Mae Hong Son Hilltribe Trek
All three communities Pha Mon (Red Lahu), Meung Pam (White Karen), and Jabo (Black Lahu) benefit from income diversification. The hill-tribe trek creates job opportunities for individuals to continue to stay in their home village, retaining culture, and preventing urban migration. Thanks to their community development plans, 10% of each tourism activity is invested in a wider community development fund. This fund is used to benefit the greater communities’ needs such as the local school, community environmental programs such as reforestation programs, medicinal herb gardens and sustainable fisheries. The community can also use these funds to allocate loans to individuals looking to start their own business, or to fund different emergency situations.
Hilltribe trekking in Northern Thailand has been a popular tourist experience over the last 20 years; however, the product has not changed much and the most popular routes visited are saturated with limited benefits to the greater hill-tribe communities. There are several hill-tribe communities between Chiang Mai and the Myanmar border that have limited access to the tourism market as they are deemed too far and too remote to access by many tour operators.
These communities mainly rely on subsistence agriculture as a primary source of income and utilize slash-and-burn agricultural techniques to farm their heavily forested areas. With unpredictable weather patterns, harvest and crop yields have become less consistent over time, and a means to develop alternative livelihood programs and income-generating activities for the remote hill-tribe communities is vital.
Planeterra worked with our ground partners, Community Based Tourism-Institute (CBT-I), to develop and deliver an 8-month training program that would build the capacity of three remote hill-tribe communities, and effectively link them together. The villages of Pha Mon (Red Lahu), Meung Pam (White Karen), and Jabo (Black Lahu) had received limited travellers prior to our involvement. Training was provided around the topics of hospitality, waste management, sanitation and hygiene, sustainable development, financial literacy, and reservations. Further, each of the communities was taken on a “Learning Journey” to see each other’s villages to experience what the power of tourism can do, and what they can accomplish by working together on their community development plans. Within each village, a community association was created to manage the various products and services included in this community trek — the entire trek is owned and operated by each of the hill-tribe associations.