustainability in its students, research and professional capacity building. We are committed to equip the next generation with the skills and knowledge and enhance the capacity of the current. Considering this as a great opportunity, Thammasat University planned to come up with such interesting topics for discussion through the PBIC Lecture Series. Developing countries have several indigenous practices which tend to be in harmony with nature, but unsustainable use of modern technology has destroyed such harmony and mutualism.

Thammasat University is pursuing its mission as the international university aimed at enhancing research in various interdisciplinary fields of studies. Given the enormous cultural, social, political, and biophysical diversity across Asia, todays professionals need a strong working knowledge of several interrelated issues. Through teaching, research and outreach activities, Thammasat University seeks to develop professionals who can contribute towards a better tomorrow.

Such workshops create a platform for experts and scholars to disseminating local knowledge to the global appreciation. The workshop on “Indigenous Practices for Sustainable Social Development” will promote understanding, awareness and research collaborations amongst different stakeholders in the region and promote Thammasat University’s endeavor to be a Center of Excellence for Sustainability and Peace.

Overview of the workshop

Traditional knowledge refers to the knowledge, innovation and practices of indigenous and local communities around the world. Indigenous people carry unique social, cultural, spiritual, economic and political dimensions and responsibilities. Their resource management practices and techniques contribute to the maintenance and adaptation of productive, sustainable ecosystems.

Indigenous people play a key role in the domestication, conservation and adaptation of genetic resources and agricultural biodiversity, not just for their immediate surroundings but also for the larger landscape. Due to gradual change in lifestyle pattern, particularly influenced by market driven economy and migration, it has been observed that the traditional knowledge and practices are being lost. The disruption of these indigenous food systems has let to changing the dietary habits from traditional food systems to unhealthy commodity foods.

The workshop on: “Indigenous Practices for Sustainable Social Development” is an attempt to share experiences and exchange knowledge on best practices, positive outcomes, issues and challenges of indigenous peoples’ practices in India and Thailand. Indigenous peoples’ sustainable management practices have enabled them to endure highly vulnerable environments and difficult terrains in drylands, wetlands, mountains, tropical rain forests, coral reefs, indicating the value in continuing and mainstreaming their sustainable management practices in these fragile environments. The workshop would bring forward such interesting case studies from India and Thailand to build awareness and understanding of these practices, that can further be adapted and developed as innovative approaches for coping with environmental changes.

Target Participants

Students, research scholars and experts working and interested in the area of Indigenous practices for Sustainable Social Development were invited to benefit from this one-day workshop. Key experts from the United Nations, Government, Universities and Institutes, NGOs and ground workers from India and Thailand were invited to talk on relevant issues for building awareness and creating a stepping stone towards future areas of research and development.

Opening of the Workshop

The opening session of the workshop commenced with an opening speech from Dr. Sawitri Hammond Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, Pridi Banomyong International College, Thammasat Universityand the keynote speech was presented by Ms. Kaori Abe, Programme Officer for Partnership and Resources Mobilization, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Dr. Shweta Sinha, from Pridi Banomyong International College (PBIC), presented an overview of the workshop and the workshop agenda.

In the opening speech, Dr. Sawitri Hammond introduced how Thailand government is advocating Thailand 4.0 and while this is important it is also necessary that indigenous best practices are not forgotten. She highlighted how India, Thailand and many other countries in Asia are home to various indigenous practices that can influence the steps taken towards sustainable future. She explained the need of looking back through the window of our traditional practices and acknowledge how communities have been able to sustain themselves and how the idea of this workshop on indigenous practices was initiated. Dr. Sawitri highlighted that Pridi Banomyong International College is in the process of establishing a Centre of Excellence for Sustainability and Peace that would like to bring in different areas of study and research to be aligned with various experts, institutes, public and private organizations and most importantly the United Nations departments, headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand. Dr. Sawitri also highlighted how this workshop was a step forward towards the pre-launch for the COE for Sustainability and Peace and was an effort to generate a pool of interested research scholars, experts that are keen to support the existing 17 sustainable development goals through, research, research-oriented workshops, building capacities and generating awareness in the region.

In her keynote speech, Ms. Kaori Abe, provided information on the background of FAO and its role as a regional development arm of the UN. Her presentation introduced trends and practices of indigenous people in the Asia-Pacific over the last few years and an overview of work done on Indigenous People through FAO. Her presentation also outlined the vision and strategy for indigenous people highlighting the involvement of indigenous youth for mainstreaming, FAO internship program for indigenous youth, FAO environment and social management guidelines and voluntary guidelines for various activities involving Indigenous people. Finally, she finished by providing an overview of how FAO advocates the importance of this issue particularly indigenous women and other national programs including Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) in the region.

Introducing and providing the background about the workshop, Dr. Shweta Sinha introduced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its role towards ending poverty and protecting the planet and ensuring that all people move towards sustainable social development. She highlighted how working on areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption could contribute in achieving the SDGs considering the interconnected goals. She further expressed how this one-day workshop, focused on indigenous practices would help strengthen sustainable social development goals and partnerships and also how the local people can provide the cheapest method for monitoring and mitigating climate change. She explained that the workshop would discuss experiences in the areas of agriculture, environment, health and socio-economic development from India and Thailand. Apart from the best practices, the workshop will also focus on the key challenges, like raising awareness regarding participation in conservation, capacity building, understanding the need of seed diversity, etc. Dr. Shweta finally thanked and invited all the eminent speakers from relevant organizations that are working and have contributed towards the development and inclusion of indigenous people in the economy and thereby supporting the sustainable development goals.

