Pisit Chansanoh, A Raindrop on the Coast
By Burmese Writer
Lay Theary, National
Radio of Cambodia
"A raindrop may be small, but useful to nature and mankind," so said
Pisit Chansanoh, himself a raindrop.
"A raindrop is the symbol of coolness and
peace, " he added softly. " It means happiness to the
Pisit is a raindrop indeed, but not an ordinary, anonymous one.
He is the founder and leader of Yadfon – The " Raindrop "
Association, a non-governmental organisation based in Trang province of
southern Thailand. And, like a raindrop, he is modest, quiet, and
Short in stature, with faded clothes, sparse
greyish hair and whitish beard stubble, he looks much more like a simple
village elder than an intellectual working in international circles. He
speaks softly and slowly but always precisely, revealing a thinking
Yadfon, his child, was born in 1985. Its main objective
is to promote sustainable development and community self-reliance. Pisit,
51, has been at the helm throughout its life. A graduate of Khon Kaen
University in 1969, majoring in agriculture and animal husbandry, he has
dedicated his life to the under-privileged.
After college, he
first went to Chainat province, near Ayuthaya to work with rice farmers.
But he could not stay there long. The political crisis that occurred in
the 1970s forced him to move to Chiangmai. He worked for more than 15
years with NGOs in northern and northeastern parts of Thailand, and after
that he moved with his wife to Trang, her hometown.
Trang province was, at that time, beset by many problems.
were many problems in Trang province, the biggest of six provinces along
the Andaman coast of Thailand with a population of 550,000. Most of the
people were rice growers, rubber plantation workers, and
The owners of rice fields and rubber plantations
were richer than the fishing folk. And they took the lead in political and
social affairs of the community. Pisit chose to work with the
He organised and founded Yadfon, and began to work
with the fishing people, mostly Muslims, who lived around Sikao
Gulf. At that time, the villagers had difficulty getting fresh
Pisit took this problem as an opportunity to establish
close relationships and understanding with the people. The initial program
of digging wells for fresh water was successful.
increased enthusiasm of the people, Yadfon began tackling other
The fishing folk had been living along the
coastline for centuries. But conditions in the outside world were
changing. Intruders – buccaneering entrepreneurs, such as charcoal
producers, shrimp farmers, blue water fishermen, and tourism promoters,
flocked to the pristine area.
Many would destroy the ecosystem
within which the coastline fishing folk survive.
ecosystem was composed of mangroves, sea-grass, and coral
How fragile is the ecosystem? Pisit explained: “The
coastal ecosystem is composed of three important living resources:
mangrove forests, sea-grass beds, and coral reefs.
things form a complex, interdependent and delicately balanced
"Mangrove forests scattered along more than 900
kilometers of the Andaman coast are home to 74 flora (plant) and 386 fauna
"Sea-grass growing in calm, shallow waters
provides habitat to the endangered dugongs and young sea
"Coral reefs are the regular haunts of countless
numbers of sea creatures, including shrimp and
Together, these natural areas form a complex ecosystem
where many commercially valuable species spawn and grow. The health of
this ecosystem directly affects the economic well-being of coastal fishing
Pisit described the scenarios of
Mangroves are the roots of the
Destruction in the area in detail:
"The harvest of
mangrove for charcoal by concessionaires and the use of mangrove areas by
shrimp farmers have resulted in depletion of mangrove forests. Mangroves
are the roots of the sea," he said, quoting a Trang fisherman’s
well-chosen metaphor. "If there are no mangrove forests, the sea will have
no meaning. It is like a tree without roots."
At the same
time, sea-grass beds and coral reefs are being destroyed by pollution from
shrimp farms, industrial plants, and illegal and damaging fishing methods,
including drag nets, push nets, and the use of explosives and
The people of the coastline countered this situation with
" local wisdom."
Local wisdom! What’s that?
" It means they
tried in their own ways." Pisit explained. " First, they used coconut
diplomacy. They gave coconuts as gifts to the trawler crews who swept up
all the fish near their coastline – that is, within the 3-kilometer of
exclusion zone prohibited to the trawlers. The gifts were symbols of
their heartfelt desire to engage in constructive
But that didn’t prevent the trawlers from
poaching. So, the villagers had to seek help from local authorities and
the police. But law enforcement was not strong enough to protect the poor
folk from the powerful and sometimes reckless trawler
The last resort – a time of
There was no way left except confrontation. The
local people were courageous. They relied on themselves. Boatloads of
coastal villagers went out to the open sea to show the big trawlers that
they were resolved to defend their rights. And, united, they
You will never hear Pisit talk about his leading role in
these action, or Yadfon’s educational programs.
We are not teaching the villagers. They know marine animals and marine
ecology much better than we do. What we have to do is to help them
organise their knowledge so that they may see their problems clearly and
make wise decisions. We only try to help them help
The success story of the "empowered" Trang
people has spread near and far. Yadfon has become an internationally known
NGO on rural development. At present, it is a member of NGO-CORD (NGO
Coordinating Committee for Rural Development), with various connections
throughout Thailand and abroad.
Pisit attends international
conferences and seminars to discuss his experiences and express his
opinions about rural development.
The raindrop form Trang has
made a big splash.