Discussion and Recommendations

In session one, Dr. Royol Chitradonstarted with appreciating the concept of think macro act micro. He highlighted the case studies of best practices from Thailand. His presentation included a combination of modern and ancient science practices for improving water quality and security and developing resilient communities in the country. Dr, Royol focused on understanding the collaboration needed for such sustainable development goals based on education and capacity building within the communities in the area of natural resources. His presentation also brought forward the various technology applications like using GPS and open source GIS software for creating maps in the community, generating electricity within the community using natural resources and how villagers created small markets to sell their products professionally, especially the coffee produced by the community being sold at a very high price.

Mr. Darpan Chabra, introduced the case study from India highlighting the sustainable agriculture development for women in the community, through the food security project. He also highlighted the challenges in the area and how Prayatna Samiti addresses those challenges by promoting food security through introduction of nutritious crops and biodiversity conservation, helping the women as beneficiary of the project, to develop nutritional gardens for self-subsistence. Mr. Darpan also highlighted the need to encourage and get the women involved in the project. He explained the focus of the organization in building capacities for cultivating traditional crops thereby conserving variety of seeds and enhancing production.

Dr. Decharut Sukkumnoed, introduced the linkages between food security and climate change. He highlighted the challenges of aging society and importance of bringing together indigenous practices and academic thinking through various risk mitigating strategies in Thailand. His presentation shared four models as best practices that included, the concept of pond irrigation system, food security from rotation cropping systems, agro foresting in between their cycle of major crop productions, and the “tree bank project” in the southern Thailand region.

In the second session, Mr. Sakda Saenmi introduced traditional knowledge, practices and innovation of indigenous people for climate change adoption. He highlighted that around 43 indigenous groups are working together in identifying and solving the problem in collaboration with the external partners from academic and government agencies. He highlighted that there is lack of documentation of indigenous knowledge and in-accessibility of facts, information on climate change and knowledge on adoption is not shared. Mr. Sakda brought forward the case study of Hakkia community from Thailand where people use local wisdom for rain prediction based on observing the nature. He also highlighted that the state should take more measure to promote the use of traditional land and resource management, to reduce the risk.

Dr.Choen Krainara gave an overview of adoption and mitigation of climate change in Thailand. He highlighted that agriculture needs to be prepared for sustainable and tangible climate change, based on resources and conditions of each area. He brought forward three cases from Thailand and emphasized that bottom up approach is needed where all inputs should reflect in the policy development. He indicated that communities need to help themselves in case of disaster and impact of climate change and government and supporting agencies should promote communities to build capacities in this direction.

Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi brought forward the role of indigenous practices in the area of health. He introduced Yoga as the most powerful tool to manage non-communicable diseases and build resilience in the communities. He highlighted that stress is the root of most diseases, and yoga can help to eradicate the root cause of these diseases. He also shared some best practices from Yoga and its role and contribution in the area of sustainable health in the society and communities.

Round Table

In the round table session, the speakers we invited to share key challenges from their area. Some of the key challenges identified in case of India were land degradation, small hold farmers, raising of micro finance and the problem of climate change has pushed the women in the villages with heavy loans. Prayatna Samiti is the organization that helps to co-ordinate and build capacities of these women in the communities.

In Thailand, the speakers indicated that there was lack of understanding of indigenous practices needs, knowledge and communication. There is need of a channel that can share knowledge and understanding. Using power is very crucial for promoting indigenous practices. Indigenous people lack the right/wisdom to practice their traditional way. Participants also emphasized on developing more learning process for promoting indigenous practices and need for policy development to support at different levels.

Also, the role of government, master plan to action and how to mainstream local knowledge and wisdom to climate change was highlighted. It was also observed that local people are not aware of climate change and there is a need to educate them to have a deeper understanding. Also having a database of best practices of indigenous people could help in keeping the ancient practices alive for future deployments for a sustainable society.

The roundtable also discussed issues related to migration of indigenous communities, it was observed that migration is a kind of habit, a challenge for indigenous organizations, but not for the community as it leads to source of livelihood. Climate change is the major cause of migrations and depends on environmental and political conditions. It was identified that crucial factors like communication, social welfare, building capacities and use of technology can help in improving the livelihoods and promote the replication of such indigenous practices for sustainable development of the communities.

Closing Remarks

Mr. Chol Bunnag gave the closing remarks highlighting the need to keep the indigenous practices on going for sustainable development. More focus should be on the factors that will affect livelihood in the communities like building awareness and sharing knowledge about indigenous practices. There should be political correctness regarding discourse terminology for inclusion of indigenous people in the society. There is an immense need to inherit the knowledge to the next generations regarding related economic opportunities, biodiversity and climate risks.

DOWNLOAD the workshop report

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